Berta Maso has over 20 years of HR experience, with many spent working at fashion giants like Burberry, Christian Dior, and Michael Kors. Now, she is People Consultant and Career Expert at BMS, her own Human Resources Management company. Last month, Berta joined us for our webinar Four perspectives on leadership during the corona crisis. In this article, we share her wisdom for other HR professionals working through the pandemic. Keen to stress the importance of soft skills in managing a crisis like COVID-19, Berta’s guidance is grounded in showing empathy and compassion.
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For me, this is the number one point. These are really difficult times. People are confused, scared, and stressed. We find ourselves in a sort of limbo, trying to keep up with a world that’s changing so quickly.
The unfortunate reality is that a lot of people are going to lose their jobs as a result of COVID-19.
It’s essential now that you become close to your team and listen to their fears. The unfortunate reality is that a lot of people are going to lose their jobs as a result of COVID-19. I don’t think we’ve seen it all yet. There are certain countries in Europe, for example, where terminations have been forbidden during the emergency period. Once these restrictions are lifted after the summer, many of us will have to face the music.
HR departments are swamped with legal issues at the moment. They’re both focused on their people and the bottom line that is going to help the company stay afloat. As a result, it’s going to feel much more difficult to handle the process successfully, but this is a call for us to not neglect employees. It’s unavoidable that we’re going to have to reduce headcount and make people redundant, but don’t forget to be compassionate in the process.
How are you going to support these people that you need to let go? What can you do to help them move on? How can you make this transition smoother for them? With everything else that HR departments need to deal with right now, this can feel like the last thing on a long list. But showing empathy for those who are being hardest hit by this crisis is important.
Communicate, communicate, and communicate some more
Let them know that whilst you may not have the answers they need right now, you are working towards finding them and adjusting accordingly.
The reality is that when we don’t know the answers, when we don’t know what’s going to happen, we tend to fail to communicate well. We wake up to different news and different legislation everyday, so it’s difficult to always know the right thing to say. But remember that we don’t need to know the answers to everything. You just need to show up for your people, being as genuine and as transparent as possible. Let them know that whilst you may not have the answers they need right now, you are working towards finding them and adjusting accordingly.
So how do you know that your employees are informed during this period? Well, this is the million dollar question. And that applies not just during corona, but pre-corona. Traditional internal communication channels haven’t always proven to be effective and now, with many working from home, I’m reminded of the saying ‘out of sight, out of mind’. To tackle this, make sure that you’re reaching out to people regularly, discovering what teams and individuals really need.
Provide coaching for your teams
Your line managers are finding themselves in a situation that is not familiar to them. Their leadership competencies are being tested in more areas and ways than ever before. Nobody has received training to tackle a situation like this, so employees need their leaders by their sides. As Tom Nyman (Chairman of the Board at Netigate) explained: some people will have experienced global crises before, and they should be called upon to guide others in the company. It’s easy to feel distracted and lost in this situation, so leaders need to help their employees to focus and reprioritize as necessary.
Be agile and resourceful
…you need to be ready to adapt to the changing situation.
Obviously, I speak very much from a retail perspective, but many of these issues are applicable across industries. Operations have been challenging to say the least, with reduced and limited teams. Supply chains have been blocked, and there are often technical and financial issues. Our focus and strategies have changed overnight. We’ve gone from aiming to gain revenue and grow market share to cost controlling and trying to keep our businesses afloat. In order to keep the wheel turning, people will need to think and act differently. No matter what area you’re working in, you need to be ready to adapt to the changing situation.
How are your employees coping?
In times of crisis, it is more important than ever to understand your employees. The situation is changing day by day and organizations need to continuously collect feedback and data. At Netigate, we are currently offering a free survey so you can gather feedback from your employees. Contact us via the form HERE to get access to the template and read more about Pulse surveys. Alternatively, get started right away with your free trial.
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