The rapidly evolving and changing work environment, in the face of efforts to stop the spread and flatten the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic, is placing pressure on staff and creating a heightened need for businesses to engage with their staff and actively manage panic, morale and wellbeing in the face of overwhelming uncertainty, financial pressure.  This weeks HR Highlight will explore the things that businesses should be doing now to inform, comfort, engage and motivate staff.

Inform

We are rapidly learning that a pandemic, and its critical response, in the context of a 24 hour news cycle and a highly connected, social media driven population, is a situation that can quickly give rise to misinformation and panic.  As businesses we need to ensure that we are regularly communicating with staff on the facts and quickly addressing any panic, gossip or misinformation in a calm and clear manner.

Businesses have responsibilities to ensure that they are keeping up to date with, and communicating to staff, the credible current information and control measures.  This means the Department of Health information and controls, not the latest from facebook.  ACAPMA is maintaining a single article on the General Information about COVID-19 and its implications on employment, including leave and payment.  This article includes detailed links to the Department of Health advice and resources and is updated daily.  See; https://acapmag.com.au/2020/03/hr-highlight-managing-covid19-risk-in-the-workplace/

Comfort

Businesses are scrambling to keep the doors open and to keep servicing customers, in the face of almost universal decline in sales, cash flow pressure and all in addition to the ordinary pressures that businesses face.  It must not be forgotten that while businesses are struggling the people who work in them, and indeed the people who are our customers, are also struggling.  Either they are seeing their jobs disappear and are worried about how to put food on the table, or they are at work watching sales dwindle and thinking that their job will be the next to go.  At the same time staff are worried about the virus itself and keeping themselves, their customers and their community safe.  This puts a pressure on staff that can start to show.  As businesses we need to be open with our staff, remember that they are people and to communicate with them on the businesses plan and stability.  This can be a difficult conversation, particularly as nothing at all is certain at the moment, but it is an important conversation to have.

Our people are everything, we need to look after them so they can look after our customers.  In the retail fuel and c-store space we are #Open7Days (see; https://acapmag.com.au/2020/03/the-open7days-campaign-an-industry-wide-call-of-support/ for more on the #Open7Days movement), and it is our staff who hold that together, so as businesses we can make the time to have sometimes difficult or awkward conversations.  Asking; How are you doing? Is there anything you are worried about? Is there anything you wanted to ask me about?, and explaining; I don’t have all the answers right now, I don’t know what it will look like in a few weeks, is important. 

Clarity is not something that the business may be able to guarantee, but it can compassionately explain the commitment of the business;

If you are seeking further information on future operations, let me be clear, in the face of an unprecedented emergency, no-one is able to predict what will happen, all I can pass on is what it known, and what the business intends, as at now; that we are allowed to be open and trading, and that we will continue to do so.  That as a business we are not eligible for a lot of the support that has been outlined by the government, but that we are committed to operating in a close to normal operations as possible, for as long as possible, and that if there was to be a change to operating hours or redundancies, such would be discussed with staff in the context of a formal consultation process.

We understand that times are uncertain and that people are panicking and planning, we can not give you certainty, what we can give you is our heartfelt commitment to do everything in our power to ensure that the impact on your work stability is minimised.”

Engage and Motivate

Businesses should be taking steps to ensure that staff are engaged and motivated, a smile, a chat, a song – simple things done often to assist team members in keeping their spirts up.  Remember smiling at someone is not a COVID-19 risk – we can smile and wave and touch eachothers hearts…all from a safe and responsible 1.5m.  The situation is not ideal, but that doesn’t mean we cant smile and make the most of it.

Keeping Customers and Staff Safe

As the advice and best practice safety protocols change ACAPMA is maintaining a single article with guidance and resources, including posters for customers and staff, all focused on Keeping Customers and Staff Safe, see; https://acapmag.com.au/2020/03/hr-highlight-covid-19-keeping-customers-and-staff-safe/ for details.

Thoughts from the frontline…

As we work together to flatten the curve and stop the spread of COVID-19, businesses and staff are working together in uncharted waters.  This calls for factual, open, honest and human conversations and interactions…and commendations.  A long distance High Five to all of the people out there still working, not just the amazing health professionals, but the cleaners, the sanitation workers, the public and private transport operators, the retail workers, the food service workers, the administrators, the truck drivers and all of the many people who are still out there, still working and who are keeping the country moving.  Another long distance High Five goes to all of the people staying home – great job – while you are home make sure you do some shopping, order some take away, buy giftcards and when you do have to venture out to get items, keep your distance, shop local and support your community.  Together we can do this!

More Information

HR Highlights are things to consider, implement and watch out for in your business. They are provided as general advice and you should seek further advice on your situation by contacting the ACAPMA Employment Professionals its free for members.

ACAPMA membership is affordable at only $880 per year for a single site and valuable with sites gaining HR advice support and representation as well as a raft of other benefits and discounts.  Click HERE to learn more about ACAPMA membership.

Elisha Radwanowski BCom(HRM&IR)
Executive Manager for Employment and Training
ACAPMA