Communicate, communicate, communicate
(staying connected with your team during & post Covid-19)

By: Leigh Olsen, Director, Tradie HR, April 2020
http://tradiehr.co.nz

We know the value of effective communication and the benefits it brings. Perhaps more so in times like these where we have to try harder to be and remain connected with our people. Is this the time for us to pay more attention to our words?

For example, I have heard the catchphrase ‘our new normal’ so many times it is actually starting to make me feel more anxious. Other phrases which, in my opinion, are being over processed are “unprecedented times” and hearing “this is so important” repeatedly.

Yes, we are in unprecedented times, we know that. We get it!

Let’s use this time to look at ways to stay connected as we enter our second week in lockdown and explore initiatives to help us when we can get back to our work.

It is heartening to hear that a large number of NZ employers are committed to doing all they can to keep their workforce in employment or ‘on the books’. Applying for the wage subsidy has helped to cushion the financial disruption to their business…for now. This is not without personal sacrifice though as a number have had to take out loans and are using personal funds to top up the 80% contribution to employees’ wages.

A large percentage of our business owners however are not able to top up to 80% and despite ‘best endeavours’ are only able to pass on the wage subsidy to their staff.

What do you tell your staff at this time?

If you can I would encourage transparency around the measures and actions your business is undertaking to keep the business solvent. Some of my clients are discussing with their staff a number of the things they have done to try and proof their business against the downturn and asking their employees for their ideas. This has a number of benefits

  • Your workforce feels part of the solution
  • They gain an understanding as to the challenges you as a business owner face
  • They become aware of the overheads that your business has and that wages are just one cost to a business, with other outgoings such as leases, rents, insurances, subscriptions etc you have to consider.

Research has shown that transparency from leadership rates among the most important drivers of company loyalty and goes a long way to help maintain the working relationship between employers and employees.

How do I stay connected with my team?

With the majority of our people in isolation, the opportunities to connect are proving for some better than ever. Online meetings using Zoom, Skype or other providers are proving to be big hits even if it is forcing some out of their comfort zone (me included).

A word of warning though if you are using an online meeting approach – make sure your background is appropriate – for example an unmade bed is not the best backdrop or one I witnessed the other day where a cat was licking itself!.

Having spoken to a number of employees they are really enjoying these meetings and it is providing a sense of community through the chaos. I have mentioned in previous articles that a big factor in creating a great place to work is for everyone to feel valued and that what they are doing is important. For those employees who are unable to work (majority of my trades clients) these calls are vital to reinforce their value to the team and your company.

Regular phone calls are also important. Pick up the phone and call your workers. Have your one to one meetings with them either virtually or over the phone. Resist the temptation however, to communicate solely through email. Internal emails can lack a personal touch and create misunderstandings. Nothing beats the personal touch, especially at this uncertain time.

What can I talk about with my team on these calls?

Earlier I mentioned how some clients are making use of this downtime to be stronger and ready to take advantage when circumstances allow.

Some ideas to discuss with your team could be:

  • Ask them about anything they have invented to make staying in their bubble easier.
  • Remind them of the importance of staying in their bubble
  • Looking to develop or document new or current processes and procedures
  • Train or retrain staff for new tasks – great opportunity to re-think the ways things are done
  • Ask for ideas on how you all can get closer to your customers and suppliers to assist when their circumstances improve
  • Maybe it’s time to ensure your business has sufficient stock or clear out surplus stock 
  • Look at new markets you haven’t had time to explore yet
  • Review all marketing collateral and update anything out of date especially social media
  • Update policy and procedure manuals


Final note

At Tradie HR we understand that this time is one of challenge and uncertainty for many. How will my business be affected is on a lot of people’s minds and it will be different for everyone.

If you want to talk to an HR professional in confidence, please don’t hesitate to call Tradie HR.

This article is not intended to be a replacement for legal advice