HR Best Practices in Crisis with Chantel McHenry

In today's live session, I interviewed Chantel McHenry, Senior Manager of Operations at Vanderbloemen, about strategies and HR best practices during COVID-19. Chantel has worked in ministry for many years and has learned it’s in these difficult and challenging times of a crisis where we can also find opportunities to implement and develop effective HR practices. 

Although we are in a time where we cannot control what is going on around us, we can control how we effectively manage our teams and employees within our organization. When you’re faced with leading through a crisis, it’s critical to remember every day is different and it’s imperative that we remain nimble and proactive. As you lead with diligence and draw closer to Jesus Christ, you will notice that it’s the policies learned and implemented from this crisis that will help shape your organization in the future. 

Two Important Components of the HR Department

1. Payroll and Benefits - Managing communication and ensuring there’s clarity for employees is a major part of this area. Most employees depend on these important factors, so if there are changes, it's extremely important to be clear about the impact employees might experience and why the changes are being made. Though these conversations can be tough, they're vital to trust. You'd be surprised how much moral you can build even when delivering tough news as long as you're honest and sensitive to the impacts

2. Personnel - Serving as the liaison between the employee and leadership team is a tough role to play. It’s important to treat employees with the utmost respect and care. This is especially true during a global crisis. Staff should be handled with integrity and grace through every situation. This is also an area that presents the opportunity for a pastoral influence component and shepherding capacity for your staff.

Tip: Show and communicate your genuine appreciation for the work your staff is doing. It’s common for employees to perform at a higher standard when they feel and know they are cared for. 

Policies at Vanderbloemen Prior to COVID-19 that Allowed for a Smooth Transition to Remote Working

Chantel shared the overall structure and culture of being thought-leaders at Vanderbloemen. Being a though-leader requires you to be mindful of common trends in the workforce. One of the many trends in the workforce is that remote work and flexibility are qualities many job seekers are looking for. Because of this, Chantel knew it was imperative to begin focusing on remote work and ways Vanderbloemen could still be effective. Here’s what the process of rolling out and implementing these policies looked like: 

  • Research - With anything new, you want to make sure you are knowledgeable about the new information. Adapt what you learn to what would work best for your work culture.

  • Prioritize collaboration with leadership and team members. Communicating with everyone along the way ensures that they are kept in the loop and no one is surprised about upcoming changes within the company. It's vital for leadership to be aligned when changes occur to remain a stable frontline.

  • Share the policy with the staff using documentation and answer questions openly.

    • Vanderbloemen was able to send out policies to the team and have an all-staff meeting before social distancing and stay at home orders went into effect. If you don't have time to meet all together, a virtual meeting will work too.

    • This time was also used to make sure team members had everything from the office they would need to be set up for success and also have an environment conducive for them to work multiple hours. 

  • Meet with departments to go through the policy and answer questions. This helps them feel included and in turn becomes more of a team effort.

  • Sequence the rollout of the software.

        • By sequencing the software rollout, you can offer training along the way and team members can feel more comfortable with using the technology. Two major systems we use are: 

          • Zoom - Great for video conferencing

          • Basecamp - Project management and communication tool. It gives great insight into the projects everyone is working on.

  • Communicate the why of the policy. 

    • This is a culture standard here at Vanderbloemen so we can bring our team along in making change versus being authoritative.

Scaling the Policy for the Current Team While Thinking About the Future

Think bigger than where you are right now in terms of the size of your team and the number of departments you have. Having a solid policy means scaling it very effectively so it can translate smoothly from where you are now to however large your company grows in the future.

Here are the policies Vanderbloemen implemented for working remotely: 

Ways to Check on the Health of Your Team Remotely During COVID-19

  • Implement weekly check-ins

      • Check on how on your team members and staff are handing their new environment. It will be harder for some than others. See what people miss about being at work, as well as what works better for them in their remote environment.

      • Cultivate the space for employees to share how they’re feeling

        • Vanderbloemen has implemented weekly prayer time in the mornings via Zoom as an opportunity for team members to gather and spend time praying together. There are also occasional staff "hangouts" for the social butterflies.

      • Encourage your team to stay active even though you’re working from home. If you see someone online too often after hours, send them encouragement to log off for a bit and get some downtime or exercise.

      • Create opportunities and encourage employees to stay healthy mentally, physically and spiritually. This can be virtual group workouts, happy hours, lunches, or game times.

3 HR challenges Leaders Will Face as Teams Transition Into Their Offices

  1. The shift in the size of teams. 

    • It’s helpful to recognize the new reality of having a smaller team if you’ve unfortunately had to decrease your staff and some team members are no longer there. This will shift what people are working on and may require extra training. Be mindful of the impacts these shift might have on people.

  2. The levels of productivity. 

    • You might have team members who are more productive when working remotely. After experiencing this environment, they may feel apprehensive about coming into the office. This is an opportunity to show that you truly care about them by helping them make that transition smoothly. Learn what they. liked about working from home and encourage ways for them to find a similar structure back in the office.

  3. The financial recovery. 

    • As companies return to the office, the workload will increase but you won’t necessarily be able to increase your staff financially. Be aware of this and start prioritizing what will matter most. It will be a shift getting everyone back together, so be ambitious, but mindful.

    • Your team will have an increase in workload so it’s necessary for leaders to create an environment that communicated appreciation of the work your team members are doing. 

Reminders For Handling Challenging Situations

  • Everyone is different and responds differently in crisis. It’s imperative that you always handle employees with care and speak delicately to them when they have questions and concerns. Also, it’s important to commit to setting aside time for team members to voice their concerns and feelings without holding back their true feelings.

  • As Christian organizations, we should strive to point everyone back to Christ and using the word of God to help guide us in challenging situations.

  • Be willing to make tough decisions graciously and with integrity.

  • Approach situations with grace and flexibility during COVID-19. 

Using Cash Reserves to Pay Employees who are not Working

If you can offer financial stability for your staff during this global crisis, you should. It would be a great blessing to them considering all of the factors they may be facing in their lives right now. Paying them now will pay your organization back in the long run by boosting their morale and loyalty to you.

Furloughs and Layoffs

If an employee is furloughed or laid off they are eligible to apply for unemployment benefits. Be sure to communicate the options to them and help them through these changes. Losing a job can be tough, and navigating new processes in the dark only adds more stress. Take this opportunity to be a loving steward of grace.

  • Layoffs - This is used when you, unfortunately, have to lay the employee off without the intent of re-employing them. It’s important to remember that you typically are laying off the position, not the employee. Communicate this to them if you can, so that the unfortunate situation doesn't take a blow to their self-esteem.

  • Furloughs - Once the crisis is over then you have intentions of bringing the employee back to the company and they are able to keep their benefits during that period of time.

As COVID-19 continues, we face new situations that impact our businesses and employees. Remember to always work out of a heart for God when facing these trials so your decisions are made out of grace, not fear.

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