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Coronavirus: Do's and Don’ts for Talent Leaders

Mar 05, 2020


  • EDITORIAL TEAM Talent Management Institute
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This Monday, something that has never happened in the history of mankind, happened; a German politician refused a handshake from the head of the state, Chancellor Angela Merkel. And the reason he gave was COVID-19.

As the number of infected population borders 100,000 and the virus raises its nasty head in more than 70 countries devouring over 3,000 people worldwide, the world is changing and uniting in surprising ways.

We have a pandemic knocking at our doors and we better be prepared to receive it.

Coronavirus is pushing employers to cancel meetings and business travels, delay projects and trim their profits. In extreme cases, businesses have shut their facilities in the high impact zones. But monitoring the monetary aspect solely could be a ruthless example of tunnel vision at best. Corporates have a greater role to play this time. This is an absolute test and display of their dedication to greater social impact which is so dear to the Gen Z workforce.

The Edelman Trust Barometer says employers are the most trusted “social messengers” for people and they beat media, government NGOs by a whopping 20 points.

Human resource executives, being the employers’ representative and pivot of every organization, play a vital role in containing the outbreak cases. You - Dear Talent Manager can literally save the world this time and here is your plan of attack.

Do's and Don’ts:

As wide-eyed employees anticipate quick directions from the Talent Leaders, right communication becomes vital. Talent Managers need to ponder how they must pass messages from organizations like World Health Organization (WHO), the US’ Centers for Disease Control or Public Health England in a way that the messages don’t cause panic or second-guesses.

Meanwhile, they also need to:

Administer travel

Detecting coronavirus symptoms can be a tough nut to crack. During the first 14 days, it is excessively difficult to detect an employee infected with the said virus. In one odd case, a Chinese national transmitted the infection to a German two days before the appearance of any symptoms.

  • Exposure escalates infection risk. Get your globe-trotting big wigs medically tested before they join you back in your office.
  • Avoid non-essential travel to countries with a major outbreak. CDC has issued warnings against travel to level 3 and level 2 countries that include China, South Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan.

Introduce flexible work options

Countries like Japan, Italy, and Australia have shut their schools for weeks. Talent Managers need to think of ways they can help their employees manage school shutdowns, quarantine and self-isolation. Public transport may suspend too. Test your remote working capacity and be prepared.

  • Review your ability to offer remote work options.
  • Test your laptops and microphones for video conferencing and keep them ready for use.

Take precautionary measures

  • Sanitize the workplace. Supply soap, hot water, and alcohol rub dispensers to the cleaning staff.
  • Educate employees to take proactive measures against catching seasonal flu.
  • Allow sick employees to work from home or to take sick leave.
  • Keep a check on the health of your employees. Watch out for symptoms that are similar to a cold or flu.
  • Encourage staff to use sanitizers and wash hands frequently.
  • Distribute free masks.
  • Use Infrared thermometers.
  • Offer free lunch to employees within the office premises so they won’t go outside the facility for food.

Review your policies

This week Twitter was abuzz with calls encouraging employees to work from home. In a CNBC Global CFO Council survey, 62 percent of the CFOs said: “their companies have allocated more resources to virtual work as a result of the coronavirus.” Conventional rules don’t permit employers to urge employees to take sick leave if they don’t need to. Then there are gig and hourly-paid workers for whom there are no fixed paid off times. A recent report from Trust for America’s Health said: In 2019, only 55 percent of the US employees had access to paid off time.

Consider this:

  • Are you willing to pay employees who go in self-isolation?
  • While the organization may lose temporarily but imagine the cost of your other employees catching an infection and the cost to the society as a whole.

  • How are you going to handle roles that cannot be remote?

Employers in China have introduced CWTS (Comprehensively Calculated Working Time System) as a preventive measure. Under CWTS employees are allowed to accumulate their work hours for a specified period. They can work for longer hours and can then switch off for the remaining time. Employers consider the average number of working hours for this period.

Last but not the least, avoid rumours. The World Economic Forum, WHO and a few others are building a platform that will provide reliable real-time information. You may link this to your intranet.

With no quick fix on the horizon, we are forced to think - Will coronavirus change the future workplace norms?

Corporate Rumblings

As employers introduce more flexible work options, Cisco systems witnessed a steep rise in the use of its online meeting and video-conferencing applications. The company’s user base quadrupled in three virus impacted countries like Japan, Singapore, and South Korea.

Microsoft, Chevron, Hitachi, NTT, Dentsu, Tencent, and 13 other corporate behemoths have asked their employees to work remotely.

Talking about continuity plans, Johnson and Johnson said: “steps include maintaining critical inventory at major distribution centers away from high-risk areas and working with external suppliers to support our preparedness plans.”

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