Any parting advice you’d like to offer HR leaders, given the fear and uncertainty they and their employees are experiencing right now?
Oakey: Be transparent and timely in your communications within your team. These are strange times for everyone on both the personal and professional levels. All companies are in the same situation of reviewing the current state of their business. We are all asking how much runway is available to operate and weather this storm. It is a fine balancing act to do what’s right for employees, face the uncertainty of the economy and follow government mandates. In the end, don’t lose sight that we are all people with different life scenarios trying to keep our family intact and keep our jobs. We’re all human beings. Be kind and have positive intentions in all you do, even when you might be delivering tough news.
Popelka: Human connection remains crucial to our own wellbeing, our sense of purpose and even our productivity. Continue putting people at the center of everything you do because human connection and the feeling of community–even if virtual–are what propel businesses to succeed. We are in unchartered territory, but we are human, first and foremost, and we are in this together. Communicate constantly, listen to their feedback and concerns, respond to every question no matter how small and lead with empathy.
Meade: There is no time like the present to demonstrate empathy and to find ways to stay connected while we are all remote. That should be the chief task of our HR leaders during this time. Virtual workplaces are finding ways to connect through technology. We’ve seen virtual meetings occur by video and by phone, sharing of videos and pictures from the home work site, and new and interesting ways to connect and convene in this moment. But the anxiety is real, the challenges are real and the disruption is real. Lending an ear or sending an email means the world to our teams these days.
Hamilton: As people leaders, we feel a responsibility to help our employees navigate the global uncertainty we are facing. We want to provide the best information and guidance we can, keep our team members safe and continue to serve our customers and move our business forward. In times of stress and pressure, I believe it’s important to communicate with authenticity and transparency, to acknowledge the unknowns, and to state and restate the priorities of health and wellbeing.
Sethi: My advice for CHROs would be to ask yourselves “what you’d want to be remembered for” if you look back a year from now. How did you put the health and safety of your people first during this time of crisis? Did you focus on their wellbeing and mental health? If you have to transition people out, are you putting them in a position where they can be more employable? It’s important to lead with purpose, especially now, and make deliberate choices to do everything possible to protect your people and community at the expense of short term profits–which, in turn, can drive a faster recovery and long-term economic gains. Some industries and employee segments are in a different position than others that have been hit the hardest, but it’s still important to continue to have a strong people strategy and continue to be transparent.
Mathews: Be transparent and supportive of your employees. We’re in the same boat right now, experiencing fear, uncertainty and a number other of emotions. It is our duty to foster the trust we have with one another and do whatever we can to provide stability–mentally, physically and emotionally–to our team members. People are what make businesses most successful. Without people, businesses are nothing. Direct your focus to your employees’ health, which should be the No. 1 priority during this time. We will get through this time.
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