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Ep 3 - Strategic HR during a crisis

In This Episode

  • How all employees, if they are lucky enough to be in a role at a company with the capabilities, are working from home in our current “new normal.”
  • Layoffs have significantly reduced the number of employees available to help get critical work done, so we have to be more strategic than ever as demand is overwhelming.
  • How HR can be more strategic to prioritize HR work and additional work, including things like annual HR projects (performance management, goal setting, merit cycles, etc.).
  • Creating healthy mental wellbeing across the company, to ensure ongoing support and success.

It’s time to be overly critical in focusing on only the work that matters, even if you find yourself with some “extra time” or staying busy. We need weekly priority lists, question our ongoing activities, and over-communicate about our obvious and not-so-obvious mental wellness support benefits for our employees and us in HR.


(00:00): Things like performance management, goal setting, merit cycles and more [inaudible]. And so for each activity that was on your list, even if it's something big or it's on your annual plan, you need to question it. You have to ask critically, do we have to do this right now? I'm Melissa Anzman, HR practitioner turned CEO of a thriving employee experience company, but it wasn't all that long ago that I worked as an HR business partner responsible for increasing employee engagement at companies nationwide and I struggled to move the needle even after trying everything under the sun. Fast forward past many fail tactics and lessons learned and you'll see how I've been able to crack the code and replicated at companies of all sizes for creating true engagement and doing HR work that matters, work that changes the lives of leaders, HR professionals and employees. By focusing on the employee experience, I created the rethink HR podcast to give you actionable step by step strategies to help you make an impact. If you're an HR leader or one on the rise, he's looking to stop spinning your wheels doing the same tired activities that aren't driving results or you want to have a career. You love your in the right place. Let's get started.

(01:23): We are at least a month into what's becoming our new normal. For many of us right now, most of us is closer to two months. We're working from home. If we're lucky enough to have that capability, our kids and household members are in our space. 24 seven the economy feels like it's in a free fall and let's not forget about the thing that got us here. The virus, it's scary. This time is scary and we have been sort of cobbling things together with duct tape and prayers. Now it's time to really shift into how we can be a little bit more proactive in what we're doing right now before we start actually transitioning into what will be our new normal after the pandemic. On top of all of that. As people leaders in HR, we're also having to make and message very difficult decisions that impact so many of our colleagues and friends.

(02:22): We're stressed out, we're tired. It feels like everything is in a people which leaves us and our employees in a place that our workforce hasn't been in before. With layoffs there comes less people to do the work. It probably should have been fewer people, but you know what I mean? When we lay people off, there aren't as many hands to do what needs to get done and likely we were already maxed out or overworked before the virus cause every company likes to run really and now it feels more overwhelming than we've ever felt with a long list and a mountain of to do items. And remember your employees, each of them are feeling the exact same way and just like you on top of seeing the work pile up in front of them and dealing with the emotions of layoffs and fear that their own job and income are on the line.

(03:22): They're also experiencing all the stress and discomfort of being sheltered in place with Ali hot on their plate. So now is the time we need to help ourselves in HR and our employees to not only be more strategic in what we're doing, but also how to prioritize and take care of each other. Now this episode is not going to be about how to do remote work at home. There's a lot of great resources out there for that. It is really going to focus how you can move into strategic mode right now and how your employees can follow you into it. And of course the wellness and mental wellbeing of us and our employees. So in order to move into being more strategic as HR thought leaders and leaders in the workspace, we need to realize where we're at today, which is if we don't shift into a strategic point of view, a strategic focus, we are going to constantly feel like we are drinking from the end of a fire hose.

(04:27): And let me be super clear with you, it will kill you. This is a burnout factor. 10 acts we cannot constantly for we have probably been for the last six weeks or a month or two months or whatever your shelter in place has been, have been feeling this type of thing. We can't do this any longer. And if you're listening to this episode after the pandemic, I really want you to think about how long you've been running in that stress space. So if you're there, which I bet you are, it's time that we effectively move into strategic mode because that fire hose is not going to serve us well, not only for our work outcomes, but for the employees we serve and for our friends and family around us. So to do that, the first thing we need to do is we need to evaluate all of the HR programs, activities, actions, and tactical work that's on our plate.

(05:27): So the timeline of this could mean that you may have been working on some really large scale HR things that happen around this time of year. Things like performance management, goal setting, merit cycles and more. And so for each activity that was on your list, even if it's something big or it's on your annual plan, you need to question it. You have to ask critically, do we have to do this right now? And there are going to be some things that the answer to that is yes, totally hear you. Totally. Okay. We are trying to eliminate all of the other things that don't make sense. So for in those few examples that I shared, performance management is probably one of those things. I'm going to touch on that in a second. So hang tight, but maybe something like goal setting when we don't actually know what 2020 is going to bring us now.

(06:27): Or if you're like me, your 2020 goals got washed away. Mine literally did yours figuratively could. But do we have to go through the goal setting process right now? Does it make sense? So if the answer is yes that you have to do it right now, like that performance management example, it's really important that we make it easier for all of us and employees included to still get what we need out of that HR activity or program or process without it being another added layer of stress. Now let's use that performance management example. So I am speaking to the 85% or more of you out there who know that your performance manage process is more of a box checking exercise than anything else. So now isn't the time that we're going to fix it or explore how to make it better, totally wrong timing for that.

(07:24): Add it to your list for later. But we do have to shift that process to make it super easy to complete without all of the BS. You usually make leaders and employees jump through during that annual process. So here's the thing, if it's a program that you use that is super hard, if it's these detailed bell curves you're trying to go to I don't know if merit increases are tied to your performance management or if they're happening at all right now. But all of those processes are complicated. We overcomplicate them when in fact the performance management process is really for us to check in on who's performing, capture performance, capture feedback, get our ratings in the system, etc. So do what you have to do for your process, but don't add layers that hold little to no value. Okay? We are not going to do that right now.

(08:21): It is not the time. We do not need to be adding extra layers on our plate. If you need help selecting down the process, just reach out. Happy to help you with that. But essentially what we're going to do is we're going to do the minimum viable option in order to get that strategic work done. Okay, so the next thing we're going to do to move into strategy mode is your employees and you need a top level focus list from your senior leaders. They say, this may sound a bit odd, it is not. What we would typically say is business as usual unless we sort of think about our annual goals in that regard. But right now it is up to you to ask your boss and the senior leadership team if you have influence, they're the absolute most critical business initiatives right now that you need to focus on and ask for them to update that list every week or every other week at Mo, like at a minimum so that you can stay aligned, your work stays aligned, your employees stay aligned to what's actually most important.

(09:35): Once you have that top level list, every single activity that you and your employees work on day in and day out is only related to those priorities. So here's a quick word of advice. These things. These things like the item action items on the list, the work that they want you to do are typically things that keep you directly generating income, so you have to prioritize for what's critical. Right now, everything else is placed on hold. We don't have the luxury or the time to be precious about the work that we're doing or about our job title, our seniority, our tenure, and so on. We must just do the work that's necessary and everything else is not a priority. So are things going to get dropped? Yeah. Will you no longer be getting or creating that monthly report that no one reads, please? Yes. You probably very excited about that one.

(10:36): Well, you have to suck it up buttercup at times and tell your employees to do so as well. Yeah. It's probably something that you're going to have to have that conversation about a few times. Are people not going to be so responsive to your emails or completing busy work or losing their marbles with when account payables pushes back on a receipt? Yes. All of that's going to happen. Take that information, be annoyed about it, right in this movement and move on. This is our current state of reality. If it's not critical, it doesn't exist. And I have a special note for my, my fellow workaholics out there. We as well are only going to do the work that matters. We are not going to burn out doing all the things so that the business runs as it previously dead. We as a whole employee workforce now we're going to pitch in, we're going to help out, but we are not going to unevenly distribute the work because that employee doesn't have kids at home bothering him or that employee has a home office so they can close the door and be on a zoom or let me just get through the backlog.

(11:50): Or we have all of this quote, quote, extra time in our day. Now stop that. None of that is true or fair or realistic. So what we're going to do is we're going to get that top level focus list from your senior leaders. Bulleted three things, no more than three. Ideally, if your boss needs to go to five, fine. But these are truly the things that are quickest to cash for your company to keep them solvent and moving forward. And if you serve as clients, this should really be client focused, right? What are, what are the activities we have to do for our clients to keep earning our income? So that's the strategy size. The next part is really about mental wellbeing and that is your mental wellbeing as well as that of your employees. Super important to remember your an employee too. And mental wellbeing is one of those things that I know has been a buzzword for the past couple of years.

(12:53): Being that my team focuses so much on other people's total rewards and their benefits and how to communicate it, that mental wellbeing or mental wellness has really become something that's been popping up for at least the last three years. At, at most companies. And we know that your total wellness includes mental health and that's how we've been talking about it. But you also know that the mental wellness, mental wellbeing is one of those things that as a society or as a company or as HR layer that however you want, we've been super taboo and secretive about. So now it's that thing we really want you to know and care about or ha and, and let our employees know that we care about how they're feeling and doing mentally. When we shift that conversation, honestly it just kind of felt like a lie to most of our employees.

(13:52): We've been taboo and secretive. We're not really doing it. It, it feels like we're checking a box for most of them, but now we really want you to know we care about it. So here's the thing, it is something that now where we are today, we absolutely must spend time to convince our employees that we believe in this and that is true. So we have to do the best job that we've ever done. Truly your best work in communicating to your employees that we deeply care about their mental wellbeing and yours as well. And so what that means or how we do that other than making sure we're actually talking about it, which many of us still are not doing. We are going to start with over-communicating the wellness resources that you have to offer as part of your total rewards package. You want help people get help, whether it's through your EAP, their medical insurance or something like the communities you have internally.

(14:59): So the first two that you're familiar with, the EAP and the medical insurance has helped that a a doctor or a specialist, someone who's well versed in this can help in actual mental health situations and also mental wellness. Don't get me wrong, they're probably a little tapped out on the mental health right now. That being said, there are things that you can do as companies, as HR, as businesses that from a community perspective can really help. And I think you're overlooking them right now. So well the first one I see as a big gap is most of us are talking about or seeing people at home with their families, but I want you to remember there are a lot of people at home by themselves. They are even more isolated than ever and isolation isn't necessarily a bad thing so to speak, but when we're doing it so prolonged and if you're doing it alone, adding that extra layer, it can be very insular.

(16:05): And so being together like bringing together the people that are part of your work community, whether it is a zoom call or a yam jam or an email chain or something like that where your work colleagues can actually just have a fun way to chat, interact, have a phone moment, see each other, interact with their work buddies. That can go a long way for mental wellbeing. It can add a sense of routine, it can add a sense of normalcy. But in addition to that, like it can just add a, Hey there's another human as one of those people who is in isolation alone. I mean same. He is here but he doesn't really count cause he hasn't learned to talk back to me yet. When I get to video chat with a friend or family member or hop on a call with some clients or team members that has video, sometimes the phone is okay.

(17:07): We've all moved to video a while back though. It immediately brightens up my day just because it's another human interaction. And so I don't want you to forget that your employees and you as HR, your team members around you, you already have these many communities at work already built in to help and support each other. So take advantage of that, leverage that as another sort of part of mental health. The other thing that I want to just sort of gut check with you from a mental wellbeing perspective is there is a lot of pressure for people to still do and produce work at the same level, speed timeframes, et cetera, that they were doing before the pandemic. And this is especially true of your key talent and high performers. That's why they are, that they really value and get meaning from the work that they're delivering.

(18:07): And so they're trying their best. And what I have been seeing is while we're in a new normal, they could have kids around and their kids need their attention or perhaps they don't have access to all the files they need or they just don't have a good space to work or they need to step outside on their patio to get some fresh air every hour, whatever that is, it's going to be stressful for them as well because they have that added pressure of needing to deliver, wanting to deliver above and beyond. And right now you're probably expecting them to do so. So take a deep breath around that they are struggling with still sitting at their desk with running with kids that need to be homeschooled or that who are running around next to them or perhaps they're trying to work from their couch without a desk or without a headset or whatever that is.

(19:07): So we need to have a little grace in what our expectations of work are. And that's why we need to be more strategic as a whole. Because sitting at your desk and being on IAM or showing as you're there is not helpful to anybody. There's no strategic value added there. That doesn't mean of course, you know, my perspective on this is it doesn't mean that we are not expecting great work from people. We are, but we have to expect great work on only things that matter most. And of course there's a whole lot of other great advice to help your mental wellbeing. Things like having a normal work day schedule with a morning routine and getting dressed and working only during set hours and taking breaks and so on. I'm not going to detail those out. There's a lot of resources out there for you already, but whatever works for you, start doing it.

(20:04): We have to really focus on our own mental wellbeing. Some of you may really enjoy things like self care, so whether it's giving yourself a manicure or putting your makeup on or having that extra cup of coffee, whatever that thing is for you, do it. Now is the time to take some time to do that and implement new practices around our mental wellness so that we can not only be there for our friends and family, but also for the employees that we serve. So our big takeaway right now is let's stop pretending that we can continue to do the, to do the same work that we did before the pandemic in the same way. And realize that our current normal needs us in HR to step up to the plate and be more strategic, to help prioritize work and projects and deliverables appropriately and also be the light that shines on our mental wellbeing, options, opportunities, important and right resources.

(21:13): This podcast is brought to you by the employee experience solution book. In our uncertain times right now, traditional employee engagement tactics are becoming even less effective and even more expensive. We can't afford to overspend on things that are not delivering an ROI to our CTOs. To increase employee engagement and keep your key talent engaged right now and beyond, you need to dig deeper and get to the root of the issue, and the employee experience solution book is designed to help you rethink your approach to employee engagement by focusing on the employee experience. Starting right now, pick up your copy of the employee scaring solution on Amazon or at [inaudible] dot com slash book that B E T T hr.com/book thank you so much for tuning in for this episode of the rethink HR podcast. For more information, including show notes and resources, please go to rethink HR podcast dot comm slash three.

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