Everything is changing and we’re unlikely to be at the end of this period of change anytime soon. This new, dynamic reality begs the question, “How does a company best support its staff during these challenging times?”

Even that question is complex. What does “protect” even mean in 2020? Of course, a company’s number one responsibility to its staff is to run a profitable business that allows for stable employment and income. But, a global pandemic, an unstable economy and a racial and gender awakening demands that leadership face more complex challenges in the workplace.  This leads us back to the same question, asked in a variety of ways.

  1. How does a company protect its in-office staff from the risks of COVID-19?
  2. How does a company protect its remote staff from the negative effects of long-term distance employment? What are the  negative effects of long-term distance employment?
  3. How does a company provide equal opportunities for productivity, engagement and advancement opportunities for both in-office and remote staff?
  4. How does a company maintain profitability and its staff during an unpredictable economy? How does a company know when a staff reduction is necessary?
  5. How does a company act as a true ally and advocate for all of its employees?
  6. How does company leadership hold itself accountable to all employees and maintain a company that they can demonstrate is free of racial and gender inequalities and pay disparities?

It would not be possible to answer this list of questions here, as they are far too complex and the best response will depend on the company, the industry, the culture and a variety of other factors. However, there are some smart steps that leaders of all companies can take when exploring how to address these challenges.

  1. Know your expertise. Yes, you’ve built a profitable company. You employ a great staff and you’re proud of what you have accomplished. You are the expert of your company. You may even be an expert in your industry. That does not mean that you are an expert in the world of human resources. Know your expertise, but also know your limitations. Know when it’s time to seek out the expertise of someone else to make sure that you’re making the right decisions for your company. Allow an HR expert to ask you the tough questions. Don’t let pride get in the way of accepting when you need more help than you expected. That’s what HR professionals are there for, to offer data and strategic direction for your company.
  2. Know the science. No, you don’t need to become an armchair epidemiologist. But, you should find a reliable and objective resource to keep your leadership aware of the constantly evolving science behind Covid-19. You need to be prepared to make decisions or change course, on the fly. Innovation is key during such a dynamic time. You can’t be effectively innovative without knowledge and awareness.
  3. Know your data. Don’t ignore the story that your data is telling you. If your staffing numbers suggest that your team is dominated by one gender, race or ethnicity, pay attention. If your data suggests pay discrepancies based on any one factor, look more closely. Don’t allow yourself to design a story around this information that justifies a reality that isn’t truly justifiable. Again, this is where an HR resource can be a powerful resource. Your HR partner should be able to provide you with data insights that you can use to address issues that may be hurting your staff and will ultimately hurt your company.
  4. Know your people. Yes, you hired them and they’re your team. Don’t assume you know how they feel about being a part of your team. Don’t let yourself be surprised by unflattering anonymous reviews. Regular, recurring and anonymous surveys allow your staff the opportunity to raise concerns, pay compliments and ask burning questions without the fear of retaliation or individual recognition. To make these surveys as effective as possible, you need to ask the right questions, collect the data, analyze the data, present data insights in a digestible way and then act on those insights. It’s a lot of work to do this properly. If you don’t have the expertise and bandwidth, your HR resource does.
  5. Know your ecosystem. Are you compliant? When do you need to be compliant? What laws and rules have changed in your state? How do those laws and rules affect staff members in other states? What is required of you? What is best practice? Simply put, ask your HR resource. They are paid to know the answer to these things and more.
  6. Know how to protect yourself. Even with the best of effort, mistakes will be made. Be prepared to protect yourself when the time comes. Have a resource on hand that you can call for advice and for legal assistance when the time comes. Not every company can afford to have in-house counsel or an attorney on retainer. But, if you have a good HR resource, you’ll have someone that you can turn to, when you need it.

HR partners can be seen as an equalizer. Smaller businesses are not going to have the same budget as large companies. Your HR partner becomes the conduit between you and all of those resources you don’t have on staff. A good HR partner will make you feel as protected, informed and prepared as any large business claims to be. If that’s not how you feel about your current HR partner, it may be time for you to look for something new.

This article is brought to you by Wage Solutions, a division of Vertex Resource Group. Wage Solutions provides seamless integration of comprehensive HR solutions, individualized service, and in-depth knowledge of compliance and liability management. To learn more about how we can help you visit http://www.wagesolutions.com.