The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is bringing significant new challenges to many organizations. Employees may be worried. Sales may be down. Perhaps you need to introduce remote working. Employees and leaders may lack the expertise and experience needed to tackle these challenges.
You can use personal development as a powerful tool to help your organization to overcome these challenges, and perform well in the face of adversity.
To do this, you will need to understand the likely challenges teams will face and adapt your approach depending on how teams are impacted.
To help you and your organization respond to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, we've identified 6 key actions for you and your L&D team:
- Provide guidance to employees on how to protect themselves and their families
- Cancel face-to-face training, coaching and events
- Provide guidance for effective remote working
- Review the new challenges being faced
- Help to reduce the burden for busy teams
- Help under-utilized teams to make the most of their time
1. Provide guidance to employees on how to protect themselves and their families
Coronavirus is similar to flu in that most cases are mild and people who are in good health will recover at home in 1-2 weeks.
That said, even ‘normal’ seasonal flu is pretty nasty and causes a lot of lost productivity, which is why vaccinations are highly encouraged to protect people from the new variants each year. Although data is currently unreliable, the severity rate is likely to be higher than recent strains of flu, and people over the age of 80 and those with existing conditions are at greater risk.
However, it will pass, and vaccinations are likely to be developed and made available at some point — according to Mark Carney, the problem is one of “disruption not destruction”.
Good health practices can go a long way to reduce the likelihood of getting any type of virus. Your organization should encourage people to:
- Avoid being in close proximity to large groups and individuals who show symptoms.
- Avoid touching the face (eyes, nose, mouth) when in public places.
- Disinfect surfaces that are touched regularly with unwashed hands (mobile phone).
- Wash hands well with soap after touching surfaces that others have come into contact with.
You may also want to recommend that they prepare for if/when the virus spreads. For example:
- Stock up on medicines including painkillers that tend to be used for flu (e.g. ibuprofen, paracetamol)
- Stock up on equipment and supplies for any vulnerable family members, particular those with history of breathing difficulties (asthma medication etc).
- Keep up-to-date on local guidance on what to do if you suspect you have coronavirus symptoms (fever, dry cough, shortness of breath) without normal cold/flu symptoms (runny nose, sneezing, sore throat).
- Plan how to cope if quarantined at home. For example, how you’ll get food supplies delivered to your door, without face to face contact.
2. Cancel face-to-face training, coaching and events
You may want to cancel in-person events to help reduce the spread of the virus, and avoid employees having travel problems.
Wherever possible, you could explore providing the event / training / coaching via online methods. For example, Zoom will enable you to host up to 100 attendees with a standard package, and can host up to 1,000 with their enterprise plus option.
3. Provide guidance for effective remote working
Many teams will need to work from home. Whether your organization is familiar with this or not, it is likely that you can provide significant benefit by helping them to work more effectively.
At Spidergap, we’re a 100% remote company and have lots of experience here, so we’ve created a separate article: How to help your employees transition to remote working.
In it, you’ll find guidance on how your organization can:
- Help employees to set-up a work environment at home
- Help employees to run effective meetings online
- Help employees to stay connected to each other
- Support both mental and physical health
- Treat remote employees as equals to on-site employees
- Let employees know how to share concerns and get help
4. Review the new challenges being faced
Talk to leaders, managers and employees to see how they are already being impacted and how they expect to be impacted by some of the potential outcomes of the outbreak.
The new challenges being faced may include:
- Employees feeling stressed or upset
- Employees unable to work or working reduced hours
- Employees working from home
- Teams struggling with workload
- Teams being under-utilized
- Reduced/increased numbers of customers (and revenue)
- Concerns about job security
- Disrupted supply chains
Identify the priority concerns, and explore what can be done to support teams to address them. Clear guidance, coaching and eLearning are all great tools here.
Managers should keep a close eye on any key performance indicators (KPIs) to spot any changes and trends as they happen. For example, to see if the number of visitors on your website has decreased, or if sales meetings are increasingly being cancelled or held remotely.
It’s worth setting up regular calls with your leaders and managers to keep up-to-date, and adapt plans as needed.
5. Help to reduce the burden for busy teams
Some organizations or teams will find the coronavirus outbreak causes them to be busier than normal. This may be due to team members becoming less available, or due to workload increasing (e.g. IT staff supporting remote working).
Consider how you can help these teams by:
- Reducing or postponing non-critical tasks
- Providing coaching on how to prioritize and manage time better
- Scheduling regular 1-2-1s between employees and their managers (— the right meetings will actually speed up work!)
If you are planning to complete 360° Feedback project and are worried that some participants may be busy, you can reduce the time it takes by asking fewer questions or getting feedback from fewer feedback providers. You could even reduce the questionnaire to just a couple of ‘long text’ questions such as:
- “What do you most appreciate about [First Name Of Person Being Assessed]?”
- “What would you recommend that [First Name Of Person Being Assessed] starts, stops, or continues doing?”
6. Help under-utilized teams to make the most of their time
Some teams will find they are less busy than normal. This may be due to reduced enquiries and/or purchases from customers, or complete closure (e.g. event venues).
They may find they are busier than ever once things return to normal, but in the short-term, you can consider:
- Training them to support the busier teams
- Developing their skills to improve their performance
- Completing important but not urgent activities, such as 360° Feedback, online training, and performance reviews.
What else would be helpful?
At Spidergap, we want to help you and your organization to be successful, so please let us know any questions, concerns or challenges you have.
We’d love to help by sharing resources, advice or templates that can help you during this difficult time. Just send us a message :)