Virtual RoundTable “Managing Employees through COVID-19”

Virtual RoundTable “Managing Employees through COVID-19”

Charlotte Perkins Market Insight, Virtual RoundTable

“Managing Employees through COVID-19”

Across the world, managers and HR professionals are trying to figure out how to balance the needs of the organisation with the needs of the staff against the backdrop of changing coronavirus data and related rules and regulations.

We are in unprecedented times, unchartered waters for employers. How businesses choose to manage their employees today is going to have a profound impact on how those same employees perform ‘on the other side’ of the pandemic, and how the business will pull through.

Managing employee burnout, addressing talent management strategies, taking advantage of ‘new’ available talent, and preparing for the ‘new’ post-COVID workplace.

Right now, it is difficult to predict how the workforce landscape will look post-COVID-19, and regardless of how a company’s workforce looked like pre-COVID, post-COVID will be very different.

Speaking to many of our clients over the past 12 weeks, we noticed a commonality in pressure points and issues that had arisen due to the pandemic and the role that HR and HSE professionals were required to take in order to establish BAU for their businesses and their workforces.

Continuing our series of virtual roundtables, Charlotte Perkins, Manager Contracts & Interim - Melbourne and Roxane Sexton, Manager Permanent Recruitment Sydney were delighted to host a group of Heads of HR and People & Culture professionals from Media, FMCG, and Health industry sectors. The topic for the virtual roundtable was “Managing Employees through COVID-19”.

Here are the key takeaways:-

How has COVID changed the thinking (if at all) around goal setting, succession planning, talent management, some of our more traditional HR cyclic events?

During a crisis, it might seem justifiable to postpone talent management and focus on business continuity and cost-saving measures, in fact, now is the opportune moment to review, re-evaluate, and redesign these processes. What talent do we have? What talent do we need? And how do we fill the gaps?

  • COVID has changed thinking around talent management. Having a better understanding of who the critical people are in the organisation and what that means for retention and keeping a strong culture whilst working remotely has become critical
  • It could be risky to assume that employees will stay rather than leave given the current market so it’s more important than ever to ensure that businesses still have a clear focus on employee retention
  • Recruitment is not the only area on hold. Remuneration reviews are fast approaching with companies yet to determine whether pay increases will happen at all this year, the view on this could be ‘exceptions only’. This itself will be a challenge for the People & Culture community, thinking about how best to coach the leaders so they can confidently have these conversations
  • Given all of the points above, it is essential to carefully review existing key employees, stay closer to them than ever, assess their skills and knowledge and help them move from potential to success with targeted development plans.

How are different business managing the ‘burnout’ factor of so much change in so little time and people’s level of fatigue?

The coronavirus pandemic has brought a surge in employee burnout. Rampant pay cuts, home-schooling children, caring for sick relatives, fear of the virus, and worrying about job security are just some of the new stress workers are facing in the wake of COVID-19.

Certainly, companies are worried about their employees being pushed to the brink, however with no end in sight to either the pandemic or the economic disruption it’s caused, employees are increasingly trying to avoid losing focus or letting stress overwhelm them. Strategies to help manage employee burnout include:-

  • It is essential to check-in with employees regularly
  • Conduct pulse surveys, analyse the feedback and make changes where necessary
  • Introducing yoga sessions, E-Cuppas (not about work, making conversations really organic, having trigger questions if things got quiet), E-Lunches, fitness sessions, breathing classes, mindfulness Mondays, meditation
  • Create a remote “watercooler / lunchroom” time with co-workers
  • Set a new schedule. Putting regularity into people’s day. Encourage employees to create a work-from-home routine, one where work is done in a defined space, define actual working hours, whether it’s working straight through the day or breaking it up to take care of family or personal matters. Encourage employees to share their schedule so that people know the routine.

Adapting to the new reality - transforming and navigating the waters

Embracing remote work and virtual collaboration is one of the most impactful things employers can do today to address the increasing complexity of the current public health and economic crisis. And as companies navigate their approach to remote working and transform the operations of the business, it’s important to consider the learnings that can be achieved along the way.

  • Some companies were late to join the flexible work approach and thought it wasn’t possible in any shape or form. Senior management believes that if someone was not at the desk in the office then they were not really working. Now these conversations have moved to reducing office space accepting that the new reality will be not everyone returning to the office for 5 days per week if at all “Our people were wheeling chairs out the office, carrying computers, setting up home offices and then simply getting on with it”
  • Companies are seeing employees’ technical skills improving immensely, with employees now able to easily navigate around new programs such as Teams, Google hang out, Zoom, Facetime etc.
  • Virtual meetings have created new norms and provide you with a very different view of your colleagues, you gain a real rounded view of an individual – getting to know their children, family, dogs and cats. Conversations flow and it allows you to open up to that personal side
  • Managers and leaders have had to develop new skill sets to lead from home and then also blend the approach when managing teams that are split between office and home. Finding the right balance in communication when holding meetings in the boardroom with some employees at the table and others attending virtually has become an art form.

Reversing the Brain Drain - reshaping our workforce and how to maximize skill diversity 

Business leaders need to think beyond survival to the opportunities this crisis might create. Among these is a chance to hire talented people at a time when they might have trouble finding or keeping jobs elsewhere. Companies are laying off workers and downsizing, some sectors are collapsing. And an unprecedented number of people will be looking for employment. At the same time, a major force that had been fuelling the intensity of the war for talent — globalization — might recede. The pool of available talent is suddenly both changing and expanding.

  • There are many Australians returning home during COVID after working overseas for several years. The challenge will be finding a way to capture strong talent especially when recruitment is essentially paused
  • Many businesses are now re-evaluating their workforces. Adapting employees’ skills and roles to the post-pandemic ways of working
  • Companies must learn how to match current workers to new roles and activities that have emerged due to the pandemic. It’s about how leaders can reskill and upskill the workforce to deliver new business models in the post-pandemic era
  • Setting up a task force to source potential candidates from target sectors and companies who may now be either jobless or open to change.


If you are interested in being part of our conversation and/or would like to join one of our Virtual Round Tables, please get in touch with one of the Frazer Jones team here.