With global COVID-19 fatalities reaching 247,000 at the beginning of May, the recent coronavirus pandemic has pushed unprecedented stress on traditional healthcare facility operations. Sharp surge of demand for healthcare, supply chain related shortages and staffing concerns has forced the healthcare industry to evolve and adjust, instead of giving up and closing down. With the current pandemic running wild, proper staff management is critical. Human resource management can be tough on the healthcare sector, as it primarily relies on its workforce to keep operations running.
Human Resource and COVID-19 in numbers
- When asked about their main challenge during the coronavirus outbreak, 7 out of 10 HR leaders cited crisis management or business continuity planning as their top challenge.
- Only 42 percent believe their HR department has been adequately trained, equipped and ready to face the current crisis.
- Merely 8 percent feel they are correctly prepared to deal with all the challenges posed by the pandemic.
- 5 percent of respondents feel they are completely unprepared for what’s coming.
- On a positive note, 88 percent of human resource leaders claimed the crisis has allowed them to highlight the importance of proper staff management strategies to mitigate people’s risk.
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5 Strategies for a calm staff management after the COVID-19 Crisis
- Focus on safety
Your staff needs to feel safe in order to perform. Writing for Financial Review, Julie McKay, PWC’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, said that employees feeling safe are more productive in their daily routine. With the staffing concerns the healthcare industry faces in this time of crisis, it is vital that your facility employees perform close to their best.
Right off the bat, be proactive and ensure you implement infection prevention measures:
- Plan ahead for employee personal protective equipment (PPE) and sanitizations products that your facility may need for the next few months.
- Actively reach out to your suppliers to find a flexible re-supply mechanism in case of shortages.
- Have properly sanitized containment areas ready to welcome any infected employee or patient.
- Ensure your staff is aware of sick leave policies and encourage any employee showing symptoms (COVID-19 or other) to stay at home instead of coming to work.
- Discourage employees to use common areas such as lunchrooms, and if this is not feasible, enforce the six-feet-apart guidelines, set by the CDC.
- Regularly screen your employees for symptoms related to the coronavirus and provide treatment and guidance accordingly.
- Set up a dedicated crisis management team
After implementing your employee safety measures, get a dedicated crisis management team up and running the earliest possible. Since every level of your business is concerned and at risk during the COVID-19 outbreak, make sure your team comprises people from every single hierarchical level. This will allow you to delegate key responsibilities to members of the team, while easing the pressure off the human resource department or facility manager, and at the same time ensure no one feels ‘left out’ in this period of uncertainty.
One easy way to build a team is by segmenting your members into 3 main channels, accordingly to their skillset:
The legal and regulatory team
The legal and regulatory team is tasked with ensuring all business aspects of your company are legally covered. Normally, this team will audit your organization’s risk exposure and map out all your business liabilities towards all stakeholders. Ultimately they should be able advise on appropriate responses when different situations arise.
The communications team
As the name suggests, your communications team is there to deal with public relations and internal message delivery. The members actively respond to customer queries and make sure the right message reaches the right person. They also handle your organization’s image across both traditional and digital media communications.
The operations team
Your operations team are responsible for smoothing out routine operations of your facility. Generally, they are closer to your front line workers and address their concerns. These members also assess the feasibility of your business goals to manage expectations and help you adjust your objectives accordingly.
- Educate and Communicate
As for any company structure, senior leadership and the human resources department should have a strong and trusted voice. During a time of crisis, pushing out regular memos and announcements will reassure your workforce. Providing transparent and concise information to your staff about the measures you are adopting to protect them is crucial.
Whenever possible, demonstrate well-researched knowledge about the pandemic outbreak to ensure everyone is on the same page. Use only reliable facts from trusted resources, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and share your sources with your employees. If possible, along with your written communications, make us of visual mediums, such as videos to deliver your message. Also keep in mind that vocal inflection and body language are now more relevant than ever, since face-to-face contact is limited.
- Be supportive and flexible
In the event of a global (or national) crisis, several aspects of an employees’ personal lives are impacted. New and unexpected hurdles emerge in their day-to-day routine, and understanding these roadblocks can make tough situations easier on your staff. For instance, parents who normally would drop their children to daycare centers or schools have suddenly been scrambling to find childcare. In many cases, there are no family members or services they can turn to, due to the lockdown.
In some cases, households may even have gone from double-income to single-income, as some companies have had to implement temporary layoffs. Whenever possible, allow for more compassion and flexibility for your employees in these times of uncertainty. Any form of relief or aid can genuinely help an employee facing a downturn; financial aid, help seeking outside assistance, or even workplace flexibility.
Whenever possible, allow for alternative shifts, time offs or modified schedules. This should not be much of a hassle if you are using a healthcare staff scheduling software. In a time of crisis, getting support from an employer can dramatically improve their loyalty and motivation.
- Get a crisis recovery plan ready
Sooner or later, the world will overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. Having a disaster recovery plan is a must if you are to get back in business. According to sharpadesk.com, 68 percent of small businesses and 30 percent of all businesses do not have a disaster recovery plan. Even worse, 90 percent of them will not survive a disaster without a recovery plan. Having a solid business continuity plan is critical to a business’ ability to endure a crisis and transit back to its original level of performance.
Following the preliminary audit carried out by your legal and regulatory team, you will now be able to identify vulnerabilities within your usual framework, and apply fixes accordingly. Moreso, this will possibly reveal ways of simplifying your business operations and distinguish between priority levels. Essentially your business recovery plan should address all the steps your organization needs to take, in a clearly defined and systematic way to get back to usual productivity standards.
How we live and work may have changed forever. The way different industries tackle the COVID-19 pandemic will most likely impact business models for the next decade. While the coronavirus has had a devastating impact on most economies till now, the lessons learned may be pushing mankind to the next level. Hopefully, the current crisis can speed up our way towards the fourth industrial revolution.