Five Workforce Management Tips for Uncertain Times

Organizations across all industries are navigating uncharted waters and trying to prepare for the unknown. There are no magic answers for how to address the change and uncertainty that we all face. What we do know is that the programs and services that Health and Human Services organizations provide to our communities are more critical now than ever before.

Our purpose at DATIS is to support the missions of organizations that impact lives for social good. During this unprecedented time, we’re here to provide resources to help and problem-solve alongside you as we move forward together as an industry. We’ve summarized some key strategies and considerations that we’ve gathered from our clients in the Health and Human Services industry, along with our own experience successfully moving to 100% remote operations within 24 hours.

As care delivery grows more diverse and complex, today’s workforce will become increasingly mobile and distributed. These five tips can help your organization adopt a “mobile-first” management mindset to empower employees, engage teams, and evolve your organization.

1. Increase communication and invite staff to join the conversation

Don't let uncertain times keep you from communicating with your team just because you don't have complete clarity on the situation or the path forward. It's okay to be human and admit you don't have all the answers and you share the same concerns as others. When possible, try to make communications open-forum to allow employees to share concerns, ask questions, and be part of the conversation. This is easier in-person, but virtually this can be accomplished by enabling Comments on Company News to create a thread that all can see. Usually if one person asks a question, ten others have been thinking about asking it too. So, making that Q&A public (where appropriate) benefits the entire team.

2. Don’t skip employee/manager 1-1s and reviews – increase them

With so much going on, many of us may be prone to skipping "non-essential" activities like 1-1's with employees, or regular reviews and appraisals. However, it's actually more important now to make sure your team is having these soft touches in the midst of a difficult situation. In uncertain times, employees may feel isolated and anxious. So, you may consider increasing the cadence of your check-ins. And, if you don't already have these regular check-ins in place, it's a great time to start. 

3. Practice individual and team-wide recognition and make it visible to all

A more distributed workforce means that employees lack the visibility they may normally have to understand the effort that different departments are putting in to help your organization through this time. Making sure that staff feel appreciated for the important work they are doing, and making sure that recognition is visible across the organization, is key to maintaining employee engagement and satisfaction. Additionally, enabling peer-to-peer recognition with "shout outs" or virtual "high fives" enables managers and leaders to see how staff are working together and who employees feel is a valuable team member.

4. Use technology to transition the team to mobile-first management 

In a distributed work environment, we need to leverage technology tools to help maintain productivity, engagement, and compliance. Regardless of how much of your staff are working remote, having a "mobile-first" mindset when it comes to management will ensure that you're addressing the needs of the entire workforce. This includes ensuring that employees are empowered with things like mobile self-service to access tools and information outside of the office, and managers have visibility into the location of employees when they are punching in and out to ensure compliance. Beyond that, digitizing 1-1 check-ins and recognition points by leveraging mobile-friendly technology will enhance the employee experience even when everything else feels a bit chaotic.

5. Work overtime to maintain culture, connectedness, and collaboration

Our company culture is usually the product of our team's interactions with each other in the work environment. As workforces become distributed and things change rapidly around us, our culture can either be the first thing at stake, or our saving grace. While culture can easily fall to the bottom of the priority list as we face the impact of a pandemic on our organizations and society, we need to work overtime to reinforce connectedness and collaboration to ensure we're maintaining this valuable asset. Here are some ways to infuse a cultural focus into our other key objectives:

  • Communication: Reiterate your organization's core values frequently and highlight the elements of your culture that will act as a vehicle to drive your organization through uncertainty and change. 
  • Feedback: Use video conferences whenever possible to communicate with your team. We tend to underestimate the importance of body language, or a simple smile, during a meeting, review, or 1-1. 
  • Recognition: When encouraging employees to practice in-person or virtual recognition, try to ensure that it's tied back to a core value to add meaning and support your culture by highlighting those that are living your core values.
  • Technology: Choose technology tools that enhance your existing culture, rather than replacing it. If you have a culture of collaboration, ensure that new tools help increase that instead of inhibiting it.  

We can and will see the other side of this period of time by adopting new and creative strategies as we move into this "new normal" of modern and mobile work. As Robert Kennedy stated back in the '60s,

"Like it or not, we live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty; but they are also the most creative of any time in the history of mankind. And everyone here will ultimately be judged - and will ultimately judge himself - on the effort he has contributed to building a new world society and the extent to which his ideals and goals have shaped that effort."

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