Over the past few weeks, Newfront has hosted a webinar series focused on safely returning to the workplace as cities and states begin to reopen across the country. Now, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues on and large-scale protests against racial injustice and police brutality have occurred in every single state in the country, we recognize that enabling an effective return to the workplace goes beyond simply opening the doors and confirming a safe environment. Addressing the concerns, worries, and unique needs of your employees will be necessary for a smooth and successful transition.
To open this week’s webinar, Newfront invited Dr. Alvin Tillery, a professor of American politics and political theory at Northwestern University whose research focuses on racial and ethnic politics, to contextualize the protests and provide advice for moving forward. He urged listeners to feel hopeful about the future because seeing normal citizens moving to promote change is truly something to be proud of and gave us these actionable steps for fostering positive and supportive spaces within our own organizations:
- Communication, communication, COMMUNICATION.
- Set clear expectations.
- Create space to have real conversations. In this time of uncertainty, many employees will need the time and space to honestly discuss their fears and concerns about topics like the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, social injustice, and safety.
- If struggling to initiate conversations, oftentimes local and religious leaders, such as Episcopal Ministers, have decades of experience working in the community and are masters of navigating racial conflict discussions.
- Don’t talk down to team members. Listen to their concerns and ask how you can help.
- It is a balancing act between being open and addressing complexities.
- Challenge yourself and your team when developing surveys. Ask questions you don’t already know the answer to, like “What do you wish we knew?”
Following Dr. Tillery’s keynote address, our own Chana Anderson, CCP, PHRca, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, Senior Vice President and Practice Leader of Newfront's HR Services Practice, led a discussion between a panel of guest speakers that included Annie Worthington, MSOD, Head of Human Resources at Point, Mignon Monroe, Former Chief People Officer at SYPartners, Sharon Bauman, Partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLC, and Amy Steadman, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, Newfront's Chief People Officer. The group discussed how to safely navigate returning to the workplace during these unprecedented times.
Here are the key elements they urge employers to focus on:
- Be prepared with your plan of action if the rules you have established are not followed.Know how you will monitor and enforce policies equitably.
- Look through multiple lenses; legal, cultural, reputational when determining how to manage those that do not want to come back.
- Stagger the return, encourage volunteers, seek feedback, act on feedback, repeat.
- For those in a protected class (i.e.medical issues), answers will come from the law.
- educate and let your culture influence how quickly you require a return.
- Whatever your path, ensure there is no disparate treatment and do not impose judgement on those who do not want to return.
Visit the Newfront Events to register for upcoming webinars in our Moving Forward Together: Return to Workplace Series.
- 6/11: Legal and Regulatory Considerations
- 6/18: COVID-19: Navigating the Impact to the Cost of Employee Benefits
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