As the business world feels the effects the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and takes steps to adapt, companies are asking what they can do for their employees during this difficult time.
“Instead of punitive changes being implemented, companies can craft an extended Employee Value Proposition (EVP) that could be positively implemented during the pandemic. Parts of the extended EVP policy could be retained after the pandemic is over to bolster current remuneration and HR policies to align with a changing world of business,” advises Chris Blair, CEO of 21st Century, a specialist Remuneration, Organisation Development and Change consultancy.
“Your company could adopt various strategies. The strategy that you choose will depend on your company structure and on the type of business, so would need to be crafted for your specific company.
“The first and most obvious strategy is to allow employees to work from home if possible – this will in essence be a quarantine to limit the chances of infection. Employees will need to be empowered with work tools (e.g. laptop and phone) and uncapped Wi-Fi to enable them work from home. This does not need to come at an additional expense to the employer – the Wi-Fi and telephone cost could be offset against the saving the employee gets from not having to travel. Client meetings could be done by Skype or Zoom in the comfort of the employees’ homes. Companies that are using Office 365 could make use of the ‘teams’ function to keep employees connected and working together remotely, which will keep up the morale in the company.
“Not all employees can work from home all the time, so flexible work hours that are staggered over 24 hours – to limit the number of people in the office at any time – could be implemented. This strategy would attempt to rotate staff so that there is only one staff member per work area. Surfaces would be required to be sprayed and wiped down with alcohol-based cleaning agents between rotations by the employees leaving the stations.
“Introduce creative ways for employees who come to the office to greet each other without human contact. Supply plenty of soap and water, hand sanitizer and disposable hand towels at the office.
“In addition, the security guard could be trained to open the office for employees and press lift buttons to avoid contact.
“If there is a reduction in business activity, companies could implement a policy where employees have to take their accumulated leave over this period. Study leave could be granted to employees for self-development.
“An economic consequence of the Coronavirus is that companies’ revenue falls and they have to use cash stockpiles to fund the losses during this period. Companies could adopt any of the following strategies to make sure it is sustainable through this period. It is obviously better to take some pain in the short run to ensure that employees retain their jobs and the company survives the downturn.
“Employees could be paid in leave days that they take over this period. Ask Pension/provident fund provider to freeze investment portions to bolster take-home pay if the employees have to take a cut in pay. Reduce salaries across the board and bank the difference – to be paid back to the employees once cashflow recovers after the pandemic. Give increases linked to demographic earning groups’ inflation rate.
“Revisit the culture and values of the company to include caring for each other, and connect this to the bonus structure. Organisational culture is more important than we realise, so there should be zero tolerance for unacceptable transgressions regarding health procedures concerning the virus. Implement team-based pay based on the new values and let the team decide how to split the money amongst the team. No bonuses are paid to executives who retrench employees.
“Currently we give shares based on job level, scarcity of skill and contribution. Make a once-off share allocation to all employees in lieu of reduced salaries (if salaries have to be cut for survival) and make the vesting date one year from allocation. This will also go some way to retaining staff during and after the crisis period.
“Many of the best creative solutions are born out of necessity during times of crisis. The way we approach our work and home life may change over the next few months, but we will find new ways to stay connected, to support each other, and to pull together to fight against a common adversary.” Blair concludes.