Paths for Organizational Resilience

By Regan MacBain Traub, CPC | March 23, 2020

25 years iconOn Saturday, our firm ‘celebrated’ its 25 years in business… not with hoopla but, with serious reflection about the current state of organizations across the Northeast.  We’ve been renegades, implementing integrated systems in human resource management and organization development since we opened on March 21, 1995.  And, we’ve worked as a virtual team for 25 years.  Our clients range from start-ups to Fortune 100s, largely in the financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, nonprofit and governmental sectors.  Business-based in mindset, we’re about guiding leadership teams to understand and engage strategic levers of HR and OD functionality and elevating the performance of their organizations and the HR and OD function.

As I listen to and read the news, I can’t help but think about what organizations need to be doing right now in the midst unprecedented uncertainty, furloughs and layoffs.  Within the last 24 hours, I’ve received communications from McKinsey about strategies and Korn Ferry on remaining mission-focused in times of uncertainty.  Yes, strategic direction is vitally important.  Of equal importance is the resilience and productivity of your organization’s people.  This is a critical time to prove the cohesion, efficacy and resourcefulness of leadership and the HR and OD function to staff, shareholders, suppliers and customers.

As a way to ‘give back’ at this challenging time, we hope that a few of the suggestions we share below deliver support to organizations in need of meaningful and creative guidance to strengthen business continuity.

For organizations (large and small) which have furloughed or laid off staff:

  • Conduct virtual video conferences on a weekly basis with active staff to retain a sense of connectivity. Include organization updates, brainstorm opportunities to resolve challenges you are facing, share best practices of staying in touch and known needs for support to staff who have been laid off or furloughed.
  • Develop and provide webinars and/or brief, virtual training modules on relevant topics to support the specific needs of your managers, staff and customers.
  • Create a small committee of employees to develop communication and support strategies for active and recently exited employees to maintain organizational ‘glue’ and support the needs of separated employees. Finding ways to spark creativity and innovation fuels resilience.
  • Continue to communicate updates with staff who have been furloughed or laid off on a frequent (weekly) basis to keep them ‘in the loop.’ This will enable a sense of connectivity and support as well as faster re-entry/rehire in the next few months.  Your loyalty will be paid back with theirs when our country and organizations resurge.
    • Offer an online class on resume writing and interviewing skills.
    • Provide ideas and guidance for appropriate interim employment in essential services. While unemployment will provide a former employee with income that is less than what they had been earning, it doesn’t instill an individual with a sense of pride, mission or connectivity.
  • Provide current and recent employees with an opportunity to earn an innovation award in the form of cash or gift certificate (grocery store, favorite restaurant to support your community or a virtual product or service provider). Employees who may have been laid off know your firm, its customers and suppliers. Their insights on how processes and practices could be improved may serve as potential for organizational gains now (e.g. new, virtual business model) and during what will likely be a fast-change yet rocky resurgence due to lingering virus issues.  This type of contest can spur creativity and an opportunity for additional income at a time when current and former staff most likely need it (consider that even for retained employees, two income families may now be faced with sole or significantly reduced income).  It may also aid your organization to weather the storm as well as amass strategic thinking and momentum during a business lull.  With lending rates at a low, re-investment in your organization at this time may be strategically smart.
    • If you are considering a de minimus award, it should not require reporting of income. If it is more significant in level, consult with your CFO or financial advisor regarding reporting related to taxable income.
    • This initiative will require a credible team to evaluate the suggestions, determine awards and communicate with all invitees.
  • Look for opportunities to align and integrate your HR systems, policies and practices with strategy and desired culture.  It was recently proven by a team led by the ‘Father of Modern HR,’ David Ulrich, Ph.D. that integrated HR contributes 4X the value in organizational performance, more than 3X the value to shareholders/owners and more than 2X the value to customers. We have been practicing this work for 25 years and have seen its results.

For healthcare and other deemed essential organizations, in addition to suggestions above:

  • Create rapid virtual staffing acquisition and development initiatives now to build staffing levels that will support anticipated, ongoing shortages (due to illness or family demands). While you may have already engaged in outreach to retired workers, consider the recruitment and development of individuals with innate potential for success.  This initiative will provide new hires with replacement or 2nd income opportunity as well as a means by which to contribute meaningfully to a crisis.
    • Example: Healthcare provider organizations may want to focus on developing as many entry level Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) as possible and up-training proven CNAs to provide higher levels of support to nurses and therapists, etc. as a way to rapidly scale for increased service delivery.
  • Individuals who have been laid off from other service or technical industries may be viable candidates. An initial, validated and low cost online screening tool to assess behavioral aptitude and basic skills should be helpful in quickly screening applicants. Video interviews can be conducted followed by in-depth reference results and background checks.
  • Significant educational content for entry level roles can be delivered online, including that for CNAs. Partner with proven educational service providers to quickly adapt as much classroom training as possible to virtual delivery.  Assess clinical and behavioral skills onsite… after receiving negative results for COVID-19 infection.
  • Consider delivering free education for a 3+ month commitment. Contact your state department of labor for information on available funding and/or tax credits for this type of endeavor.

Getting organizations through exceedingly difficult times requires heightened communication, leadership and HR acumen, collaboration, innovation and resilience.   We all have a part to play.

In addition to her work with The HR Consortium, for two decades as a volunteer leader, Regan Traub led the development, implementation and expansion of the Society for Human Resource Management (the world’s largest HR professional association) across Connecticut as well as HR & OD professional development conferences for the states of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Prior to that, for 8 years as a volunteer leader for the Capital Region Workforce Development Board she co-led efforts to improve service delivery to employers in the Greater Hartford area.