Two days after 9/11, CVC Communications was scheduled to produce a major financial training event in NYC. Of course, it didn’t happen. For months, no business wanted to put their employees on an airplane. Fortunately, our company was already a pioneer in webinars and was able to solve a thorny problem for our clients.

Employers that have previously been hesitant to embrace a remote work policy may now find it necessary to reconsider. Here are 10 ways you can vaccinate your business in the face of economic disruption from COVID-19.

Create an atmosphere of trust

It is always important to talk straight, confront reality and be transparent. In uncertain times and when you are no longer face-to-face, trust is mission-critical. High-Trust organizations are faster organizations because time isn’t wasted double-and-triple checking the facts. Nimble organizations will survive and thrive if employees, customers and suppliers all trust the Leader. Trust is the one thing that changes everything.

Make or review your business continuity plans to determine where and how the work can really be done.

This is where it pays to tap the creative thinkers on your Team. A restaurant that suddenly found itself with no customers who were willing to venture out, has transformed its business model to delivering food to homes. Likewise, a factory in a quarantined city contacted an industry colleague and moved its employees and products to the factory that wasn’t under quarantine.

Update your employee policies to address working from home, vacation time, sick leave and more.

Does your company have a communicable illness policy? If not, it’s time to create one! Rachel Conn, a labor and employment lawyer with Nixon Peabody LLP suggests it should “Include what sicknesses are covered, employees’ obligation to report them, sick leave rules, how the employer will keep workers informed in an outbreak, and travel restrictions.”

Strategize how to productively engage your team members who can’t perform their normal work from home.

Companies consistently rank training as a high priority, and yet almost all companies routinely defer employee training. Use this time to close the gap. Subject Matter Experts can document their knowledge from anywhere. Other employees can complete all their annual compliance training online. And your seasoned employee can give marketing the white paper they’ve been coveting while working from home.

Train your managers to lead virtual teams.

Leading remotely is much harder than following remotely. Managers will likely feel overwhelmed. It is important for the company to expect a dip in productivity during the transition. Managers will have to learn what may be a very different style of management: Focusing on the big picture outcomes rather than the day-to-day tasks that used to be easily visible.

Make sure you are holding your remote employees accountable for real work.

Establish role responsibilities and clear milestones with check-ins that are appropriately back-timed for mid-course corrections as needed; and that take into account the extra time that may be needed when “all hands on deck” are now on a virtual deck.

Review data security and usage policies to align with a virtual workplace.

Your IT department may have gone to great lengths to protect your company data at the corporate office. When that data is carried across networks and into devices in homes, it likely is subject to great risk of hacking. There are also questions of improper use of company technology.

Ramp up your technology tools so that you have the right tool for each virtual communication.

Simple communications can continue to be handled simply, with text messages, emails and calendar appointments. More complex communications may need to be delivered via video. Interactive communication and data sharing may best travel back and forth in a webinar or a video conferencing platform. Training that was previously conducted face-to-face can be brought online, via a Learning Management System (LMS.)

Redesign employee onboarding to deliver it virtually.

In the midst of business disruption, hiring still goes on. Examine your current onboarding. Do you need to replace a physical tour with a virtual tour?

Instead of introducing the new employee to leadership in person, can your leaders provide a video welcome? Instead of reviewing the policies in person, plan an effective online delivery. And don’t forget document-signing software for virtual signatures.

Re-frame your engagement and motivational tools for a virtual culture.

You already know how important recognition is. Recognizing remote employees is tricky. Online meetings can be used to recognize accomplishment, followed by the online delivery of a personal message or tangible reward.

In times of economic disruption, it is also more important to foster employee engagement by discussing things that will make your employees proud they work for your company, such as special efforts to support those most in need.

Marilyn Moran-Townsend is co-founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of CVC Communications – Business Storytellers.  CVC is a certified woman-owned company headquartered in Fort Wayne, Indiana. 

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