If I’d heard the term “essential worker” back in February, my thoughts would immediately have turned to healthcare workers. Even in a pre-COVID world, we needed them, simple as that. Fast forward to late May, and as the (very lengthy and 6ft-spaced) line of people outside my local Trader Joe’s in Austin moves slowly inside the store, people stop to thank the employees for their service.
The definition of “essential worker” has significantly changed, and not just in terms of guidelines or rules. The term itself now holds a meaningful place within our emotions – inspiring gratitude and pride. These are the people who put themselves at risk so that we could stay home. These are the people who helped us all to keep going – providing food, sanitation, infrastructure. These are the people standing outside Trader Joe’s in masks, wiping down hundreds of shopping carts every single day. So when we say “essential worker” now, it’s understood that this means those brave healthcare workers, but also grocery store clerks, delivery drivers, distribution center operators, and even fast food servers. For people like me who have spent their entire career working in an office environment, it’s humbling.
But as stay at home orders end, and hazard pay and benefits for many of these essential workers is walked back, has anything really changed? And if so, what are employers doing to reflect this?
For healthcare workers, “hero status” has rightly been conferred. We literally applaud them for their work. At a time when celebrities feel irrelevant (Madonna bemoaning this “great equalizer” from one of her mansions didn’t sit well with most of us), we are increasingly seeing and hearing from our frontline healthcare workers, and looking up to them as role models. Dr Fauci’s #PassTheMic campaign brings this idea to life with nurses, doctors and medical experts taking over the social media accounts of celebrities including Julia Roberts and Millie Bobby Brown.
We are far from the end of this, and the long-term effect on healthcare professions is yet to be seen. But, for now, while most of us are in awe of them, many people want to be them, with universities reporting a rise in numbers of applications for nursing programs (similar to the surge in recruitment of first responders that followed 9/11).
But what about those essential workers who are on a different frontline? Will the same hero effect remain for our grocery store workers, sanitation workers, and delivery drivers? Many of these often hourly-paid workers felt that they had no choice but to go to work or risk losing wages and benefits. There have been significant difficulties, and we’ve seen walkouts from Amazon, Walmart and Fedex, as well as fast food franchises and Instacart.
No doubt, it’s an unprecedented challenge for employers to manage, but they must realize that their employer brand and reputation are now one-and-the-same as their business brand and reputation. It should come as no surprise to them, precisely because many are seeing record sales at a time when they could not have functioned without their employees taking on some level of personal risk.
For right now, what are they doing to protect their employees? Do they have masks? What kind of leave is available should they become sick? Hazard pay was introduced by many in March, but is now coming to an end or being limited. Yes, stay at home orders may have been lifted, but for workers who come into direct contact with the public, the hazard has not disappeared. The way that employees are treated in these circumstances can – and will – be shared on social media. And it stands to reason that the safer your employees feel, the safer your customers will feel too.
But beyond the immediate crisis, how do employers share the value that their essential workers bring?
It’s even more apparent than usual that businesses thrive because of the people who bring them to life. And those people have stories to share. As essential workers during a global crisis, they have adapted, learned, set standards, and experienced new situations that the rest of us are blind to. Employers should empower their people to share those stories – and to do so authentically. Yes, there will have been times they felt stressed, and scared. There will be times that they didn’t know what to do. Sharing such insights only helps us to better appreciate and respect the work that they do. There will also be great, heart-warming tales that celebrate the impact essential workers have made.
I started this article discussing the definition of “essential worker”. But more important than how we define the term is how we value it. At some point this crisis will come to an end. That won’t make essential workers – all of them – any less essential. By celebrating the efforts and endurance of their people, employers can help to make sure that we don’t forget that value, and in doing so magnify their own employer brands and their meaning in society.
April Bryce, Director of Creative and Strategy
Havas People North America
A few weeks ago, in an article from The Atlantic Our Pandemic Summer, the author mentioned a friend who described how society is currently living due to the virus as the ‘now normal.’ In the context of our day-to-days and especially in the context of our work, this idea really strikes a chord.
As April and I were planning this webinar we decided it needed to be clear that working – whether that’s virtually or on the front lines – in this moment and time is anything but normal. For those of us working remote, we’re not actually remote working. We are pandemic working.
And there are a ton of us now working away from the office. According to MIT research, 34.1% of Americans who were commuting are now working remote. There are also massive numbers of workers who have been laid off or furloughed too. In only a short few months, the working landscape has changed an improbable amount.
This change means employers now have to reconsider who the audiences they are communicating with. There’s the veteran remote workforce whose routines are suddenly changed, but who may have answers to unforeseen challenges. The new remote workforce who are managing a new working environment with little preparation and all sorts of other important life things happening. Your furloughed workforce who are in a state of limbo and worried. Who lost their work community and need to still feel connected. And, last but not least, your pipeline who will matter again very soon and will be watching everything you do very closely.
All of those groups matter. What also matters is taking their very different realities in this ‘now normal’ into mind as you develop and communicate programs to keep your people engaged.
The Meaningful Brands report we run annually at Havas recently found that consumers look for an experience that is seamless, memorable, and personalized. It also found that anything less than this was considered an irritant.
It’s no different for your employees in this situation. In fact, understanding the difference in personal situations is probably even more key now. Some employers are doing truly brilliant things right now to keep people engaged and connected – eLearning, virtual workouts, virtual happy hours, virtual coffee breaks. A lot of activities that mimic the workplace. This is crucial to helping people navigate pandemic working. But, it’s key to remember that not all employees will be able to join or take advantage of those opportunities. That can be even more isolating.
One size will not fit all, so it’s key to listen to your people in order to build the most inclusive possible “now normal.” As you review and optimize your current employee engagement and outreach efforts, here are some of “the now rules” to consider:
LEAD FROM THE FRONT
Whether you are the CEO, chairing a call, or just writing a message to a colleague - make your optimism contagious. As Talent Leaders, continuously monitor engagement and stress levels to proactively respond.
Now is the time to overcommunicate. Update your employees even when there are no updates. Stay in regular, but brief touch across all departments, working groups, projects etc.
LOOK AFTER YOUR EMPLOYEES
Reset your expectations. Support continued learning but be flexible. Use ambassadors, mentors and buddies to add more moral and structural support.
LIVE YOUR VALUES
When in doubt, remember it’s your values that guide your culture and set behaviors. You’ll need to reset expectations, but your purpose still matters.
I’ll end this by saying, times may be uncertain and we may only have guesses as to what the future will bring, but what I can tell you for 100% certain – your people will remember the way you treat them now for a very, very long time.
Want to learn more? View our webinar here: https://usa.havaspeople.com/webinars.html
Tim Middleton, Agency Director
Havas People North America
Onboarding can be a tricky task – boiling down every bit of a person’s career into a consumable experience without overwhelming them is quite a thin line to balance. Even deciding where to start can be overwhelming for the *lucky* soul in charge of the onboarding process!
But onboarding doesn’t have to be a challenging mountain to climb, so long as you stick to the three bones of onboarding:
Your new hire is coming into your organization with a unique background and experiences, which will shape their experiences and interactions with your organization. Gather information about their background and how they may apply their experiences to understanding your organization. Once you do this, it will help you position the onboarding process in a way that’s specifically relevant to them.
2. “Just in Time”
Now that you’ve boiled down a person’s career into one L&D platform with 30 hours of compliance training loaded, compiled a 100 page PDF of resources, and set up 15 meetings with key stakeholders for new hires, you’re done right?
This is way too much information for anyone to absorb, much less apply. But it’s all critical information, so what do you do? You deliver the information when it can be utilized. This method of learning is shown to be more effective – applied knowledge is stored and remembered more easily than unapplied knowledge.
Getting your team involved in the onboarding process not only takes the pressure / onus off you, but it also creates a more immersive experience for your new hire. With the full team involved in their onboarding, the new hire will feel like they’re part of the team more organically and, ideally, faster.
This also helps the team empathize with the new hire’s experience, and allowing everyone to be accountable for the new hire’s success.
These three bones are the foundation to an effective onboarding process, but there’s much more that goes into fleshing these out to build an experience that is relevant to your people.
Interested in learning more? Contact us!
Never work with children or animals they say.
Sound advice as we prepared to shoot six videos in three days for a professional services client at their facility in Westlake, an upmarket suburb of Dallas, Texas.
OK, our shoot didn't have any children, but we did have two animals.
Sure, one was a child's toy, but you never know.
Luckily for us, the other, a dachshund schnauzer cross called Rigsby, was incredibly well behaved.
As were our crew, who were amazing.
The challenge with any shoot is coping with the unexpected and making sure you get exactly the footage you need - you literally get one shot.
This can be especially tricky when you're shooting outdoors.
On any shoot, the weather can be a demanding diva, prone to sulking and spoiling your day.
For us, she managed to maintain a beautiful disposition, ensuring day long sunshine - we did all get sunburnt though, just to remind us who's boss.
Apart from Dallas air traffic control insisting on routing every plane within a 50 mile radius over our location every few minutes, we managed to contain the external factors to a minimum.
The days were long, but very productive and well marshalled by the team at Casual Films, our partner on the shoot.
Extremely professional and very client friendly, they coped with the intricacies of shooting in a sometimes sensitive environment.
We've seen the first edit and it looks amazing, and we're confident the rest of the videos will be just as good.
Film shoots can be either a lot of fun or very hard work - our shoot in Texas managed to be a combination of both.
Gary Singh, Project Manager