THE OLD WAY
Prior to COVID-19, the standard procedure to discipline an employee for poor work performance or a policy infraction was: first writeup, second writeup, suspension (if appropriate) and termination. A more stern way of communicating the necessity of rectifying these infractions was often used. The steps may be the same in today’s pandemic climate, but the approach out of necessity should change.
THE NEW WAY
Our employees are under more stress than they have ever been with health, financial, and job security concerns. They also may have hidden personal challenges adding to their stress of which we are not aware. All of this can result in your employees and their families being down much more than normal.
In the past, we have been able to be more stern with an employee for a policy infraction or poor work performance. Now we recommend a softer approach while at the same time not lowering the goals and requirements of good work performance and adherence to company policies.
WHY THE NEED TO CHANGE
It may sound unrealistic to think that there is a talent shortage with so much unemployment currently in the US. The rate of unemployment decreased in May and June with millions of employees being hired or rehired in an effort to reopen the US. Even during the Great Recession, there was a shortage of talent to find exceptional people to meet the needs of our companies both large and small. Employers are seeing the same situation during COVID-19. Therefore, it becomes more important than ever to treat your employees so they perceive they are being treated fairly and with the respect they think they deserve. Don’t take it for granted that employees will not resign to go to another employer. The opportunities are always out there for your most qualified employees – and these are the people you do NOT want to lose.
TRAIN A NEW APPROACH
Employers must educate and train their frontline supervisors to be mindful of the necessary changes in management style that is required today. They need to practice this more respectful tone not only in disciplinary situations but also when they are communicating to employees on a regular basis. Depression and personal problems can make all of us more sensitive and in need of respect.
As always, respecting employees is critical, but now is the time for management to be more aware of extenuating circumstances that are seen as well as not seen. For example, think of the humiliation an employee is dealing with if they had to go though a food line to feed their families. And today that is a stark reality.
OTHER BENEFITS OF A NEW APPROACH
Some other benefits of meeting your employees current needs is increased employee engagement where the employees care about the mission of their company and achieving their goals. Also, this is an excellent opportunity for you to restore or increase your employee loyalty. The workforce has been shaken and employee loyalty has eroded over the last several decades. Take advantage of this time to increase it. And as we have already mentioned, one benefit is lowering employee turnover and retaining the talent that you have invested money and time to train them to the level of customer service you need.
NOW IS THE TIME
Now is your and your supervisors‘ opportunity to grow as a leader. The times have changed, the employees have changed. You must also change to meet the different needs of your employees. If you don’t, you’ll have one more huge challenge to deal with. And right now, you don’t need any more huge challenges.
Author: Emory Mulling
Emory Mulling is a nationally recognized HR Consultant and Executive Coaching expert. As Founder and Chairman for the Mulling Corporation, the Mulling family of businesses is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. The firm was founded in 1986 and is a leader in HR consulting for small, medium and large companies.