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5 reasons HR was central to our COVID-19 response

  • Posted on May 6, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes
5 reasons HR was central to our COVID-19 response

As the lockdown continues around the world, organisations are coming to terms with the financial and organisational impact of COVID-19. 

The crisis has left HR teams across the globe asking the same question: how do we help employees working from home feel like they’re still part of a team?

To help your organisation, we wanted to share the HR principles we’ve been following here at Avanade. 

1. Communication comes first
Make sure your employees know they can contact their managers, project leads and HR team for support and guidance. Support and guidance are vital in these difficult times.

We’re a tech-first company that uses Microsoft Teams and other cloud-based collaboration tools, like Microsoft 365, to keep the conversation flowing and productivity high while we’re working at home. It’s important that HR and other line of business departments work together to maximise your employee experience programs. You can achieve more together than you could as individual departments.  

When it became clear that a lockdown of the UK and Ireland was likely, we created an internal guide for every employee, called ‘Avanade at Home’. The guide aimed to help employees overcome the common problems of working from home full-time, and we based much of the content on our own remote workplace guide. But technology is only one piece of the puzzle.

2. Remember the psychological impact
Don’t underestimate the importance of mental wellbeing during the crisis. We’re all going through an experience that could have a serious negative impact on our mental wellbeing. At Avanade, we’ve always had a strong focus on supporting the mental health of our employees. This will become even more important as time goes on.  

More than likely, employees working from home are taking on additional pressures: childcare, home-schooling and concern for job security are all making lockdown a uniquely trying time for everyone. Keep the well-being of employees front-and-centre, and consider things like flexible work hours, shared roles and options for postponing non-essential work.

Avanade has been working with Cityparents – an organisation that supports working mums and dads by offering advice on the challenges they’re facing. Supporting Avanade’s working parents is even more important right now. We’re delighted our people can tap into this fantastic resource.  

3. Encourage freethinking
Allow your employees to be creative – if they want to set up virtual pub quizzes or online yoga sessions, don’t try to control it or take over. After all, our brains can be more creative when they’re at rest. Let the connections flow organically while helping and encouraging where you can. 

The COVID-19 crisis has eroded the barriers between work and home life, bringing a wave of employee engagement activities as a result. After just a few weeks of lockdown we’ve already had a weekly online pub quiz, group yoga sessions, virtual coffee catchups and even cocktail parties! 

Lockdown is a good time to upskill. Modern workplace technologies enable scalable and sustainable remote working. They give you the chance to empower your people with skills development and delegated authority. 

4. Help your leadership team lead by example
We set up a series of all-hands conference calls (our virtual Townhalls), hosted by our general manager, COO and myself. We started with three calls a week but reduced it to two – like everyone else, we’re still adjusting to this new reality. It takes time to see what works. 

The virtual Townhalls’ transparency and openness has been a hit with employees. Keeping everyone in the loop seems like a basic, but it’s a powerful tool to help everyone feel connected.

But our leaders need to set an example to others. Take special care to direct leaders to exemplify remote-working behaviours. Coach them to move away from working on local versions of data and documents to cloud-based applications and storage. 

5. Re-imagine the on-boarding experience 
Starting a new job without physically visiting the office will be a strange experience for your newest employees. To make our new joiners feel part of the team, we’ve a introduced a full virtual onboarding experience, beginning with our April recruits. 

Feedback has been positive: they can see we’re putting in the effort to make them feel valued (starting with a brand-new Avanade laptop arriving in the post). We stay in close contact and introduce them to their teammates on a video call as soon as possible. Online training sessions, easy access to IT support, and ad hoc virtual coffee breaks with colleagues all help bring people into the Avanade family.

Find out how you can enable new ways of working in a new world of work – download the POV today.

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