Management in the Time of Coronavirus - Employee Considerations

Thursday, April 2, 2020  |  Karen Kislin

In the midst of “stay at home” mandates and social distancing strategies to limit the spread of COVID-19, leaders of financial services institutions are facing new management challenges.

Leaders can’t expect all employees to deliver business as usual because this is no longer a “usual” business environment. Many employees are working from home for the first time. Many have children home due to school closures. The scales of work-life balance have been completely knocked over. New roles have been thrust upon them – including caregiver and homeschool teacher – alongside their usual employee role.

Leaders that demonstrate understanding and provide support can better enable employees to continue to deliver exceptional service to customers, clients and members. Here are some recommendations on how to support employees during this unusual time:

Consider Your Staff’s Personal Needs

This is an unprecedented and unsettling time for everyone, including your employees. They are experiencing rapid change in their work environment, as well as experiencing the uncertainty of the COVID-19 environment in their personal lives. Although they work in the financial industry, they may have loved ones working in the medical field combatting the virus. Other loved ones might be among the millions who have filed for unemployment. As the chart below shows, the U.S. Employment and Training Administration has seen a major increase in unemployment initial claims so far this year.

This insecurity adds an additional layer of stress for your employees. Check with your human resources team about benefits you may be offering to employees such as free counseling services via phone or video, or direct employees to community resources that might be available.

If possible, consider how your institution can support employees who may suffer financially. For example, 21 percent of America’s largest 100 companies are offering bonuses or financial assistance to employees, and 36 percent are offering paid sick leave.

Communicate Regularly

In a remote work environment, it’s easy to become overly reliant on email. Establishing frequent calls and/or videoconferencing with employees enables two-way communication. These weekly touchpoints should include updates on the state of the organization, what the organization is doing to meet the needs of its customers, clients and members, and why the organization is implementing certain procedures or protocols.

Most of all, be understanding of the pressures your employees are facing and remember to thank them for everything they’re doing. Saying “thank you” goes a long way. Also, be sure to recognize employees who are performing particularly well. Others can benefit from hearing about fellow employees’ best practices on how they are managing.

Redistribute Staff

As more financial institution branches close lobbies or significantly reduce in-person interaction, some employees are finding their hours reduced. On the other hand, with loan rates dropping, many institutions are seeing a surge in mortgage and other loan refinancing. As a result, opportunities exist to redeploy staff into roles where they might be more needed.

As institutions urge customers, clients and members to interact with them via digital channels or on the phone, call centers are experiencing higher call volumes. Offer training and certification to employees whose hours are reduced so they can support the workload of other departments.

Leaders cannot manage business the same today as they did last month or even two weeks ago. The world has endured significant change in a very short amount of time. We must, above all, have compassion for our fellow colleagues, as well as our customers, clients and members, as we navigate these uncharted waters.

At the same time, managers and leaders must also be sure to take the time to take care of themselves. They cannot effectively manage their business and support their employees if they are overwhelmed, too.

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