June 11, 2020
For farm and food production employers and employees, the challenges of the pandemic continue. Keeping teams engaged that are concerned about their own health, and the health of their loved ones, while they also are fearful of the economic volatility, is incredibly difficult. Here are ways smart business leaders can help their teams during this time:
- Over-communicate. But do it in short, measured bursts. To be most effective, keep it simple and direct. Incorporate both a "push" strategy (distributing information proactively) and a "pull" strategy (providing resource locations for employees to access when needed).
- Incorporate new platforms. Text messaging apps may be the easiest way to reach a lot of hourly workers quickly. Another way to quickly reach employees is to set up a private page on your website where they can go for information.
- Provide extra support. Consider special circumstances and identify resources to support them. Perhaps they have a loved one with a compromised immune system. Maybe they're having a hard time finding childcare. Share resources and support them to help navigate their unique challenges.
- Clarity is critical. Be crystal clear on your employee expectations, benefits and other personnel matters during this time. What is your PTO, sick time and absentee policy? What have you done to change or enhance benefits to address this unique time? Now is not the time for rigidity; flexibility should drive as much of human resources decision-making as possible.
- Focus on health and safety. Let your team know that as they come to work, you're putting extra precautions in place to keep your workplace safe. They need to know that not only their work has value to you, but that they as individuals have value, and that you want to assure their well-being.
- Lean in on your values. Ultimately, everything that employers do right now is about caring for those for whom they have responsibility. That means both their physical well-being, as well as their mental health. Remind them that they are a treasured and valued part of your company.
- Do what's right. Follow the rules established by local, state or federal government orders. Be patient with your team. Remember that the same fears that you and your own family are experiencing are the ones that your employees are also experiencing. Reassurance, when possible, about your industry, your company, and their jobs will be welcomed.
- Help them see that the other side of this uncertain time will come. For many, this situation feels like forever. They're working while dealing with an emotional roller coaster in their personal lives. Being a strong leader means helping the team see that the future remains firmly in focus. Reinforce the company's long-term vision.
The bottom line: employers need to continue to step up their employee communication like never before. These recommendations will help make sure that engagement is as effective as it can be and position your company to transition well to the end of this pandemic.