Welcome Back: Management Challenges in the Post-Pandemic Workforce

By John Yoest Published on July 15, 2020

What is harder than on-boarding a new employee? On-boarding all of them.

Managers have the challenge of integrating the entire staff back into the workplace. But many organizations have created a divide between essential and non-essential employees.

All of our associates are valuable, goes the managers’ mantra. But some of you are less valuable than others; “the non-essentials.”

How do we welcome back our entire teams after we have “profiled” some of them by the dignity and significance of their contribution?

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The first step is to understand that the ‘non-essential’ label is a horrid human resource error. The supervisor should apologize in-person, one-on-one for slotting people into this category.

I made a mistake, the script could begin. We were attempting to follow guidelines in the pandemic — but we now know we got it wrong. This is what management humility looks like. We divided our team into essential and non-essential. This was wrong. We have learned that you are a valuable part of our tribe. The close, We need you and appreciate you more than ever.

I am sorry.

We went from running stable businesses pre-pandemic to now re-creating and re-building organizations. We are suddenly a start-up nation and we’ll need the buy in from potentially jaded employees to expedite the recovery process. But as we rebuild we can also renew.

(Re)orientation

Bringing staff back is more of a re-hire than a new-hire. But after a few months out of the office, coming back may look the same. Thomas Bateman and Scott Snell write on the new hire process in their text book, M: Management. They write that orientation can be explained as training that familiarizes,

New employees with their jobs, work units, and the organization in general. Done well, orientation training can increase morale and productivity and can lower employee turnover and the costs of recruiting and training.

A good onboarding program will cover three points: equipment, culture and feedback.

Team Building

The employee training does not end at orienting the points of the company compass: restroom, cafeteria, office supplies, fire escape plan. The company and the new hire need more from the new relationship.

Managers should remember that as staff are brought back into their work groups face-to-face in real life that they may have to go through the team-building stages of forming, storming, norming and performing. There may be new power re-alignments in returning to the office.

The company culture might be affected. Managers should consider refresher training on the expectations of how business gets done in organization. Corporate culture training details how staff and management work together and how the organization interacts with customers and stakeholders.

New Business

Old patterns have been disrupted — new thinking and buying habits can be formed. The COVID-19 epidemic has freed us from legacy chains and claims that stopped change and innovation. Managers have no such excuse now.

Companies can now take on new risks and make bold changes not letting this crisis go to waste. This begins by welcoming people back and letting them know how much they were missed. And how much more they are now appreciated.

 

Jack Yoest is assistant professor of Practice in Leadership & Management at The Catholic University of America in The Busch School of Business, in Washington, D.C. He has managed a number of start-up companies and teaches graduate Human Resource Management. He is the author of The Memo: How the Classified Military Document That Helped the U.S. Win WWII Can Help You Succeed in Business.

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