The Frontline Workforce is Back to Work. Now What?

An alarming number of Americans have filed for unemployment benefits since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. But while the high unemployment numbers are a serious concern for our rebounding economy and the families now struggling to make ends meet, it’s not entirely surprising — COVID-19 has fundamentally changed how businesses have had to operate.

Although many retail employers are rehiring, or intend to rehire, workers they furloughed or even let go, the path back to business-as-usual remains unclear. 

To retain your workforce, bring furloughed workers back into the fold, and attract new employees, you’ll need to take several intentional steps to preserve relationships, create a sense of community with your furloughed workforce, and commit to the safety of your employees across locations.

Make your communication employee-first

The decision to furlough employees is never easy. While it can be difficult to communicate with your affected workers, it’s important for them to know you have their best interests in mind as they navigate the challenges caused by a temporary loss of work.

WorkJam recently worked on an initiative with Shell Oil Co. in which the oil and gas company used WorkJam’s digital workplace platform to communicate with their international network of c-store operators and employees during the pandemic. The platform provided a centralized place for Shell to distribute important communications from company leadership to the frontline workforce. These communications included Shell’s enhanced safety policies, guidance for social distancing practices, and updates from district store managers.

Although Shell has not furloughed any employees due to the pandemic, its communication strategy still demonstrates the key principles involved in creating a sense of community, building relationships with your furloughed workforce, and setting the foundation for attracting new employees.

Be direct

Speaking directly to your employees through their own phones via a shared digital platform shows that you respect and care about them. Cut through the noise and platitudes, and share your company’s plans. Now more than ever, employees want — and deserve — clarity and empathy. Make sure they get it.

Communicate in real-time

The world is changing at a rapid pace and so should your communication strategy. Use a single platform to rapidly update employees about business developments and be proactive about potential questions that may arise.

Welcome feedback

All correspondence with your staff should be two-way. Invite your employees to provide feedback and ask questions. A digital workplace platform enables you to post surveys and polls to gather actionable insights from your employees about their top priorities. These insights improve your ability to assist employees with the things they are most concerned about.

Provide resources

Offer helpful resources that cater to the needs of your employees. For furloughed workers, that could mean providing safety tips, information on your area’s local COVID policies, and ways they can prepare for a return to work. For working employees, offering updated policies and digital health checks ensure safety and compliance while protecting team members.

Re-board for continuity

As onboarding benefits new employees, re-boarding existing employees to work in the new environment is imperative to your success. Offering digital training and tools for task execution helps employees adjust to new rules and regulations — giving confidence to employees and customers that your locations are safe.

Most states and municipalities are currently rolling-out staged approaches to reopening, creating additional uncertainty for your operation and employees. But no matter how long the reopening process may take, put your workforce first and open up clear lines of communication. Your employees will appreciate the support they receive and will remember the care you demonstrated when they return to work.

Will Eadie is global VP of sales and alliances at Workjam. As a dynamic sales professional with experience driving strong solutions for the customers by working hand-in-hand with the product, Will excels at developing customer relationships and brings to WorkJam 15 years of deep domain expertise in strategic workforce management, human capital management and employee engagement. Prior to joining WorkJam, Will held roles at Kronos for 10 years, serving as director of national accounts and director of retail and hospitality sales in the U.S. During his time at Kronos, Will’s leadership enabled his team to significantly exceed sales goals and drive organizational growth.

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