3 out-of-the-box ideas to support your employees during the pandemic and beyond
I was recently thinking about how productivity in the healthcare industry has been impacted during this pandemic—and what healthcare leaders could do to help their employees. This extended coronavirus situation may well extend throughout 2021. This “new normal” calls for a completely different response from companies, one that recognizes what people’s lives are like now.
Parents of school-aged children make up a hefty percentage of the healthcare workforce. These employees are juggling work-from-home challenges on top of the demands of their children’s virtual learning schedules. Add to that a “pandemic fatigue” that is growing as the COVID storm continues month after month, and healthcare leaders need to consider innovative—perhaps radical—ways they can support their employers right now.
Radical idea #1: Employer support for virtual education
There are a lot of things healthcare companies can look at to help employees manage their productivity and balance their home and work life. I recently read about “learning pods” that parents are setting up to help educate their kids when they’re homeschooling and the parents are working. These virtual or in-person “learning pods,” according to a CNBC article, are small groups of students learning together with the help of a tutor or teacher.
How will leadership help stem the possible loss of women in the workforce?
Up to three-quarters of the healthcare industry’s workforce are women, many of them who are now juggling virtual learning with their other demands.
According to a Wall Street Journal article, more than one in four women indicated they may quit or scale back their jobs.
A staggering four times as many women as men have dropped out of the labor force, with many employers concerned that the coronavirus will undermine workplace equity and corporate effectiveness. This could have implications for companies’ productivity across a host of functions—and drives home the need for truly innovative and immediately beneficial solutions.
If I were an employer and had a lot of parents in my workforce, I’d be interested in exploring how this could help my employees and how I could facilitate bringing people together or even providing technology, corporate assets, scheduling flexibility, or assistance to run these pods.
How could you put these together so that your people could work more productively—and help retain staff and build loyalty?
When people feel like they’re part of a community, they’re more productive and committed to what they’re doing
People want to work for a company that cares, not only about their well-being but their children’s educational needs. This is how companies build loyalty and make people feel valued.
We now have to think about a very different kind of model, a model that recognizes where people’s lives are at right now. It has to be part of our business when you have employees dealing with a major crisis not of their making. To not try to be creative and flexible is a long-term formula for losing your best and your brightest.
I think this coronavirus is with us for another year, and in order to maintain any sort of productivity at all, we have to help these folks who are trying to balance work with virtual learning and running their households. That’s probably the biggest benefit we could ever offer working parents. You’d be embedding into your employee population that you care about children and you care about education. It’s really important right now to show that employers are willing to support parents. It’s a benefit that is incredibly timely.
Radical idea #2: Apprenticeship programs
I’ve been seeing a trend of employers offering apprenticeships, allowing workers the opportunity to develop new skill sets in another area of the company for a specific period of time. There used to be a mindset that you had to have a college degree or a Master’s degree to learn a new skill or to be qualified for developmental programs. But now employers are looking for new ways to improve productivity and provide ongoing career development to employees that also have a practical outcome.
An apprenticeship is designed for qualified, high-performing, and dedicated employees who want to learn a new skill within their company. It’s on-the-job education that exposes employees to a new discipline. Giving employees career development opportunities within their own company can be a very powerful thing. A company could also offer an online resource center for education within the company, with a “librarian” who helps with curriculum design.
Radical idea #3: Employee-driven facilities design
Hospital systems have had to figure out their onsite work situation and staffing during COVID, but health plans probably haven’t thought this through completely. A lot of the teams aren’t finding Zoom calls completely satisfactory, and some business-facing teams like sales and marketing may not be as productive as they could be. They’re not able to benefit from the energy of bouncing ideas off each other on a real-time basis. While some teams can work remotely with no productivity issues, other teams have been impacted by the work-from-home environment and could benefit from returning to working back at the office.
By surveying the groups most impacted by working remotely, you’ll get a clearer view of employees’ feelings about coming back, what they would want the office of the future to look like, and how a targeted and phased approach to working in a new onsite environment could work both for safety and productivity.
Bear in mind, overlaying all these employee considerations are health policy changes that are going to require more adaptation and change. Those changes could compel employers to accelerate a return to the office for targeted groups.
Become a company that thinks about the challenges of your people
When it comes to exploring radical solutions to help employees, true leaders are willing to say “This is worth exploring. It might be messy, and never done before, but I’m willing to try it.”
There are some incredibly inventive things you could do. What a lot of companies don’t understand is that the cost of turnover is tremendous. When an employee walks out that door, the cost to replace them is not only significant, but you’ve also lost valuable knowledge. By showing employees you care about them, and not just giving lip service to it, you create a community that is more productive and more committed.