If you’ve been one of the many companies that has had to temporarily lay off your employees during the COVID-19 crisis, we feel for you. We have had to make this decision before as well. We have also helped a number of companies with making and executing these difficult decisions.
With the anticipation of being able to bring members of your team back, we recommend implementing an engagement plan that will keep your laid off workforce feeling valued and motivated, encouraging their desire to return to work and helping them navigate this challenging period without work. Here are some valuable elements to consider in an engagement plan.
Keep in Touch
You will likely want to remove employees’ company email access, since they won’t be working. To be able to stay connected, you should gather their personal email addresses and let them know you will be keeping in touch with them that way. Having a regular cadence of email updates will ease their anxiety and the simple act of hearing from you can help keep employee morale up.This can be done weekly, bi-weekly or monthly.
If you have the financial ability to continue benefits, TPD would recommend that you choose to do so. Your employees will be grateful that they don’t have to worry about prescription drugs or other health-related costs during this time. Depending on your province or state, you may be in a better position to extend the layoff period.
If your business can’t afford the extension of benefits, consider extending it for a month into the layoff period or extending just your Employee Assistance Program (EAP), if you have one. The virtual counselling and resources from an EAP can immensely help employees during this challenging time.
Offer Financial Advice
Many are undergoing financial stress and difficulties at this time. Make sure your staff knows about the many resources that are currently available to them, federally and by province/state. The Canadian government, for example, has valuable tips for managing financial health in challenging times on their website, which you could share with your team. Many EAP programs also provide financial advice.
Extend Career and Learning Options
For companies with employees who are keen on upgrading their skills, you may want to consider allowing your team members to maintain access to any company training programs or resources that are currently available. Additionally, you could also point them in the direction of free learning opportunities.
If your organization has a referral program or an ideas submission program, you should consider keeping these open to your team members.
Employee contribution would benefit both the workforce and your company. This can help increase feelings of inclusion and morale, while new outlooks and perspectives would push companies to think outside of the box when developing innovative solutions to current issues.
This option of engagement will also help prep your team for future circumstances. If your company is looking to pivot, let your employees know so they can be more than ready to prepare for these changes when they come back.
It’s important to maintain a sense of connectivity and inclusion during this time.
Are there virtual events, such as yoga classes, training or other social events, that your laid off workforce may want to partake in voluntarily? Do you have an internal social media community page that they would like to still be a part of?
These are all examples of activities and platforms that could help your workforce feel included and connected. When you invite them to these optional events, be mindful of emphasizing that participation is completely voluntary and that there is no expectation of them to attend unpaid events during their layoff.
However, if you choose this option as a method for increasing engagement, please note that, depending on your province or state, there exists regulations relating to collective agreements and employment relationships outside of normal working hours. This is something you will need to be mindful about when inviting employees to participate in events or platforms if they are not being paid.
While opportunities are scarce, there is a possibility that these employees may find other temporary job opportunities in the meantime. Providing reference checks, reference letters or LinkedIn recommendations would be a big help and increase these individuals’ willingness to return to work when your business reopens or is ready to be fully operational again.
Documentation & Support
If you don’t have a clause in your employment agreement or collective agreement, and if you’re not in an industry where layoffs are typical, depending on your province or state, your employees may need to voluntarily accept the layoff. Having a signed agreement will put you in a better position.
If you require templates or advice on this type of documentation, or you would like to know how you can engage your employees specific to your unique situation, feel free to contact the HR experts at TPD here. You can also reach us at email@example.com or 1.844.873.4745.
Looking for more resources? Check out our 5 Management Communication Hacks, our HR Tools page, and our COVID-19 HR Support Centre.
Andrea Duke, Manager, HR & Talent Acquisition
Andrea has over 7 years’ experience in human resources across multiple industries (mining, manufacturing, property development, construction, retirement care, retail, and government) in the provinces of B.C., Manitoba, Ontario, and internationally.
Andrea is a Chartered Professional in Human Resources. She has an MBA from the UBC Sauder School of Business, a Bachelor of Science from the University of Victoria and a certificate in Human Resources Management from Seneca College.
In her spare time, Andrea serves on the Board of Directors for the Environmental Youth Alliance and on the Chartered Professional of Human Resources Association’s Awards Committee.