How to make your NFP’s HR practices more impactful during the coronavirus lock-down

The coronavirus pandemic has certainly created widespread challenges for all NFPs. In the midst of these challenges, HR can play a key role in helping to steady the ship, maintain employee performance and morale, and ultimately support your organisation to navigate the new environment.

For HR professionals to do this effectively, clear communication, open collaboration, and finding the time to focus on key initiatives, are essential to remaining relevant in the fast-changing circumstances. So how can you ensure you’re supporting your organisation and colleagues during these challenging times? Here are some tips to maximise the impact of your HR practices:

1. Share what you do (and don’t do) and how you can add value

Even at the best of times, employees can struggle to really understand the role of HR. That’s not entirely surprising given that HR has two unique sets of roles in the organisation:

  1. Strategic, administrative and compliance roles where the ‘client’ is the organisation; and
  2. Wellbeing and development roles where the ‘client’ is the organisation’s employees.

Finding the balance between these two roles, and communicating them, is important to helping build trust and relationships with employees across the organisation.

To create clarity on what exactly you do, make sure you have simple and informative induction and employee materials that set out the role and function of HR. Be sure to include the practical information on what you are working on (rather than mission statements), the responsibilities of the HR department, as well as the expertise areas and contact details of each member of your team.

These materials will help to make your team accessible, and that’s a key part of building trust with your colleagues. This is particularly important while your team works remotely, as it can help to make up for the loss of the casual interactions that happen while sharing a physical office space.

Start by sharing them across the team by email (or your organisation’s intranet if you use one) to make sure that everyone has easy access. It’s also a great icebreaker that can help to open conversations with individual team members who have questions or need specific support.

2. Make all policies clear and easy to understand

Given all the complex scenarios and legal requirements, HR departments need workplace policies and procedures to cover every option. These policies have to be comprehensive, but that doesn’t mean they should be confusing.

Complicated documents – riddled with HR-buzzwords – can make even the best policy sadly irrelevant to your colleagues. Instead, policies should be accessible and easy to understand for anyone in the organisation ­– from the frontline to the boardroom.

Many HR teams are in the process of creating new policies and processes in response to the different environments created by the coronavirus pandemic. For example, you may not have needed a remote working policy before, but now have your entire team working from home.

A policy that you write now, if done well, has the potential to keep your organisation running smoothly and your colleagues well-informed, even while such significant changes are happening.

To ensure new policies are most effective, follow a key rule: make sure everything is written in simple, plain English. Not sure what that means? Use some design thinking skills and ask your “target market” for feedback on the policies you’ve written.

Once new policies are completed, go through existing written materials that the organisation may need at the moment and simplify that content too.

This will make any important information you are trying to share easily understood, and encourage employees to use it and benefit from understanding it.

For more tips on ensuring your policies are relevant, take a look at our guide: ‘How to write clear and effective policies for your organisation’.

3. Connect with your ‘clients’ – the organisation and the employees

As many parts of your NFP are likely to be adapting and changing in the face of the challenges caused by coronavirus, there will be aspects of your existing HR practices that will need to evolve too.  

This may mean that new training programs are needed to help build different skills, recruitment processes need to be done virtually, employees are needing support to maintain their wellbeing and mental health, or your organisation’s leaders need advice on how to effectively manage their teams remotely.

A simple action can help you keep up with these shifts and deliver what your team needs: talk to your ‘clients’. Employee and management surveys can be helpful way to understand, but openly sharing and collaborating can be even better, and quicker.

To make sure that information is continuously flowing through to your team, consider having a liaison person who can be the link between HR and the rest of the organisation. Larger organisations are often set up with HR Business Partners who facilitate the relationships between HR and each department.

But smaller HR departments can also create informal relationships with other teams by setting up informal meetings (via Zoom, Slack or Google Hangouts) with the leaders of other departments — and managers at different levels — to start to open communication lines and help you to gather valuable information.

In these meetings, ask questions that help you understand the needs and objectives of the department and the overall organisation. Find out the challenges that they are facing due to the coronavirus — how has their work been affected and what are they struggling with? Workshop ideas and discuss solutions with the people involved to find out how your HR practices can best support them.

Deepening your understanding will help you align your activities to their goals, and this will ensure your practices are being the most impactful they can be during this period (and beyond).

4. Find the time to focus on what matters

Anyone who works in HR will, at some time or other, realise that often there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Given the added instability and period of change that has come from the COVID-19 pandemic, this is likely to be a common feeling at this time.

(Plus, you may feel like completing the three tips suggested above isn’t something you can squeeze into your current working week.)

A key to unlocking this time is to prioritise work and move the less-important tasks to the bottom of your list, and there is one sure-fire way to find more time: review your meeting calendar with the goal of fewer and shorter meetings.

Here are some tips that can help you gain some much-needed time back in your work day:

  • Avoid locking in regularly scheduled meetings unless they are really necessary. Often it can be more effective to create meetings if and when they’re needed, rather than having recurring meetings holding space in your calendar.
  • Only attend meetings where you have a contribution to make or where essential discussions are taking place. If you are unsure — before accepting a meeting invitation, clarify what the agenda is and what input you will have.
  • When it comes to setting up a meeting, spend the time to consider the agenda, the format and the attendees. A clear agenda can help to guide and focus discussions. Ask yourself whether some agenda items could be better handled by a quick call with one other team member or whether the whole group needs to weigh in. Determining who is actually needed so that there is action and how long it should take to get through the agenda will help speed up discussions and streamline decision making.

For more tips on how to make your meetings more effective and free up your valuable time, take a look at our guide to quicker, better meetings .

What have been your experiences in these challenging times? What parts of your HR practices have changed and adapted? Do you have any other tips on making sure your HR practices remain relevant? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Photo by Burst.

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