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As many organisations look to reintroduce employees who have been furloughed or bring back individuals into the physical workplace, we outline three key considerations that can help ease the challenges involved in this transition.

Workplace divisions

Those who have furloughed staff are reporting divisions between staff groups. On furlough, some have received anywhere between 80 to 100 per cent of their pay and for some, this has bred resentment amongst those who have had to work, with many facing childcare challenges. Some are arguing how can you complain? Others are anxious, asking ‘Why was I furloughed?’ or ‘Why wasn’t I?’ The perception of how fair the process was for selecting those to furlough and the impact on the team itself may have potentially created divisions within the workplace.

The cultural impact

Bringing people back in is a delicate challenge and employers must balance numerous considerations – blending two groups back together needs careful management to reduce any long-term cultural impact. As people return to the office, cracks might remain or even widen.

We examine how to unite the workforce to ensure that each business operates as one organisation and reintegrates individuals into their teams effectively.

1. Clear communications

One of the key lessons that has emerged from our HR Groups, which have been taking place across a variety of sectors, is that employee morale has been hugely boosted by top-level communications from senior leaders, including the CEO. These crises communications are reportedly having a huge effect on the morale of teams who feel abreast of changing developments and the organisation’s overall approach. Strong forums for questions and virtual meetings have had a direct correlation with engagement scores and suggest that this approach has united the workforce.

We note that it is an important time to keep up this top-level communication, in order for employees to not feel cut adrift if they continue to be furloughed for the time being. Managing the process of returning to work also relies on strong organisation-wide communication to set expectations. Employers have created videos to talk employees through revised safety features in the office, which has prompted some individuals to become upset given their emotional connection with work. For some, it is a large part of their identity, so guidance around what to expect upon their return is hugely valued, as safety measures mean that employees are not returning to the workplace they left behind.

2. Line Manager support

As work is a key part of some employees’ identities, the mental health effects of this period must be acknowledged. Others will have been dealing directly with the virus in frontline settings and employers are worried about the long-term effect and potential PTSD that may emerge over the coming months when they are not dealing with the task in hand. Others will have been scared about their job security. For those who remained working throughout the pandemic, there may have been additional pressure to pick up capacity, breeding bitterness about the situation.

The sheer vastness of the challenges raised by this pandemic will have to be addressed by Line Managers. Keeping employees motivated who may have faced very different circumstances will have to be based on treating each employee individually and really trying to understand their particular circumstances and any ongoing barriers they face in coming into work. Keeping open lines of communication in place between the line manager and their team members will be essential. Some organisations are producing dedicated resources to guide line managers through the process and what support they should be offering to keep Managers consistent in their approach and ensure they consider the financial, physical and emotional impact faced by each team member.

3. A system of fair and transparent remuneration

Recruitment and retention challenges are the lowest we have seen since 2008 in our spring 2020 UK Reward Management Survey, with fewer than one in three expecting recruitment difficulties and one in five expecting challenges in retaining people in the next 12 months. Fewer have had to offer to pay new recruits a premium to attract talent, down from two thirds to just under a half, raising questions about how to retain top talent.

Even though it is currently an employer’s market, a recession-proof strategy will look beyond challenges that are currently acute, as each company faces huge pressure to find their new way of working post-pandemic. 68 per cent of respondents in our UK Reward Management Survey will prioritise pay benchmarking on their HR agenda to ensure that their remuneration levels remain competitive for top talent. This is in spite of 31 per cent of respondents facing a reduction in their headcount budget. Total Reward Statements are an additional tool that organisations can provide employees to underline the full investment and additional benefits that employers offer in spite of pay freezes or incremental pay growth.

In addition to providing competitive recognition, having an objective framework on which to base pay decisions throughout an organisation can underpin employee engagement. A job evaluation system minimises subjectivity, enabling rational and transparent decisions to be made about roles; enabling individuals to have confidence they are being treated fairly.

How can we support your strategy?

In times of constrained pay growth and potential restructuring, retaining and attracting the right talent to fuel future growth is key. Call us today so we can help to drive your employee engagement levels.

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