I don’t know a single person who said 2020 was the best year of their life! Well, maybe my friend, Merritt. But she was born in 2020, and she can’t talk. She’s very happy, though, now that she’s learned to walk and open cupboards. It was not a great year for the rest of us, and we’re all hoping that 2021 will be a better year.
Leaving aside that we can’t control world events, let’s focus on the things Employee Relations Professionals can do to make 2021 a great year for ourselves and our employees. (Remember, don’t forget yourself--HR is pretty burnt out, and President Biden is releasing new labor-related rules right and left, so we can’t coast through this year either. Take care of yourself!). Here are ten things you can do!
Encourage (but don’t require) employees to get the Covid-19 vaccination. Ensure that your employees get the time off to get the vaccine and use sick days to cover any recovery time they need. (Some people are sick for a few days after receiving the vaccine.) The more people vaccinated, the quicker this virus retreats into the corner, and the better 2021 will be.
Remind everyone about your Employee Assistance Program and whatever other mental health and wellness resources you offer. Everyone has had a stressful year--some might need a therapist, and some may need a financial advisor. Let your employees know that a call to the EAP is free, and no one will see that they called. As a bonus, if your employees get the help they need outside of work, the line at your door will be smaller.
Keep what worked from 2020. People who liked working from home? Let them continue--at least part of the time. Hand sanitizer at the entrances? Yes, please. Your business had to be agile, or it didn’t survive 2020. The fact that you are still here means some of the changes you made are good ones. Keep them.
Throw out what didn’t work. If we have to do one more Zoom meeting… You know the feeling. 2020 had a lot of yuck to it. Some we can’t throw out yet (masks, social distancing, etc.), but some we can. Do you really need everyone’s camera on every time when they work from home? What else can you throw out?
Look for chances to team build. Did you participate in the giant team building effort last week? Yes, THE giant team-building effort. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, perhaps this will spark your memory.
This was the best example of organic team building I’ve ever seen. Suddenly, the entire country (sans a few curmudgeons) were working together happily to make the best Bernie Sanders memes. Team building doesn’t always have to follow a specific plan. Take advantage of happy little accidents and give employees the chance to build relationships with each other even if it’s not productive at the moment.
Fight for your employees’ health. One of the best things about 2020 was paid sick leave for everyone in small companies (under 500 employees). One study estimated that FFCRA paid sick leave prevented 400 cases of Coronavirus per day. Covid-19 isn’t the only contagious disease. Fight to ensure your employees always get paid sick days to stay home. It’s cost-saving in the long run.
Join an HR or employee relations community. This is especially important if you’re in a department of one or two. There will be new regulations coming out regularly. Instead of spending hours every day trying to figure out what you need to know, join a group. (Of course, I recommend my Facebook Group, Evil HR Lady, but there are many out there. And don’t forget to check out HR Acuity’s new community for employee relations communities, empowER! Visit the site and see if it’s right for you.
Joining a group or community not only helps your employees, but it reduces your stress.
Champion better diversity initiatives. Remember last year when lots of companies celebrated Juneteenth? Make sure that’s on this year’s calendar as well. As an Employee Relations professional, you’re in a place you can make a huge difference in ensuring that all of your employees are treated fairly.
Have a company party. I know, this seems silly, and no one wants another Zoom meeting. But, think about planning something for fall. Maybe a big company Halloween party. This isn’t advocating that HR be in the party planning business (we’re so much more than that). This is advocating for what’s best for your employees. Hopefully, this can happen!
Set your mindset for the best. If you wake up every morning and say, “boy, this day will be awful,” your day will be awful. Try to get a routine in place that can get you off to a positive start.
Let’s work together to make 2021 a great year. Let Employee Relations lead the way in making your company a great place to work. You survived 2020. Be proud. Be united. And maybe get everyone donuts. Because, when all else fails, treats work.
Suzanne Lucas is a freelance writer who spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers. She's sure not evil. She's super nice! Learn more about her at www.evilhrlady.org and email her directly for decidedly unevil advice.