When crisis hits a company as fast as Covid 19 did, chances are management will go into a momentary paralysis.

Amidst disbelief, sense of denial and, for some, panic, certain measures are needed to keep the company going and a million questions need to be answered. Of course one that tops the list is job security.

While big companies have their crisis management plans and teams snap into position, other smaller companies may find themselves struggling to cope with the situation.

However, there is no one crisis management plan for all companies as circumstances vary according to product and service, environment, staff size, location and a host of other elements. 

When the unprecedented crisis of Covid 19 put cities and countries all over the world in lockdown mode and tailspinning management systems, some Human Resource managers fell back on their core values to deal with the crisis.

Midway into the extended Movement Control Order, D Jungle People training consultants brought 25 senior Human Resource managers together in a webinar to share ongoing challenges and best practices in handling employees during the crisis. The forum topic, Remote Engagement Framework, explored ways to get employees engaged during a crisis.

One of the main core values, according to D Jungle People CEO John Kam, is to care for the welfare of employees. As many of them, depending on the industry, would be working from home, that would mean the company needs to prioritize the welfare of the people above business needs.

John described two kinds of employee engagement as those who are hyper engaged and worry about their security and  future of the company, and those who are just happy they have time away from the office with no work. He cautioned against the former saying they were likely to suffer from being burnt out.

Devanandan Batumalai, Head of Digital Professional Services, KBZ bank in Myanmar shared the concept of metta which is the bank’s core value. Metta is a term in Burmese meaning loving kindness.

“This is a strong reminder that the question of ‘how are you‘ may be more important than ‘what have you done.’ ” John explained.

Devanandan also emphasized the need to communicate regularly with employees making sure to update them on development in the company and that management should trust that employees would deliver while working from home.

The basis for this point was reiterated by Jamie Leong, Senior Director and HR business partner, China, VF Corporation who pointed out that managers need to manage via outcomes rather than structure.

John explains: “It is impossible for a manager to know what his subordinates are doing every minute of the day. Therefore, instead of  focusing on the nitty gritty activities done in the day, a manager needs to be clear on what is the ultimate goal.

“Stop micromanaging and try to set clear realistic and achievable goals of the day/week for the subordinate.”

Managing employees remotely presents a peculiar set of challenges such as lack of face-to-face interaction to explain goals and roles, knowing how much information to keep people safe and informed without encouraging the over sharing of information which can do more harm than good.

The HR managers recommend the use of virtual learning and e-learning for employees and to engage about what is happening via engagement meetings and “catch up” sessions on digital platforms such as WeChat, WhatsApp group and Zoom to connect with more people for discussions on work.

But caring for employees alone is not enough to ride the crisis. Managers too need to take care of themselves, to get rest and recharged to keep the team going. 

Norhafiza Ahmad Marzuki, Khazanah Senior VP, strategic human capital management, reminded that self care is essential.

“Akin to airline procedures of putting the mask on yourself first, self care means that managers need to take care of their own personal physical, mental and emotional health before attempting to help others. If a manager is not sleeping, eating or exercising well, he or she would not be in good shape to lead,” said John.

When the technical details and workflow are in place, remember to send out positive notes, quotes and videos to motivate the team.

D Jungle People webinar ‘DJP Meeting of Minds’  will be presented again on Friday April 3, 2020.