Why health and safety training should be central to any get-back-to-work strategy
A global pandemic to start the decade has forced business leaders to expand their skillset in a direction they may never have considered before. Not only are they working to keep their businesses going in trying economic conditions, to retain customers, and to reassure stakeholders, they are taking on roles wildly beyond the scope of their traditional duties as executives.
One such role is that of people protector. As workplaces gradually reopen, business leaders must invest in their new positions as champions of their people’s safety and wellbeing.
“The health and safety of the workforce should be management’s top priority as it considers how to bring operations back to some semblance of normal,” according to PwC. “This is, of course, a moral, ethical and legal concern for all companies. And from a business perspective, safeguarding employees’ well-being is paramount because no plan to resume normal operations can succeed without them.”
“Preparing to return to the office in the wake of an international crisis will be no small task. And when it comes to employee health and safety, it must be done with the utmost mindfulness and consideration.”
Though workplaces will look different upon the return—both physically with reconfigured office layouts and digitally with ongoing contact tracing and temperature scanning—one thing that will stay the same for any smart business experiencing a change in its operating model is ensuring that its people are properly trained to comply with new safety procedures.
To facilitate a safe and smart transition to the office, a significant amount of new policies and procedures will need to be ingrained in employees prior to them stepping foot back in the workplace. They will need to be prepared to comply with the changes that will affect their daily routines at the office, from keeping appropriate social distance from colleagues to keeping shared workplaces hygienic—and, in some cases, wearing personal protective equipment on site. They will also need access to ongoing communication from leadership on these changes and what’s expected of them.
The ability to empower employees with compliance training in the form of an easy-to-use app accessible from any device will establish a sense of trust in your employees and safeguard your organization against avoidable risks.
As employees complete training on new safety protocols and behaviors through modules like, “How to transparently report my health status,” “Best practices for workplace sanitization,” and “Changes to sick policy in the wake of COVID-19,” executives will be presented with a data-backed view of who is ready to return to the office and who needs further training.
Though safety protocol training will certainly be top of mind as employees get back to work, physical safety on site is only part of the reopening equation. Consider the change in paradigm that COVID-19 has produced across industries. The shift to remote work has brought with it widespread adoption of video conferencing technologies, team collaboration tools, virtual project management software, and more. Employees that once relied upon face-to-face interaction have shifted to seeing their clients and coworkers only through a screen.
The new, virtual way of working requires a level of training and upskilling that cannot become an afterthought. Though your organization may be able to bring employees back on-site relatively quickly, it’s more than possible that your clients, vendors, and partners may be operating on a completely different opening timeline.
That being said, the virtual work revolution is here to stay. So the training of your employees on interacting with these new, remote-work-enablement technologies and the risks they bring should absolutely be part of any reopening strategy.
Indeed, the post-COVID-19 working model will likely be the single biggest change-management exercise that today’s business leaders will have to undertake in their careers, according to that same PwC article—and it will require the cooperation of leadership, legal and compliance, human resources, IT, internal communications, and other departments to get it done.
But the need to train and upskill the workforce in the wake of COVID-19 should not be looked upon as a burden.
“The global pandemic presents perhaps one of the greatest opportunities to future-proof our workforce.”
Prominent tech CEOs have been vocal about the amount of digital transformation that has taken hold across enterprises in just two months. There’s been more of it than there was in the previous two years. At times, it takes a global event to give business leaders the push they need to make the kinds of changes they need to make to succeed in the years to come.
To meet this upskilling challenge, companies should create talent strategies (and set aside talent budgets) that address not only digital skills, but social and emotional skills. As the pandemic has triggered a wave of anxiety across the globe due to side effects such as isolation, mental-wellness programs have become essential. And as managers interact with their employees from a distance, they must learn new skills to keep their people motivated.
Though the pandemic will dissipate and better days will come, the digital and employee-safety revolution that COVID-19 has brought about is here to stay. Forward-thinking businesses will take this time to upskill their people in order to enjoy safer, more innovative, resourceful and happier days ahead.