2020 has certainly gotten off to a rocky start. Managing human resources in a small or medium-size business is always demanding, but this year employers grapple with challenges many have never confronted before. Here are the top HR hurdles facing employers, along with tips and tactics to keep operations steady even as the world around us continues to shift.
1 ) KEEPING UP WITH PAYROLL
This is a unique challenge we’re hoping will pass quickly. As the fallout from local and regional shelter-in-place orders ripples through the economy, small businesses are being hit hard. Luckily, federal, state, and local officials have pledged many additional resources to assist impacted businesses. From emergency short-term loans to tax relief, grants and more, small and medium-size business owners should take full advantage of available support.
Extensis assembled Relief Navigator: Business Emergency Funding & Relief Program Overviews, an online resource featuring information and links to current and forthcoming relief programs designed to help small businesses manage expenses during the COVID-19 crisis.
Employers should also contact their professional employer organization (PEO) or HR solutions partner to generate a plan to obtain available financial aid if needed.
2 ) COMPLYING WITH NEW FEDERAL LEAVE POLICIES
Not only have paid family leave laws expanded in recent years, the sudden emergence of COVID-19 forced many employers to reevaluate their existing leave policies.
Federal law changed under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), ensuring eligible employees will receive a portion of their salaries for a period of time if they are unable to work remotely due to quarantine (per Federal, State, or local government order, or doctor’s order), caring for a sick or quarantined family member, caring for a child whose school is closed due to COVID-19, or demonstrating symptoms of COVID-19 themselves. Small businesses with less than 50 employees may qualify for an exemption to the childcare provision, if doing so would jeopardize the viability of their business. These provisions will remain in place until December 31, 2020.
Calculating the correct rate of pay for employees under FFCRA can get complicated, depending on the reason for the leave and length of time the employee is unable to work. Employers should contact their payroll, PEO, or other HR solutions partner for details and assistance with calculation.
3 ) PROTECTING PRIVACY & DATA SECURITY
Data breaches are always a top concern for employers, but with more and more employees working from home, many employers have scrambled to set up secure remote access for their workforce. Employers risk exposing private or proprietary data as employees remotely log into their workplace terminals via potentially exposed network connection.
Further, as more and more meetings are being conducted via video chat, employers risk nefarious players disrupting meetings or eavesdropping on sensitive content. Employers should act quickly to ensure data is frequently backed up, tighten security restrictions on video meeting software, and instruct employees to report any suspicious activity to the company’s IT department.
4 ) MODERNIZING MEDICAL BENEFITS
As communities continue to implement social distancing measures, more healthcare providers are turning to modern technologies such as telehealth to see patients. Telemedicine, the practice of providing health-related services remotely via telecommunication technologies and electronically transmitted health information, has been around for years, but Congress’ recent loosening of reimbursement restrictions has led to greater adoption of the practice. Healthcare leaders like Aetna have waived telemedicine cost sharing for 90 days as a response to COVID-19.
Telemedicine increases convenience for employees, enabling them to schedule visits electronically and virtually “visit” their healthcare provider from the comfort of their home. We predict the sudden increase in telemedicine’s popularity will open the door for these services to continue well into the future.
5 ) HELPING EMPLOYEES MANAGE STRESS
With so many aspects of daily life thrown up in the air, employees’ work and home lives have changed drastically. Change is always accompanied by some level of anxiety as employees struggle to stay engaged while facing an uncertain future.
More and more employers have begun to focus on employee wellness and wellbeing, offering support and resources, such as employee wellness programs and employee assistance programs (EAPs), to help employees re-center themselves mentally and physically.
6 ) RECRUITING DURING A TIME OF SOCIAL DISTANCING
Recruiting is up against unprecedented challenges as many candidates and employers practice social distancing. However, employers still have current openings to fill and may face the need to ramp up hiring once social distancing mandates are lifted. Maintaining recruiting momentum during this time is crucial so as not to fall behind once business returns to (semi-)normalcy.
Though aspects of operations may be temporarily stalled, employers should keep communications open with potential candidates, sharing the status of decision-making and continuing to touch base, even if a firm time-table is still up in the air.
Even though candidates and employers may be socially distanced at this time, there is still plenty of available action to move the ball forward. Employers can conduct virtual interviews with candidates utilizing meeting and hiring technologies like HireVue, ConveyIQ, Whereby, or Microsoft Teams. Online assessment tools such as IBM’s Kenexa can evaluate a candidate’s skills. Meanwhile, the phone lines are still open, so employers can contact a candidate’s references and obtain an important outside perspective on a candidate.
7 ) ATTRACTING TOP TALENT
Competition for top talent is no longer about offering the highest salary – it’s about delivering an overall experience. Today’s candidates are more closely considering how their new job will integrate with their lifestyle and career goals, causing them to closely scrutinize the full scope of benefits packages before accepting an offer.
Employers should take a close look at their current benefits packages, making sure the essential boxes are checked (competitive salary, medical benefits, paid time off) as well as determining where they can add creative perks and voluntary benefits to sweeten the deal.
Creative benefits such as legal assistance, financial planning support, identity theft coverage, pet insurance, and student loan consolidation programs can give employers an edge over competitors who are still offering just the basics.
Though 2020 has thrown multiple curveballs at employers so far, resilient businesses with solid HR practices can make all this uncertainty manageable. These disruptions to “business as usual” feel uncomfortable in the moment but may ultimately strengthen an organization’s foundation for the future. An optimistic attitude with a realistic perspective will help employers tackle – and surmount – whatever challenge comes next.