Managing change in the pandemic-altered workplace
by Jeremy D. Medernach
Within our organization, and I am sure yours as well, the pandemic forced us to change the way we do business – everything from how to share between ourselves and clients to ensure that no one feels cut off in our newly distributed workplace.
Businesses have always faced unexpected events, such as a bookkeeper who suddenly gives a two-week resignation notice after 30 years on the job. But in today’s continuing COVID-19 environment, departures – both temporary and permanent – are more frequent.
Even pre-pandemic, employee turnover was on the rise, according to federal statistics, from 15.1 percent in 2013 to 18.5 percent in 2017.
Add in the complication that with key people working outside the office, preparation, planning, and coordination are essential. While change management is never easy, here are some ways to avoid it becoming a business nightmare.
Document, cross-train, repeat
As an auditor and financial consultant, I have helped companies develop reliable processes that do not depend on one person. Here are three key steps you should take now to minimize stress and ease the workplace transition:
- Document: This part can be tedious and painful, but it will hurt a lot more if you start to pick up the pieces only after someone leaves. Every employee should write down a step-by-step process of what they do on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual basis. If you want to take it to the next step, you can process map your procedures. A process map illustrates the flow of your activities. This will allow you to see holes in your process or point out inefficiencies related to duplication of efforts or highlight steps you can automate.
- Cross Train: Make sure your documented processes work as planned. While the “new” person is performing the steps, they should also note anything unclear or requiring more description. The next time the process-developer goes on vacation, have the newly trained person go through the process and look for any way to make improvements. Unanticipated situations always arise, so answering questions while the entire team is intact is a great help.
- Revisit: Do not let the process document gather dust or cobwebs. At regular intervals, review the document and make revisions as your process changes. The key is to keep these documents fresh and up to date.
No employee left behind
Remember the old saying, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease?” Unfortunately, some recent studies have shown this can occur when companies distribute their workforce – employees who are in the office receive more attention and remote workers start to feel isolated.
It is critical to take steps to ensure your businesses’ cultural cohesion does not suffer because everyone no longer is working under the same roof. Fortunately, there are various software solutions, such as Zoom meetings or cloud-based platforms, that can bring everyone together.
In addition to finding the right software, here are some tips for keeping your team focused:
- Virtual meetings and get-togethers: Look at holding weekly meetings and see if it makes sense for some teams to meet daily. Do not just rely on email – it is important to maintain the social connection that existed when everyone was in the same building.
- Focus on results, not the clock: While you must be able to contact employees when the need arises, the focus should be on outcomes – is the job getting done? Don’t try to enforce fixed work hours if it doesn’t matter.
- Pay extra attention to new hires: We all know how important is to make new hires feel welcome and help them fit in. This is especially important in the remote work environment. At Boyer & Ritter, we always linked new associates with a mentor – this practice is especially important with a distributed workforce.
Especially with employees working remotely and perhaps using their own equipment, cybersecurity has never been more crucial. Here are some suggestions for making sure your distributed workforce is not putting your data – and your business – at risk:
- Routinely train your personnel and raise their awareness of phishing attempts and other cybercriminals' tactics to crack your system. Outsourcing the training can be a cost-effective strategy for finding repeat offenders, breaking bad habits, and, if necessary, limiting their access to sensitive online systems and records.
- Utilize strong passwords and two-factor authentication systems. Don’t use the same login ID or password for multiple sites. Never allow a browser to store login information, and don’t share it, either.
- Share information only through secure portals with your service providers, employees, participants, and beneficiaries. Never transmit sensitive information via email.
- Review your cyber liability insurance. Remember that some plans will not honor, or only partially honor claims, if an employee were partly to blame, such as getting tricked into providing sensitive material. It also makes sense to have an independent review of your insurance from an expert who can examine your vulnerabilities in all areas and recommend the type and level of coverage you need.
Post-COVID-19, many companies will find it makes sense to maintain a hybrid structure allowing a level of remote working.
The team at Boyer & Ritter has experience mapping out work processes for our clients, and we know the details to include and the landmines to expect and avoid. There is no better time than now to start looking at how your business handles the new workforce realities. Start today and set goals for when you will have it done.
Jeremy D. Medernach is a director with Boyer & Ritter LLC who provides accounting, auditing, tax and management consulting services for a variety of clients and industry groups, including dealerships, real estate service, government, and various closely held business clients. Contact Jeremy at 717-761-7210 or firstname.lastname@example.org.