Conference Board Offers Toolkit On Reopening the Workplace


The Conference Board rolled out a collection of checklists intended to help HR leaders prepare a new approach to workplaces as companies plot their approach to beginning new-normal operations.

HR departments face “a daunting task,” as they plan for the gradual reopening of the economy, the business group said. They must create workplaces that are safe even as they foster productivity, which will require changing, if not upending, several HR processes.

The Conference Board’s checklists have been collected into a planning tool that organizes the resumption of business into three phases: Assessment, Preparation and Return. The free materials can be used by both U.S. and international HR teams.

A sampling:

In the Assessment phase:

  • Review and reset business strategy, its impact on skills necessary to execute your business model, and implications for current  and future workforce arrangements including staffing, contract and outsourcing.
  • Assess the need to return to physical workplaces and, where it’s necessary, determine which workers must come to the workplace and what work can be done virtually.
  • Assess community readiness, such as which schools and healthcare facilities are open, to enable workers with children, elder-care and other issues to be able to return to the workplace.

During the Preparation phase:

  • Review performance targets and reset sales goals and metrics, if necessary.
  • Restructure the work environment, which may include seating to allow for greater social distancing, plexiglass shields and rerouted employee flows to minimize the number of people at entry and exit points. 
  • Create new HR policies for alternative work arrangements in case the virus reappears.
  • Distribute a communications plan to help workers understand policy changes. Detail the company’s expectations of employees and how new conditions will ensure their safety.

In the Return phase:

  • Distribute required protective gear and instructions for use.
  • Provide training or reskilling necessary for existing jobs or redeployment.
  • Continually communicate to further build or re-build culture. Begin by addressing difficult decisions and topics, such as the effects of layoffs and compensation impacts, lost colleagues and affected families. Discuss plans for recovery and renewal, and focus on “green shoots” of recovery, celebrating milestones and other wins.

In addition, the planning tool includes a checklist of specific HR policies that may change due to COVID-19. These include reasonable accommodation and remote work guidelines to absenteeism, leave policies, pay, health benefits and retirement.

Thoughtfully addressing workforce issues is critical if companies are to fully rebuild their businesses and retain their employees, HR leaders say. “I think people’s relationship with their employers will absolutely be made or broken based on how they were treated, what was prioritized, whether or not they felt that they were prioritized, and then how they were communicated with through the crisis,” Cecile Alper-Leroux, vice president of HCM Innovation at Ultimate Software, told us in a podcast last week.

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