How Job Descriptions Help Facilitate A Successful Transition To Remote Work
Last March, it’s unlikely that any of us anticipated the extent of changes that the global pandemic ushered in for the global workforce. If you’re like most employers, you probably thought that in a few months, everything would be back to the status quo. But here we are.
There is no doubt that what we’ve necessarily had to do for our companies to survive over the past months is the “new normal.” Businesses everywhere switched to remote work, and for most, there’s no going back.
In terms of benefits, some are obvious, some a little more subtle. As such, we’ll put business continuity at the top of the list. Fixed costs were reduced, employees were able to continue working, and for many, profits soared.
Even so, there were a few hiccups. Amid all the changes and uncertainty, HR managers and leadership were compelled to prioritize health and safety, including employee mental health. No two situations were exactly alike, so policies and procedures became more fluid in respect to individual needs and challenges.
On the one hand, you have a mother of three school-aged children without adequate child care. On the other, a single person living alone, completely isolated from the world and suffering silently. Others might have trouble staying productive without direct oversight from management. Still others were working extra hours and burning themselves out.
Finding new employees in the midst of this crisis wasn’t easy either. As many companies experienced growth, hiring was a primary concern, but everything about the recruiting process had to change.
Without the advantage of in-person interviews, it became necessary to rethink the entire journey. From attracting the right employees to onboarding, everything was different, and not just because of the lack of in-person interviews.
In the pandemic world, the entire scope of desirable skillsets transformed, as did job descriptions. Working remotely doesn’t come naturally to everybody. It requires highly developed communication skills, greater accountability, self-direction, and a certain level of technical expertise that might not have been a priority before.
What Employees Want
Beyond changing employer expectations, employees—both existing and new hires—had certain needs to be met.
In the past, a safe and secure work environment was an afterthought. Every industry has its fair share of risks, but now we’re faced with a more pressing concern. Keeping employees safe and healthy had to be a top priority, risk minimized, and protections ensured.
For employees working from home, adequate equipment, software, and guidelines became essential. Managers overseeing teams needed to cultivate empathy and connect with each individual to ensure they were both productive and well-adjusted. Reading between the lines of behavior and conduct was necessary to minimize risk, gauge employee wellbeing, and ensure the work got done. Without these basic supports and a certain investment of time and attention, companies risked losing good employees simply because they were not interpreting the signs.
From the employee’s standpoint, the less feedback and accountability, the more disconnected they felt. Some companies implemented group check-ins each day to improve engagement, but not all were successful. Introverted individuals do not always speak up when they need something, so it was important to encourage participation in a way that didn’t expose their sensitivity.
One company’s morning Zoom check-in asked every employee to start the meeting by entering a word or emoji to describe how they were feeling. This simple, non-invasive act of sharing became a way to connect with other team members, who would then know instinctively who might need a little extra help that day.
Though it can be a little more challenging than usual to build and maintain a strong company culture under remote work circumstances, it’s certainly not impossible. The happiest employees are ones who have strong leaders to lean on, clear, unambiguous direction, and that know their concerns are heard, even when their voice is muted.
What Employers Can Do To Adapt
While empathy is a big part of managing employees in our “new normal,” there are other, perhaps more tangible ways for employers to adapt and succeed.
Companies must continue to be productive and put effort into recruitment. Skills shortages were a concern before the pandemic, and the landscape is even more competitive now.
Compensation, Benefits, and Culture
Job postings should be clear on what you offer, including benefits, time off, and other perks. Compensation should align with industry benchmarks and accurately reflect the expectations of the position. Your employer brand will play a significant role in landing top talent, as job seekers today have a lot to consider. Companies that are seen as employee-focused, socially responsible, and generally good to work for will win.
Outbound Messaging and Your Employer Brand
Think about your stance on COVID, safety, and equity. If you need to adjust your outbound messaging, do so. Your website and social channels reflect your brand personality, and this is often where potential employees first engage.
Update Your Job Descriptions
Job descriptions can also play a starring role, both in reaching the right talent and supporting your hiring team. COVID has significantly changed jobs, but you might still struggle to put the right people in the right positions if you have not yet updated your job descriptions. Any ambiguity could result in missed opportunities or bad hires.
Look at each position individually and think about how responsibilities have changed. How are you evaluating overtime for non-exempt employees? Are there essential functions that require certain employees to be on-site? What accommodations are you making to facilitate the work?
Another critical concern is legal action. The current compliance landscape is still evolving, and the best way to protect yourself from litigation is to ensure your job descriptions are detailed in every regard.
Issues include loss of work, health and safety, having contracted COVID in the workplace, and more are bound to spawn legal action against employers. Should an employee engage legal representation, the first thing attorneys will want to see is that employee’s job description.
Adapting your job descriptions now puts you ahead of the compliance litigation curve. Think about the essential functions of each position, the qualifications required, physical demands, and working conditions. The clearer you are on these points, the better protected you are.
Finally, once your job descriptions are updated, they need to be available to the personnel who need them—in other words, since most of your managers are likely working from home too, they need to be available online, in the cloud, or within your network where they can be accessed when needed.
Given these considerations, now is the ideal time to review your job descriptions. Solicit manager feedback, and require employees to sign off on their job descriptions to ensure compliance.
In the words of Andrew Ellerhorst, CEO of JDXpert, “We are living in historical and uncertain times. The clearer we can be about our goals on the road ahead, the more agile, effective, and trustworthy we become. Employees are the beating heart of any enterprise, and they should be able to look to their job description to guide them.”