Human Resources During a Crisis: Your #1 Offensive Line

 

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Cerius executive experts weigh in on proactive advice to avoid legal complications during times of a pandemic. 

Chantelle Ludski: I am based in Colorado. I’ve moved here from the UK and I moved to the UK from South Africa. My background is initially in employment law, and then in corporate commercial law. I was an entrepreneur for 13 years in food retail, manufacturing in the UK, and then moved into engineering design firms where I was an HR director, subsequently a chief risk officer, and most recently a chief operating officer at a renewable energy firm in the U.S.

Pamela Wasley: Great. And you have a JD. 

Chantelle Ludski: I have the South African equivalent. Yes, I’m qualified as a lawyer. I’m admitted to practice in South Africa. And I practice in the UK as well, but my  main jurisdiction is South Africa. 

Pamela Wasley: Great. Terry!

[00:01:00]

Terri Poindexter: I’m Terry Poindexter, from the greater Los Angeles area, not a lawyer but went to law school. Didn’t care about taking the bar – I just wanted the background, and I’ve been in human resources and payroll for about 35-40 years. But my strength is on the legal side of both. And I’m working on a special project right now.

I have had a tendency throughout my career to work on mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, and unique situations. And this one is definitely unique. And I’m very happy to be here. I’m thinking though, Pam, I looked at your questions and I thought, “Oh, my I’m going to be the weakest link.” I need some input on COVID because I know some, but not as much as I would like to before it’s all over.

I want to be a resident [00:02:00] expert.

Pamela Wasley: Great. Dave!

Dave Murry: I’m Dave Murray. Kind of an unusual path to a CHR role. I’m a mining engineer,  undergraduate from Texas A&M. I worked in a coal mine for 13 years. Went to graduate school and then started down the HR path with Dell computer. Went to Armstrong World Industries, a company called Arkema, which is a global company based in France, but North American headquarters are in Philadelphia.

And then I took the U.S. Silica role – U.S. Silica is a mining and mineral processing company – as chief human resources officer in 2011. There were a couple of things that I was able to do there: one was setting up a compensation committee from scratch, with our chairman of the [00:03:00] board and running that committee for eight years. We had 13 labor agreements across 11 different sites. So a lot of labor background and then the stuff that comes with sitting in the top seat: benefits strategy, and redoing that after having multiple acquisitions and trying to come up with a package that goes across the enterprise.

I left U.S. Silica at the end of December. I’m now looking at interim CHR type roles.

Pamela Wasley: Excellent. Let’s get right into the questions. So Dave, I’m going to start with the one that you suggested, because this is a great question. So between COVID daily death tolls and war zone conditions for healthcare [00:04:00] providers and heartbreaking, dying-alone stories, the graphic murders of George Floyd with ensuing protest and media coverage of police brutality and the economic uncertainty, our employees are probably traumatized and they’re definitely grieving. What mental health support should organizations provide to returning employees? Should organizations change their approach to diversity, equity and inclusion, and how do they do these things? So, Dave, let’s start with you in the answer.

Dave Murry: I think that our employees, and especially those that have been laid off and have sort of teetered on the brink of economic certainty (and for some of them, maybe the first time they’ve ever had to deal with [00:05:00] food insecurity in their lives), bringing them back into our organizations and looking at the model that we had last November, where you would bring somebody in, you would do the onboarding process and there’s some training period and boom, they’re productive overall – I don’t know that that model is going to work particularly well with folks that have seen their lives shattered and may have experienced some incredible loss. So, I think we have to look at organizations where trauma is a predictable risk (fire, police, social services), and sort of steal from their trauma-informed practices about how they deal with the workers that are experiencing those symptoms.

And we have to do something to prepare our managers [00:06:00] for two things: one, how to use those principles and how to support employees, but also how to take care of themselves because vicarious trauma – secondary trauma – is a very real thing, and it has a way of hurting that supervisory managerial level. And then if you lose them, your ability to take that workforce and have them become productive gets really limited. 

And then on the D,E&I, I’m probably not the best person to talk about that, but I think that for a number of American corporations, we all have a policy that says we’re not going to discriminate. As CHRO’s we would step up to an overt act of [00:07:00] racism or sexism by firing someone. I don’t know that we’ve done a lot around moving from not racist to anti-racist, from taking that proactive role of digging into our organizations and really ferreting out places where we have that. So I think it’s the shift from not racist, not sexist to anti-racist and anti-sexist. And that’s a big hill to climb. 

Pamela Wasley: It is. So back to the mental piece of it. I mean, what people are going through right now – I’m seeing it in companies. Some people don’t want to come back to work. Some people are still afraid, but yet at the same time they want to get out because people are not meant to be by themselves in isolation. They’re just not. And you have people in [00:08:00] close quarters for long periods of time. And I sit back and I see the headlines and I’m like, “why are people going so crazy these days?”

But it’s because mentally they’re going through things that they’ve never had to experience before and they don’t have to cope with. So, again, I think it’s important that companies address this. Because I don’t think they should become mental hospitals or physicians or whatever, but maybe some of the things that they should be offering is what they’re doing in hospitals and police departments is maybe having access to outside counselors so that they do have somebody that they can talk to.

And maybe this is  paid for by the company. But I think this is going to be really necessary going forward because I think [00:09:00] you’re not going to get all of your employees back in the same mental states that they left on. Comments on that? 

Chantelle Ludski: Kick off on that one, Pam, because I think you’re absolutely right.

I think companies do need to look at the EAPs they’ve got in place right now. Are they fit for purpose for the times that we find ourselves in as employees and employers? And we need to look at it from a couple of angles. One of which Dave mentioned, which is that the trauma that people are experiencing on various levels could be illness, could be death, could be food insecurity, housing insecurity.

I think about what people find the most useful and valuable and how can the company support them through the EAP or how do they need to up the ante? And I do think that a lot of EAPs will be found wanting right now when we started doing that deep dive into them. 

I think the second aspect of analysis that’s [00:10:00] required is recognizing that not only do people want to continue working from home, but some companies are saying, “We want you to start working from home, whether you want to or not.” I have my own experience running virtual teams. Some people adapt incredibly well and love the fact that they can be at home and other people find it incredibly stressful and are very anxious to be able to go to an office as frequently as possible, if not permanently.

So, finding ways of helping people adjust to that new working status is really valuable as well, because it’s not just enough to say, “Well, let’s touch in with each other regularly in this forum and let’s have a virtual happy hour on a Friday afternoon,” or whatever the case may be. I think there’s much more to it than that.

There’s a real art to running virtual teams successfully, particularly when not everybody wants to be a virtual team member. I do think that we need to start looking at what tools do we need, what resources do people require to be able to adapt to that working environment successfully? 

[00:11:00] 

Pamela Wasley: Yup. Any other comments on this topic?

Terri Poindexter: I think that a major key is, and an easy thing to implement is the EAP program. Of all the companies I’ve been with, maybe two had EAP programs. 

Pamela Wasley: And what are EAP programs? 

Terri Poindexter: Employee assistance programs. It provides a variety of different resources, but it’s that psychological resource that they’re very, very good at.

I did a project for Disney and, at different times, there were two cast members that died. One died in one of the Disney stores and one was on her way home and they found her in her costume. This was after Disney had transferred [00:12:00] the stores to the children’s place. The children’s place did not have an EAP program when these things occurred, which I would like to think is similar to the trauma that many people are feeling right now. You needed to get someone to them immediately. 

Because of my relationship with Disney. I was able to “borrow” their EAP program. And we provided assistance to the employees and to the extended families. And it allowed them to call in and talk with a psychiatrist or a psychologist to help. 

Now the project I’m working on right now – they don’t have an EAP program. So that’s one of the things I’m working on is trying to implement that for them. It’s not the type of environment where they can easily work [00:13:00] from home. It’s hourly employees who are on the manufacturing floor. The way they’re working now, we have them distanced from each other. But, we had one person a couple of weeks ago that was working for a medical center and was diagnosed with COVID. And because she worked for both locations, it turned into somewhat of a complex situation and we had to notify employees and we immediately had to contact people that work closely with her without divulging any of her information because of the HIPAA laws.

But then we had to talk to the rest of the workforce and start providing them some type of assistance, because up until that point, everything was business as usual, except that when you walk into the facility in the [00:14:00] morning, everyone has their temperature taken. You can’t work without your temperature being taken and you absolutely have to have a mask in there.

I’m in my own office right now, so I can take the mask off and lock the door. So people can’t walk in, but you have to have a mask. And they were taking all the right steps to making sure those things were taken care of. But, when people realized someone had the infection, everything just kind of went out the window and it shifted into a different mindset and people were concerned.

And for people who had worked near this person, we allowed them to take time off and we paid them. Luckily, there were only three people that had worked closely with the individual. So, we had them go and get tested and made sure they stayed home and quarantined for the 14 [00:15:00] days and all of that.

And then, as it happens, people find out and they usually find out before you can notify them. And we let them know. 

And for people who are worried about it because of the proximity, just being concerned because they were in the same environment, we’re taking those on a case by case basis and making sure that they don’t lose income because of it, which is key right now. And I forget the exact percentage, but something like 83% of the workforce in the nation are a paycheck away from disaster. They work paycheck to paycheck, and that’s this workforce for the most part. So we have to keep those things in mind. And the great thing is the company has been very sensitive about that and I’m still [00:16:00] looking for ways to help them.

Pamela Wasley: So what you’re saying is what I’m seeing a lot of companies being concerned about which is, “Oh, my gosh, we had somebody in the company that had COVID or maybe nobody did, but now the businesses that have to get back open, because otherwise they’re going to be out of business and they can’t get the workers back because workers don’t feel safe in coming back.”

So how does HR help companies get these people back to work? Can you, or is it impossible? 

Terri Poindexter: I think we can. It’s just a matter of how we do it and coming up with creative ways to handle it now. You don’t want to lose them, but you have to be sympathetic to what they’re going through.

So it’s one at a time and we’ve been very good with that. We also [00:17:00] have to – I believe it’s in one of the agreements with the union – bring in temps from time to time. And so one of the things we’ve been able to do successfully is bring temps in and there are people out there that still need work.

And the other thing we also provided was – we told the entire workforce, “We’ve identified these clinics, go to the clinic, get tested.”  And for the most part, probably 90% of the workforce, they felt better. They were tested. They were fine. No problem. They came back, but there is still that handful of people who are concerned and you have to worry about them.

But then in the meantime, we were able to bring some temporary people on board to fill those slots. 

Pamela Wasley: Excellent. Anybody else have a comment on this issue of not being able to get employees back to work? 

Chantelle Ludski: I think [00:18:00] maybe just building on what Terry was saying. I think it’s one of the key things that HR can do is make sure that there are fit for purpose policies in place very quickly and make sure that they are very well communicated to the entire workforce and communicated again, and again, and again. And then actually that you’re doing what the policies say. This is really simple stuff, but if you don’t get the simple stuff right, I think you’re in a whole bunch of trouble. So getting those policies developed, getting them communicated, and then implementing them very quickly and effectively I think is critical. 

Pamela Wasley: So I keep hearing that word “communication” because in the past, a lot of companies were not great communicators, whether it was the line management or the upper management people just didn’t communicate well.

So, again, what are companies doing out there to increase the communication? And, by the way, the right communication. 

Chantelle Ludski: I think previously you could [00:19:00] hope that things would percolate down (famously around the water cooler). But with people working from home and not being allowed to cluster, you need to make sure that you’re using all the channels at your disposal.

And I think you need to delineate between a blue collar environment and a white collar environment and say, “What’s the best method of communicating in each of those? And let’s make sure that we’re hitting each of those channels.” Certainly my experience in blue collar –  you can’t assume everyone’s got an email address so figure out if texting is a good way of getting hold of people. Do you have everybody’s details? 

So you have to be making sure your HR records are as up to date as they possibly can be. So that means reaching out to people and saying, “We just want to check that we’ve got the right information for you because you need to communicate with you.” 

One of the things that I explored pre-COVID was, because we had a lot of construction workers in the field who we knew didn’t have email addresses, how could we get messages about what was happening with the company to them? And we found that texting was A) a route they preferred because pretty much everyone’s got a phone [00:20:00] and B) there’s some really good platforms now to do corporate messaging as it were out via text. So I think it’s worth exploring those. And so using every channel at your disposal, using the right channel at the right time and even asking people, “How would you like us to communicate with you? What’s what’s best for you? Is it something like Slack? Is it Teams? What do you use? Would you prefer an email? Would you prefer texts? What works for you?” And you could use the company social media platforms as well.

Dave Murry: I could build on what both of them are saying about having the right channels in place and being able to use all of them. I think the messaging sort of walks down the list of safety first, both psychological and physical safety, and then trust and transparency. And then the last principle is voice and choice. Where somehow you’re able to, to Chantelle’s point, you’re able to engage people.

How do they want to be communicated with? Are there [00:21:00] options that you have for people in the workforce? It depends on your workforce, your unique workforce, but if there are options for people about where they work and flexible schedules to work around childcare or eldercare and so on – having voice and choice in that is going to build your employment brand and build loyalty from your employees in this time. 

Pamela Wasley: In other words, listen to your employees. 

Dave Murry: Yeah. You may not always have a lot of options at your disposal, but, sometimes you can be creative that says, look, “I’ve got a cover from seven to three, but yeah, I could have some people come in at 5:30 and I could have some people stay over,” then you could work it out.

Chantelle Ludski: I don’t even think it’s a case of just listening. I think it’s actively asking and then being an active listener. 

[00:22:00] Terri Poindexter: Absolutely. And keeping that open door policy, which also means you go one step further as a leader. You allow people to come in because I found throughout my career that the majority of the people just need to be heard. They want someone to listen to them and then they’re okay. They walk away and they don’t really need anything. But beyond that, I’ve extended my hours, so to speak, and I’ve always done that. But if something comes up after hours, if there’s an emergency or a situation, they can always reach out to someone.

And we get all the right communications, the different languages, but still people have individual questions and sometimes they will not want to ask them in a group. And more times than not, you just don’t cover all of them in the standard questions that you publish. So just being available.

[00:23:00] Pamela Wasley: Yep. So, onto just a couple more questions. So how do companies who have multiple locations in several states comply with the opening of their businesses? Do they comply just with the state where the facility is located or should they have one standard set of rules that they use for all of their locations?

Chantelle Ludski: At a minimum, from a legal perspective, they have to comply with what’s going on in the states. There’s no question they can have. That’s the minimum bar. They can impose higher standards if they like and say, these are our corporate standards, but they have to meet the standards laid out in the state.

Pamela Wasley: Okay so that’s the minimum, but if they want to, they can go a step further. 

Chantelle Ludski: They can. And then they make it the corporate policy. And you may find that you have employees who turn around and say, “Well, wearing a mask is not mandatory in our state. Why are you telling us to wear one?” and we say, “Well, that’s our corporate policy, and you choose to [00:24:00] work here and comply with the corporate policies or to find employment where you don’t have to wear a mask.” It’s pretty binary. At a minimum, you must comply with state laws.

Pamela Wasley: So if you do go more than that, can the employees refuse? 

Chantelle Ludski: It’s an interesting question. If it’s a corporate policy, I think it’s quite tough for an employee to refute. 

Firstly of course they can refuse, but if it’s a corporate policy and they’ve signed up to align themselves with the company’s policies, which change from time to time, they would be hard pressed to turn around and say, “Well, I’m not going to do it,” because then you are in defiance. 

The companies then face the choice of “What do we do now? Do we take disciplinary action?” et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And to be very legal about it, the answer greatly depends on what the employment contracts say. [00:25:00] So if they say that the company changes its policies from time to time, updates them, and introduces new ones and you agree at the point of starting your employment that you will abide by all of them, no matter when they’re introduced, then if they introduce a requirement for you to wear masks, then you’ve agreed to it. 

Terri Poindexter: Yep. And if you decide to do something different, you can work somewhere else. It can be harsh, but it’s just as harsh as that, because you’re looking at the total population.

You look out for the company, but the company is the employees. So you’re trying to look out for everyone. 

Chantelle Ludski: And if you look at this from a human perspective, not just from the legal perspective, then, going back to communication, the why is very important: “We’re introducing this policy and here’s why: it’s to protect you as an individual worker and your coworkers and your families when you get home.” So that messaging is key. It’s no good just saying, “Here’s a [00:26:00] policy, stick to it, comply with it,” but it’s really being very, very clear on the why. If you don’t do that, I think you’re in a lot of trouble.

Terri Poindexter: And that’s going the extra mile in communicating. 

Dave Murry: I know one of the things that Chantelle said that’s really important is that if there’s a standard that is more rigorous than a state standard that you’re able to implement enterprise-wide, you’ll eliminate so many problems for yourself as people move from site to site or managers have people working in different rotations. You have to do what the state says, no doubt, but if there’s a way to find an enterprise standard that would maybe exceed some states or that meets all states, well, then you just saved yourself a lot of issues by implementing that.

And I think our friends on the safety side of the house [00:27:00] have been able to do this for decades where, “you’ve come to work for us. Here’s the protective equipment you have to wear. These are the protocols that you have to follow, and it doesn’t matter what the state sets as a minimum. Ours is two levels above that, but that’s what it takes to work for this company. And it doesn’t matter if our competitor up the street doesn’t do it that way. This is our safety policy.” So I think it was probably a well trodden path there, as long as you’re at least being safe.

Terri Poindexter: Yes. And as long as there are no state or federal legal violations, you’re good to go. 

Dave Murry: I don’t know how some of the municipalities, when they were reopening states – so like in Texas, the mandate was, “we’re gonna reopen and no municipality can impose a stricter limit than what the state has proposed.” Now it’s [00:28:00] specific, so I’m not quite sure how that all would play out, but it certainly adds a wrinkle to it. 

Pamela Wasley: Well, all right. Next question. So, what are the, what are the most important things HR should be doing now?

Again, there are so many things that HR could be doing. I mean, you guys have your plates full. So what are the most important things that you can do to help get companies open today, safely?

Terri Poindexter: I think there should be a plan – or maybe if you’re working with your worker’s comp carriers, or if you want to work alone – if there’s a plan to test to try to [00:29:00] ensure as much of a safe environment as possible, and let people know that. That’s helpful and it goes without saying: the constant communications – you can’t communicate one time and then nothing else but you slapped the policy on the wall. It’s not about that. You go the extra mile, but then you have to be staying on top of it.

There was a situation yesterday where I told this company, “You need to follow the California state guidelines about meal penalties,” and they had not been following those because they didn’t know. But it’s posing an interesting situation because there’s not enough space for people to sit for lunch with the numbers of people that have to go to lunch at a certain time.

And I was helping the leaders be creative about coming up with solutions to those unique problems that come up. 

Pamela Wasley: So you need [00:30:00] a playbook. 

Terri Poindexter: Yes, exactly. A playbook that’s constantly changing. 

Chantelle Ludski: My response to your question, Pam, is perhaps slightly more philosophical as a starting point, which is to say, I think the first thing that HR needs to do is make sure that you have a seat at the top table and you have alignment amongst the leadership team of the company. I think that’s essential. 

And I think the second thing that I would focus on is making sure that I have an HR team that is incredibly well briefed and even adding resources to the team if required (because HR’s plate is so full at the moment) to make sure that we can support the company in developing that playbook.

And we are working with other key functions like safety to Dave’s point. I think it was a great point around learning from safety and leveraging what they’ve done. Be sure you’ve got the right resources and your leadership alignment to be able to do all you need to do. I think if you don’t have that, you’re a lone voice in the wilderness.

Pamela Wasley: Excellent. 

Dave Murry: My take would be, you have to have your board and your executive team on point and play your role in [00:31:00] managing their expectations about what it’s going to take to bring the workforce in and support them. The extra resources around the mental health side – Terry’s point earlier about EAP is great. Less than 2% of the workforce takes advantage of that. So their infrastructure couldn’t handle 10% of the workforce calling in at one point. So you gotta figure out if we’re going to get extra resources, is that onsite? Is it a tele-health type resources? Maybe the EAP has additional people they could bring to bear.

And then the third thing for me is that you’ve got to really pay attention to your supervisors and managers. We’re asking an awful lot of that group and they themselves are processing their own grief, their own [00:32:00] issues, yet they’re expected to bring these groups of people together and get them up to speed productively.

And so support for them around their own mental health and their self care. However that can manifest I think would be really important.

Pamela Wasley: Well, you said something key, Dave. As I’m talking with CEOs and chairmans of the board, it’s at the board level now.

In fact, HR has now been invited into the board room because they need their expertise to tell them how to take care of all these things and how to avoid litigation, how to avoid risks, how to take care of their employees. And I think it’s so behind – I’m delighted to see it happening today, [00:33:00] but it should have happened long ago because HR has been looked at for too long as benefits, payroll, and the admin part of the company. And, finally, they’re starting to see how valuable, especially during this crisis, HR can be. And I’m just delighted to see them really working on a board level today, as opposed to most of them reporting to CFOs. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not the right reporting structure in a company.

Dave Murry: Yeah, I think the CHROs can help their boards and their CEOs get their head around that this isn’t a Q2 or Q3 thing. This is going to be two years minimum. There’s going to be significant disruption to the enterprise and in order for us to get productive and what we communicate out to the street, what we’re saying to the [00:34:00] analysts that are following us – all that needs to be in alignment with a rational plan of how we’re bringing this business back, or else you’re going to overshoot and you’re going to say, “Okay, well, by Q4, the virus is gone and the Black Lives Matter movement will have died down and it will be last November.” And that’s just not going to be the case. 

Terri Poindexter: Sure. I agree with David’s opinion. 

Pamela Wasley: Alright, so let’s get on to another question. One of the things I’m also seeing happening in today’s world is something occurs and maybe one of your employees gets COVID and they’re blaming you and they file a lawsuit.

Unfortunately, there’s some law firms out there today that are saying, “Whoa, I just got entry into this company.” And now they start to look for other [00:35:00] violations. So, what advice do you guys have for companies today? Because, like I said, they’ve got their hands full. So how do they handle COVID and at the same time make sure that they’re abiding by all the other compliance laws. Because again, this is just an invitation. If somebody files for a COVID reason, then they can get in and they can look at other violations that you have. So how do you prevent this? How do you mitigate your risk? 

Chantelle Ludski: I think critical to this is making sure that you have a team, or at the very least a person, tasked with keeping up to date with regulations and promulgations as they are issued by the state or the municipality, the county, whatever the case may be, and that you are taking steps within the [00:36:00] timeframe that was dictated by said state or county to implement any regulations that have been issued. If you’ve found wanting in that regard, I think you are opening yourself up to lawsuits. And going back to the point earlier, you have to be making sure that you’re getting those policies developed and issued, and well-communicated very promptly.

I think you are setting yourself up for demonstrating that your risk mitigation is more than adequate. 

Terri Poindexter: Right. And because we’re in the country of California here, we get those lawsuits all the time. Many frivolous, but even with frivolous, they could come in depending on how you’re set up, depending on what the lawsuit is, and access certain records. And if those records are intermingled with other records, that shouldn’t be, they can bring in [00:37:00] other organizations – like a county, city, state groups –  they can notify other places. 

For example, if they’re looking at a file and they find what they consider to be a wage and hour violation, they can contact the wage and hour commission here. And then if they come in and they see something else, they can bring in sister organizations. It happens all the time. And it’s with that. It’s just a matter of keeping the records clean, keeping them straight; don’t mingle certain records that you shouldn’t, not that it’s illegal, but that it’s just a better way to run the business. It’s a better thing to do, to mitigate.

Chantelle Ludski: Just building on Terry’s point about records, it [00:38:00] makes me think about training and just to add a really important dimension to what I was saying: I think developing the policies, communicating them of course is key. The most important thing is implementing them and being able to demonstrate that you have trained people and you have the records demonstrating that you’ve trained them – going back to supervisors and line managers – and that you’ve got somebody who’s following up all the time. So do you have a risk assurance manager or a quality assurance manager or a safety manager who is going in to check that what you say your policy says you should do is actually being done on the shop floor or the office environment, wherever it is.

So there’s all of those great actions that you’ve said you’re going to be doing – are you doing them? And can you demonstrate that? That’s critical, too.

Pamela Wasley: I love your team concept because if you don’t make somebody in charge of it, it may or may not get done, especially since there’s so many things that they could be doing, and if you only have one person taking care of everything, it probably isn’t being done well.

So you really gotta make sure that you’ve got all the [00:39:00] pieces covered. Otherwise you’re going to have a leak somewhere. 

Dave Murry: Well, I have one thing and that is: don’t shoot yourself in the foot or first do no harm. These are unprecedented times. It is a pandemic and social disruption. But the laws around making employment decisions haven’t changed.

So there’s been a couple of things in the news: the man that killed George Floyd – the superintendent of the Minnesota police said that only white officers can guard him. Well, that’s an employment decision made purely on the basis of race. And who knows what was in his head, but you can’t do that. 

The governor of Maryland – for about four hours, they announced they were going to reopen schools, but school teachers that were over [00:40:00] 60 years old, wouldn’t be allowed to return. Four hours later, they realized that was an age-based employment decision and decided not to do it. 

So, I think we can bring a lot of harm onto ourselves if we’re not thinking clearly about employment decisions or what we’re saying about people coming to work or whether people are allowed to work remotely, those have to be decisions that are not based on any other criteria other than work criteria. 

Pamela Wasley: Dave, that’s a great segue into my last question here. What, in your opinion, do you think is the most important tip that you can leave companies with today that will help them? The most important in your mind. So let’s start with you Chantelle and give us an idea of what you’re thinking there.

[00:41:00] 

Chantelle Ludski: I would say that it is making sure that you are constantly on top of what’s required of you, on a state-by-state basis. And that you can demonstrate that you are putting that into play. And providing that playbook to the company very, very quickly following up, following up, following up.

Pamela Wasley: Great. Terri? 

Terri Poindexter: Yes. I agree with Chantelle and, going one step further, it is also important to also have people constantly working with their worker’s comp organization that they deal with, because I’ve found that it’s not affecting the employment law area as much as it’s affecting worker’s comp right now.

And there are some things that are changing with [00:42:00] that. So making sure you’re staying on top of that and on top of any legal changes that may occur, because those things usually happen a couple of times a year in California, at the beginning of the year on January 1st and on July 1st, but I hope it has changed things. 

So we have to look at this and you can’t do it all by yourself. So you have to rely on some of the organizations you partner with to help you stay on top of it. And you have to make sure that you have a partner that you can trust that will stay on top of it and keep you informed.

It goes back to communications. 

Dave Murry: I would look at this as [00:43:00] being where you’re going to build your employment brand. A crisis that’s impacting not a specific industry, not a specific geography – it’s a global thing, for sure. All across the U.S., every company’s dealing with it. Now is the time to build your employment brand by how you treat people as they’re coming in, as they’re going out.

This is an unbelievable opportunity to have the ear of the board, have the executive team’s full attention. I think once you get their heads around that this is a two year journey and that some of the preventative measures that Chantelle and Terri have been talking about are tiny costs in exchange for the value that they’re going to bring in attracting and retaining top talent and becoming that [00:44:00] employer of choice that we all go after. 

So it’s going to take an empathetic and dedicated HR team that’s going to be willing to communicate the same messages over, over, over, and over. It’s not going to be a one and done. It’s not going to be, “Hey, it’s okay to come back here. You’re going to be safe.” 

It’s going to require that constant communication and, to the point made earlier, the legal landscape is literally shifting beneath our feet. Every day. They are walking through the courts now, various cases on workplace issues with COVID, and it’s going to change as those things actually make it through the courts and then go on to the appellate courts. So staying on top of that and making sure our organizations are nimble enough to be not only on point, but doing [00:45:00] something above and beyond that distinguishes us from other corporations.

It’s an opportunity. 

Pamela Wasley: Good suggestion. Because I’m seeing companies like Amazon and others having their reputations being trashed because their employees are not happy. They’re not liking what they see going on within the company right now. 

Chantelle Ludski: Have you seen how they’ve gone on the offensive? There’s an ad campaign on television at the moment, nationally, to try and show how they are addressing those concerns.

So, yeah, that’s costing them a lot of money. 

Dave Murry: Can you imagine having to go to work for any of the other packing companies? They just blew it in my opinion. 

Terri Poindexter: Yeah, they did. And they continue to. 

Pamela Wasley: Yeah. They [00:46:00] had an opportunity to turn that around and do the right thing. And they missed their opportunity. No doubt. 

Terri Poindexter: And whether it’s true or not, it appeared that they were just looking at pure profits and it backfired. 

Pamela Wasley: All right.

Well, we have come to the end of our meetup today, so thank you all for participating.

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Pamela Wasley Kristen McAlister

Pam and Kristen, co-owners of Cerius Executives, both come from running a business, not the staffing industry. They understand the challenges of growing a business and not having the right leadership team or expertise. Our client services team is comprised of current and former business owners. We have the background and expertise to listen, understand and work to successfully put together the right profile for what you need and the right executive. The executive talent world is always undergoing a never-ending evolution. Some of it is trial-and-error, and some is due to a constantly changing marketplace. We will always be working to predict what businesses will need next and how can we best help them find it.