Continuing our blog series, “The Unsung Heroes of COVID, Interviews with HR Professionals
Tom Dorsett, CEO of RazorMetrics, caught up with Melissa Morgan,  HCM Process Consultant with Paycor.

Melissa has more than ten years in Human Capital Management Process Consulting and has been trained and mentored by the best in the industry. She has been with Paycor for four years since she opened the market in Austin, Texas in 2016. Melissa is an award-winning consultant with start-up fortitude and enterprise finesse. She challenges the status quo and disrupts existing models with the belief that clients deserve the highest performing products and services that help them achieve their business goals. She is a leadership mentor, trainer, and passionate volunteer. Melissa serves on the Executive Committee for ACG and is VP of Awards.

 

Tom: What were your biggest challenges helping companies manage the COVID crisis and return to work?

Melissa: Communication has been the most important thing. News is changing all the time—the family first response act, new earnings codes, PPP loan tracking, tax deferrals—the COVID situation is fluid and things change fast. I’ve heard clients say that as soon as they figure something out it has expired. It’s critical for businesses to stay on top of the incoming information and keep employees and customers informed. This must be done quickly and consistently.

We had an emergency response team already identified and ready to go before COVID. We understand that emergency situations will happen, that’s just life, so we prepare in advance for sudden disruptions. When COVID struck, our emergency response team was activated and hit the ground running. We are a large company and had the capability to do this. Average to small companies did not. For these companies, it was critical to take time and assign personnel to stay informed and communicate to the rest of the company.

The way communication is accomplished has also been a challenge. Different people process information differently, so it was important for us to set up a variety of content points. We chose webinars, a COVID Support Center on our website, email, social media, and articles on best practices, like “How to work from home with kids.”

Morale was also a big priority for us. COVID is scary and working from home can be isolating. We communicated clearly and quickly about our working-from-home policies to make sure no one was confused or worried.  We focused on making the remote environment fun despite the struggle. For example, we held a contest and asked people to post a photo of their home office on LinkedIn. The winners received a free Apple AirPod! Employees are going to have higher anxiety levels during this time, so we encourage businesses to look for fun ways to keep people connected and rally the teams.

Tom: How are you managing the work-from-home challenge?

Melissa: Many Americans are working from home with kids, including me, and this is a real challenge because of distance learning. All across America, people have new co-working spaces in their dining rooms. My eight-year-old starts distant learning this month and I am taking personal days to help her get set up and figure it all out. My manager was really supportive, and this meant a lot to me, that leadership understands work-life balance. We are staying optimistic and moving forward to make the best of it.

The CEO, CFO, and HR leads need to be that light to put employees at ease. Communication from the executives helps keep everyone calm. During March and April, a lot of people were panicking, but leadership must be the voice of reason to employees and customers. Communication should focus on de-escalating fear and anxiety. I found the best example of this is video messages from leadership teams. Paycor’s leadership gets on a panel and provides a video update on the business and it’s nice to see their faces and hear their voices.

Tom:  Do you have any advice for other HR professionals who are facing the same challenges?

Melissa: From a business perspective it is critically important for HR and finance leaders to coordinate and communicate. Depending on the group, these teams should sit down daily or weekly and discuss what is going on in the business – turnover, benefits strategy, prescription benefits, burnout, retention, etc. Finance and HR need to have a unified morale strategy to keep it high while managing costs where possible. Businesses that have forward-thinking HR tools can provide the CEO and CFO important data about headcounts, where business is trending, how many people have left, and why they have left. This data allows leadership to have those important conversations.

I have noticed two different mindsets among business leaders, and it matters. There is panic mode, which results in furloughs, closings, and contraction. Then there is the optimist mode, which holds the idea that we’ve been through tough times before and still thrived. Optimists are using this time to prepare for the future because they understand that in one way or another great change is a time for growth and helping others.