From technology companies to retail stores to manufacturing plants, every business is wrestling with how to keep their employees and customers safe as the global community continues to grapple with the health risks of COVID-19.
Recently, Workday leaders discussed the complex issues that surround reopening business locations. They didn’t have a playbook to respond to a global pandemic, but the executive team leaned on the company’s core values and an approach with four key principles to guide decision making. Employees were at the center of the response. “Our view is if we take care of our employees, they will take care of our customers. That's been central to our philosophy,” said Inna Landman, senior vice president, talent acquisition, operations and insight. Greg Pryor, senior vice president, people and performance evangelist, joined her in conversation.
A COVID-19 Response Strategy Centered Around Core Values
Workday’s approach was, and continues to be, focused on four key principles, with health and safety being table stakes. According to Landman, the key tenets are:
Lag, don’t lead. Culturally, we are more used to blazing trails than following sign posts, but in this instance we realized that our employees were living the agility and adaptability that we try to engineer into our products. Our surveys revealed that 80 to 85 percent of our teams continue to be productive at home, so we can take a cautious “wait and see” approach.
Empower local decision making. “When we have local decision makers in each country, in each state, in each office, the decisions are faster,” she said, “and they’re the right decisions.”
Be flexible. “We want to be able to adapt and change based on all the elements that may come into play,” Landman said.
Be transparent and embrace open communication. Workday doesn’t have all the answers, she acknowledged, but leaders are providing them whenever they can. “We’re focused on what we can do to enable us to respond swiftly, recover mindfully, and emerge even stronger when we do come back together.”
Keeping a Pulse on Employee Sentiment
Open communication is a two-way street, Pryor pointed out. Just as the leadership team is regularly sharing information with employees, they’re also frequently soliciting feedback from Workmates, leveraging Workday survey technology to listen.
“Absolutely central to the work we're doing is having the insights around how our employees are feeling and making sure we understand that,” said Pryor. Workday adapted its Feedback Friday initiative, which was already a weekly tool in place to measure employee sentiment, after the fast shift to a fully remote workforce. Survey questions in March focused on employee well-being and productivity, and how Workday could better support Workmates.
Within Workday, said Pryor, “we store the data in Workday Prism Analytics. That allows us to look over time, across offices, and across functions. Through Workday, our senior leaders have real-time access to see how their teams are feeling, to respond quickly, and to point out the opportunities for improvement.”
Evaluating Workplace Readiness and Planning for Returning to the Workplace
Understanding employee sentiment is just one part of the equation. In addition, said Landman, Workday is examining community risk factors, such as infection rates, hospitalization rates, and shelter-in-place orders, along with workplace readiness questions, such as having enough personal protective equipment and sanitizing products. The local decision making teams are also weighing the situation with schools, daycare, and public transportation.
Then, the local decision makers look at city dashboards—created using Workday Prism Analytics—to visualize the readiness of that location, coupled with general employee sentiment data. “We need to have both sets of data,” explained Landman. “We won't spend a lot of time readying a location if we don't have a large number of people opting in to return.”
While Workday announced on July 10 that its U.S. office locations are closed for the rest of 2020, some office locations in other parts of the world are reopening. Once a site is ready to open, with employees who want to return, employees will have to opt in to come to the office. There’s a parallel process in place, said Landman, with managers and leaders to understand who they would like to prioritize based on the nature of work. “Then we can compare the employee opt-in process and the manager nomination process, and use those factors to determine who will be the first to return to the office.”
To juggle all those pieces, Workday uses Workday Adaptive Planning. “We’re putting these factors into Adaptive Planning to compare all these elements and develop robust scenario plans,” said Landman. “The beauty of scenario planning is that we can change these factors on a dime. We've done hundreds of variations of these based on the early nature of what we thought was happening, and we've had to pivot quickly.”
When it comes to safely returning to the workplace, preferences are going to change, and the virus is going to change. But, said Landman, “it's all about flexibility.”