COVID-19 Roundtable Discussions
Thank you to the members who participated in our recent COVID-19 Virtual Roundtable Discussion, including representatives from Nestle, Western Digital, Chevron, Anglo American, Zumbotel, Tapestry, Mars, nVent, Synchrony Financial, Wolters Kluwer, Schneider Electric, Bank of Montreal, MetLife, Xerox, Cargill, Prudential, Dow and Microsoft.
Vaccine Policies Vary
COVID vaccines have now been on the market for several months and at least some doses are available in most countries. However, companies continue to take divergent approaches on vaccine policy. The most common approach reported on the Europe and North America call was, “educate, and encourage, but do not mandate.” The APAC roundtable featured a pair of companies taking a much stronger personal liberty approach.
- Some in N. America & Europe are tracking and incentivizing: One member company has implemented a voluntary tracking survey to gauge what percent of their workforce is vaccinated or would like to be vaccinated. Another member organization is using a health app to track vaccinations. A number of others reported that they are incentivizing their employees with additional paid time off, usually two days, if they choose to get the vaccine.
- A deliberate choice to not incentivize nor take a stance: Two companies on the APAC call said their organizations were taking a “a very neutral position, with emphasis on personal decision-making.” Neither organization will ask their employees to report vaccination status, nor are they encouraging nor discouraging employees to take the vaccine. One said that a policy of individual choice and empowerment is the only option compatible with their organizational values. “Even in cases where our customers are requiring the vaccines, we still make it very clear to our employees that they need not disclose [their vaccination status to customers].”
- Following state directives: One of the represented companies said their policies regarding COVID vaccines are largely dictated by host country policy and landlord requirements. “We are offering time off and incentives in some locales, but we are not telling employees if they should vaccinate or not,” she said. This position was echoed by several others in both the APAC and N. American and European roundtables.
Virtual Learning and Internship Programs
As the Summer Internship season nears, companies are evaluating their virtual learning programs and making decisions on the safest and most efficient ways for students to gain experience. Organizations are questioning the sustainability of virtual learning programs and approaches vary widely from company to company.
- Pressing pause until face-to-face is viable again: After much deliberation, two member companies are suspending their business school programs until they can be completed in person. “We did an executive-level learning program last year virtually with a business school and it just wasn’t worth the time nor expense,” a member explained. Another member shared that her company has suspended junior leadership development programs, but will continue with senior leadership programs in a hybrid setting.
- Hybrid Model: Multiple members said their organizations will employ hybrid approaches for both their internship and learning and development programs. Some hope that the loss of in-person time can be offset by a more personalized style of learning.
- 100% Virtual: Despite the obvious challenges, some member companies are preparing for a second summer of virtual/remote internships, citing the effectiveness and efficiency of their similar efforts a year ago. Companies that are choosing to stay 100% virtual are taking extra measures to build culture by emphasizing online group connections and check-ins with leaders.
- An explosion of applicants for traditional internships: One APAC-based company said it has seen a 250% spike in applicants for its internships this summer, which will be almost fully in-person and site-based. “I am confident that other companies’ cancelling of internships and offering only virtual internships has had a major impact on our increase in applications,” the member shared.
Hybrid Model Strategies
While varying across industry and geography, all HR leaders on both calls said their companies are employing now (or will employ) some type of hybrid working policy through at least the end of 2021. However, “work-from-anywhere” policies remain the exception, not the norm.
- Maintaining culture: Members are acutely concerned about maintaining and imbuing company culture in a hybrid/remote setting. There are many different culture-building approaches being undertaken, including virtual “coffee breaks” in which virtual and in- person employees can converse casually with their peers.
- Training leaders: According to most on the calls, leaders still prefer to manage their team in person and few are equipped to effectively manage a hybrid team. Many organizations are developing extensive support materials to help managers run meetings and be inclusive of everyone regardless of their location at any given moment.
- Establishing a firm policy: Partly in response to some workers pushing the limits of flexible working (by working across country borders and the like) and partly for “the mental health of our people who are craving stability and clear direction,” one member company has clearly communicated the limits of its hybrid working initiatives prior to fully communicating the initiatives themselves. “We’ve made it very clear to our people that they need to stay within commuting range of office sites and that we expect everyone to return to the office,” the member explained. “I think it’s helped ease some of the uncertainty and stress on our employees.
Thank you to all who participated for your energy and enthusiasm! We look forward to continuing the conversation!
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