You’ve heard that “long-haulers,” individuals with long COVID, suffer persistent COVID-19 symptoms that erode their quality of life. Anyone scanning the workplace soon realizes that some employers suffer with from long COVID. A few refuse employers treatment, expecting to get well on their own.
Three symptoms signal an employer suffers long COVID.
Difficult to fill vacancies and continual turnover
Job openings outnumber available workers by 5.46 million. So many potential employees have left the labor market to become self-employed, or gig and contract workers, that employers with vacancies continue to fight talent wars.
Desperate to fill their positions, long hauler employers hire hastily, hoping the “best of the worst” will work out. Some new hires don’t last a day. Others leave without notice within their first four months, losing ninety percent of the value the employer poured into their training.
Fractured employer/employee relationships and lack of employee engagement
Employer/employee relationships have deteriorated for so many decades that few working today remember when employees spent twenty to forty years working for the same employer. The pandemic, with its accompanying layoffs, furloughs, and the sense that some employers exposed employees to safety hazards given their urgent need to “get work done” despite workplaces not yet safe, took a machete to employer loyalty.
Employees facing illness, wages that haven’t kept up with inflation, and escalating economic insecurity soon decided “I need to be for myself because that’s who I can count on.” Small wonder that the 2022 State of the Global Workplace reported that only 33 percent of U.S. employees felt engaged in their work.2
Given employee disengagement, the skill loss that results from regular turnover and customer dissatisfaction from dealing with unhappy employees, long haul COVID employers suffer from dwindling productivity. According to one study, “projects that used to take four people two months to do now take ten people five months to do.”3 Decreased performance translates into decreased profitability.
Treatment: Employers can treat COVID long haul.
Vacancies and turnover:
Employers with vacancies need to become an employer of choice and advertise that fact.
“Writing a Killer Recruitment Ad,” https://bit.ly/3hhgItl details how employers can attract the best applicants by detailing the benefits of working for them with statements such as “apply with us…because you want your employer to care about the progression of your career”.
Reducing turnover starts with fully vetting applicants and continues with orienting new employees so they can succeed in their jobs.
Fractured relationships, disengagement and resulting productivity problems:
Employers need to admit employees are key to survival and partner with them by offering respect, providing clear expectations, and furnishing support and communications.
This may involve retraining supervisors and managers to communicate regularly with employees, not only when problems surface. Consider the model provided by football and soccer coaches. These coaches set pre-game expectations, hold interim time-outs and individual players after each game, explaining how they can improve and letting them know they appreciate excellent performance.
As I outlined in Managing for Accountability, https://amzn.to/3IKB0Yw, manager coaches need to regularly ask, “Are there ways in which I can help you this week?”; “What job challenges or frustration you would like to discuss?” and “What suggestions do you have for making our organization more productive?” By regularly opening the communication channel, managers let your employee know they’re interested in their success and prevent minor problems from festering.
Does your workplace suffer from long COVID. If you’ve been treating the symptoms without success, treat the causes.
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