CELEBRATING ESSENTIAL WORKERS
5 WAYS TO BRIDGE THE RESENTMENT GAP
We’re more than a year into having huge numbers of employees work from home. But what about all those employees who don’t have that option? Many companies are struggling with how to address the not-unreasonable resentment of essential workers who’ve continued to show up at the manufacturing plants, data centers, hospitals, labs, retail locations and other worksites that have been so important to keeping the world going through the pandemic.
Here are five ideas for helping essential workers feel like the heroes they really are:
MAKE THEM VISIBLE
Help these essential workers feel seen by the rest of the company, by telling their stories through internal communications channels. You might do employee spotlights of individuals in each location, perhaps with a Q&A that gives other employees a window into their work and their lives. Send a talented photographer to these worksites to capture the heroic nature of this work, and to make the essential workers look like celebrities. Or consider videos that showcase these essential employees and the critical nature of their work.
OFFER EXPANDED BENEFITS
The pandemic has presented challenges for employees everywhere, but essential workers have experienced immense levels of concern for their own health and that of their families, as well as the mental and logistical load of keeping their home lives going while they’re at work. Explore expanding your EAP to cover more free counseling sessions or consider offering perks like free online homework help for kids or support for dependent care, whether that means aging parents or young kids. Office employees, of course, will appreciate these additional benefits as well.
INTRODUCE A NEW RECOGNITION PROGRAM
This might be a great time to launch a new recognition program focused on the above-and-beyond efforts of your company’s essential workers. You might consider an award for exemplifying each of your values, or perhaps recognition for essential workers representing each of their worksites. Even better if you can tie rewards to the recognition, like paid time off, prize money or even gift cards. Involve your top leadership in selecting and personally awarding this recognition. Non-desk workers often feel invisible to company management, so they need to know they’re valued.
HAVE REMOTE EMPLOYEES WRITE THEIR THANKS
This idea is similar to those letter-writing campaigns often launched to thank military personnel for their service. You might ask remote employees to write notes expressing their gratitude for the important role essential workers have played in the organization’s ability to make it through the pandemic. Have them post these notes on the intranet or email to HR or internal communications. Then you could create a collection of these notes to be printed as posters for essential workers’ worksites, share on digital monitors or as laminated cards on a keyring for breakrooms.
ASK LEADERSHIP TO MENTION THEM PUBLICLY
If your executive leadership team isn’t already doing this, suggest that they look for any possible opportunity to call attention to the role essential workers have played in the company’s response to the pandemic. When they model gratitude for these employees, it will echo through the many layers of the organization and help amplify that appreciation. Internally, this message can be part of town halls or all-hands meetings as well as other internal communications, from blogs to emails. Externally, it’s an important key message for media interviews and speaking engagements.