Employee Connectedness: Preparing for Covid-19 Policy Changes from Washington

Episode 3: Preparing for Covid-19 Policy Changes from Washington

While our amazing healthcare workers and frontline responders are battling covid-19 head-on (we are so grateful for their heroic efforts), other sectors are facing a secondary, economic challenge. Government policy is moving rapidly to stabilize the economic impacts of the pandemic. At the same time, companies are adjusting with remote, furloughed, or even laid-off workforces. As unnerving as the health and economic news is at the moment, Washington policy and the economic slowdown present rare opportunities for organizations to strengthen their resiliency.

In this episode of Employee ConnectednessUnitonomy founder Charley Miller discusses the changes in policy and the unusual opportunities companies have in the midst of the crisis with UofL researcher Dr. Brad Shuck and OnPlane consultant Martin Low

In this discussion, they will address how the U.S. government is using policy to prepare and protect the country from the second wave impact (economic) of the coronavirus that follows on the first wave impact (health). Strategic companies will take this unique time to position their organizations to emerge stronger and more resilient. This pause in “business as usual” allows for training, talent acquisition, and culture-building like never before.

Episode 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1U482Ufh9iA

Employee Connectedness is live-streamed every weekday at 10:15am EST on the Unitonomy YouTube channel. You can join there and ask questions in the chat. You can also find previous episodes posted there and on the Unitonomy blog.

Connected Employees

Full Transcript:

Employee Connectedness: Preparing for Covid-19 Policy Changes from Washington

Charley Miller 0:15
Hello Hello guys. Good morning, morning. We’re on Friday, March 27, 2020, also known as the year of the pandemic I guess if someone was to watch this many years from now. Yeah.

Dr. Brad Shuck 0:33
Yesterday we crossed into having the most cases in the world, which is crazy.

Charley Miller 0:42
Yep, that’s sort of ominous way to start our broadcasts today but is this the truth cases are skyrocketing now, everyone’s working from home, and here we are talking employee connectedness. Today we’re going to focus on all the policy that is changing in real-time. In the federal government, the United States related to employees right, there’s a lot, and nothing is fully decided. I was saying to my wife right now every day feels like a week and every week feels like a month with the rapid changes that we’re experiencing across, you know, home life or culture or work. So as we take things day by day, I thought it’d be great to have a show where we think about the sort of nuts and bolts of what’s being proposed of how companies need to work with their employees and so forth. And we’re lucky to have Martin Low here OnPlane Consulting, who studies this stuff, and knows this world as well as anyone. And of course, Brad Shuck, Dr. Brad shuck here, who is a researcher at the University of Louisville, studying employee engagement and employee experience so here’s what I’m going to do guys, Martin if you want to jump into it. I’m gonna put on the screen, this fancy presentation you have.

Martin Low 2:28
Charley I think I lost you there though.

Martin Low 2:39
All right. Um, so, you know, there’s quite a bit going on on the federal level, and to Charley’s point, you know, days feel like weeks. This was prepared as of, Sunday night, and has changed a little bit but directionally I think all the information that’s in here gives you an idea of just current state, and where things are so if you go to the next slide Charley. You know, I want to talk a little bit about just trying to tell the story and trying to frame up where, where the government’s head seems to be in terms of current state what’s happening, how the government’s responding. And then there’s a number of things we probably won’t get into that are inside of this deck around, you know, medical insurance response community response things for businesses to consider. Or look at the time, a little bit about some of those things for businesses to consider as we go through the tier one two and three responses so Charlie if you go to the next slide. So, you think about current state and where we are today and how did we get there so obviously unprecedented impacts to our society.

Martin Low 3:59
It’s it’s really not so much about this disease, in and of itself being this horrific Ebola-like threat but what it is is it spreads very quickly. Um, and because it spreads quickly and because we don’t have a lot of natural immunity to this, we don’t want to overwhelm the healthcare system and so what the government’s been stuck with is an overwhelming public health crisis, because if you in most people have seen this this was from New York Times, by way of the economist. Basically, you know you have this much capacity in the healthcare system. If we don’t slow this down, we overrun our hospitals and cause people who need treatment to not get treatment, and people who probably could make it through this with treatment can’t get treatment and either they have significant issues or others who don’t have this but need treatment can’t get to the hospitals are already overwhelmed.

And so what the government’s done is they said, “Hey, we’re gonna shut everything down to avoid this, this overload of the hospital system,” but now they’re stuck in between this rock and a hard place of, we’re saving lives and doing the right things for our people, and the healthcare system, but now we have an economic crisis that comes on the heels of that. So if you go to the next slide. So, you know, what they’re doing is this unprecedented response. And they’re looking at this in steps and a lot of this is because it has happened so fast and if you told me at the beginning of March, then at the end of March, that we would see companies layoff or furlough employees that we would see the liquidity system and banking system stretched. If you told me that pretty much everybody I work with would be triage in their business in a significant way, by the end of March I told you you’re crazy. And so what’s happening is the government is trying to move as quickly as they can, which in government terms they move very quickly but in you know terms of this. It hasn’t seemed fast enough for what they’ve done is they respond to these tiers.

So tier one was around financial systems liquidity and the actions taken by Federal Reserve Bank they’ve taken actions above and beyond this, but this really started about two weeks ago. Tier two is supporting social safety nets. We’ve seen a significant rise in unemployment applications. And in a need for the health care system, and that sort of stuff. And so this is all about those social safety nets. Tier three, which we think will come through this week is the Coronavirus Economic Stabilization Act somehow they made it in CARES, I don’t know who is in charge of setting that up is up and trying to put the acronym together and haven’t had any success with it but that’s the act. It’s sitting with the house and they expect to have a vote on that this morning. So, next slide.

So, you know, tier one was all about economic fears being worse than covid 19 actual impacts and that’s not to diminish the impacts from this virus or to say that it’s not a big deal it is, but there’s a lot of borrowed fear out there in the world right now. And that’s causing a lot of issues on the financial system doesn’t for what we do have a lot of impact on the people on the people side of a business, but is important because it allows liquidity frees up cash reduces borrowing costs significantly and really what they’re trying to do is avoid things like bank runs for someone’s inability to get cash because so many people have been drawn down the lines of credit that the banks are struggling to actually, you know, fund those loans. Alright, so to next slide.

So tier two is all about social safety net so significant increase in funding for WIC which is food stamps medical care. Appointment basically saying we know that a lot of people are going to put our work. We want to make sure that they still have the ability to get the basic services that they need, because we don’t want someone to be put in a really bad position by this. They also enacted a number of legislative changes around pay leave requirements for companies and a lot of companies and trying to sort out how they deal with this but it’s two weeks of paid sick leave requirements for all companies, under 500 employees. 12 weeks of FMLA required for all companies under 500 employees and 10 weeks of that time, up to 10 weeks that time is considered paid time off. And what they’ve done is basically they took these leave provisions that either used to not be in place in the form of paid sick leave, or not in place in the form of FMLA and trying to cover this blanket.

Martin Low 8:48
Group of Companies the small businesses that are all impacted by this today or maybe impacted by it tomorrow. But this is this under 500. And the way that they expanded the coverage on there it’s gonna impact most employers that are out there. But what they’re trying to do is they’re trying to drive cash, through the business to the employee, instead of driving it through the unemployment system to keep these businesses stood up and keep the employees there, as they’re part of it. And they’ve, they’ve put a bunch of tax incentives in there to fund those paid liens. Alright so if we go to the next slide. There’s a ton of information in here, this emergency federal medical leave expansion act this is part of that. It’s going to start on April, 2 ends December, 31, the threshold changes from over 500 employees to fewer than five or over 50 employees to fewer than 500 employees which is basically any small business eligible employees goes from someone who has had to be there for six months and worked a minimum number of hours to someone who’s been there 30 calendar days which is significant. And then adds in anybody who is unable to work or telework do the need to care for son or daughter under 18 years of age. If the school or place of care has been closed that those people go to, which, for all of us we’re dealing with school closures, it’s just a tremendous number of people. There are some exclusions inside of there, but this was put together pretty quick there’s no past precedent on it, and it’s kind of confusing about how to go about it.

If it were me, how would look at this as though it’s going to impact my business. I need to make a plan for it. And hopefully, business owners see this as the right things to do for their people, and knowing that it’s going to be backed by the government and if they can get some tax credits on the back end for it is great. So, next slide. So there’s a requirement to pay so FMLA was unpaid. Now there’s a requirement to pay and it’s really put in place in response to all the Cova 19 stuff is helps people just again with a safety net. I think the way that the government’s viewing this is is they’re saying hey look, unprecedented health crisis. We don’t want the economy to go really south, and instead of someone coming off the company’s employment and going on unemployment, if we just keep them employed and connected to the business, it makes the business that much faster to spin up later. And instead of giving them money through the unemployment system. We’re going to fund it through the employer keep them employed and keep that business intact and as a going concern. Alright. So next slide.

We don’t want the economy to go really south, and instead of someone coming off the company’s employment and going on unemployment, if we just keep them employed and connected to the business, it makes the business that much faster to spin up later.

Martin Low, OnPlane Consulting

Martin Low 11:41
And then this is a little bit about tax credits. But you know it’s covering 100% of the cost to employers is one of the things we’ve seen the first thing that every employer said is like well we can’t afford that we you know we’re trying to keep our operation going we definitely can’t add that on. So this is great that they put this in place and that that helps. So, next slide. And then tier three. So this is what everyone is watching right now, specifically for small businesses. There’s federal support coming through the SBA, and tax relief for businesses under 500 employees. They’re looking at making loans and making the very quickly to small businesses with different eligibility provisions. Those aren’t perfectly clear yet but essentially what they’re saying is, is we don’t know who’s going to be able to pay and who’s not gonna be able to pay. So instead of us trying to sort out whether or not you have enough assets or your liquid because almost everybody’s not liquid right now, they’re gonna do things like look at your payroll and give you, you know, if you’ve got, say your one month’s worth of payroll is $10,000. They might just take that times two or three or four and say, all right, well, we’re gonna sponsor you for three months because we think that’s what you need to weather the storm. Here’s 30 grand. And then in the back end of that if you’re using it for wages and you’re using it to pay off, you know rent and those sorts of things. They’re going to forgive, up to 100% of those dollars spent. And what that allows them to do then is keep these businesses up, keep people paid and instead of putting money into someone’s pocket through unemployment, they’re pushing it through the business. Alright, so I think this has been really good, especially if it allows you to do all this these are some other odds and ends that are in here, but it’s all around payroll support, supporting costs medical leave supporting salaries mortgage payments debt obligations. These are things that you normally would not have gotten an SBA loan for, but they’re doing that and then they’re also allowing, at least the first pass of this that was done over the weekend, allowed for loan payments to be deferred as well so I mean really an unprecedented move to try and shore up businesses. So, next slide.

Martin Low 14:16
Yep. So we talked a little bit about loan forgiveness. There’s a couple things in here that I think are really important as a business is trying to plan for this so you know you’re planning for in some ways the unplanned stuff. But if you look at the way that this is set up they’re basically going to ding folks for reducing their payroll. And if you can, you know, as a business owner you have the choice between hey I can get alone, I can float my payroll through this loan and I can have it forgiven for this period of time, or and get basically free labor out of the folks that are working for me because the government’s gonna fund it. Or I can lay all these people off, shoot them over the unemployment roll and destroy a portion of my business because now these are people that I got to go find later as I spin back up. And if I’m wise with this time, I can use that time for training for process improvement inside my business. There are some things in here around investments inside of the facility, and how you can appreciate that so that accelerates. So there’s this is a great time to invest in your business, if you can get through this process and if you can float the cash long enough. Now, it also does not look at compensation of employees in excess of $100,000, but a lot of times those people are able to work and able to add value anyway and companies aren’t necessarily impacting those people, those people right away. So, um, so that’s really from, from a best practice standpoint.

You know, if you go down one more slide I think, Let’s see what’s in there I go down one more slide that’s who got it. There we go. All right. So when we think about this, we think about your holistic people system, and the stuff that you might be able to do inside of this people system so we think about strategy which is all around a lot of your organization. And what you’re trying to accomplish. And then talent, which is once I know what I’m trying to do and I’m aligned to I have the right people, the right places and then culture which is all around the decisions that people make. Once they have the right objectives everyone’s aligned in the right people in the right place. So, you know if you think about best practices based on what we saw above and how you can leverage folks right now I think there’s a few things. One is, as we’ve talked about three or four times now this is an amazing time to really set up your culture, and your culture is all about what you do in times that are tough.

This is an amazing time to really set up your culture, and your culture is all about what you do in times that are tough.

Martin Low, OnPlane Consulting

This is a great time to support your leadership, you know, increase the level of communication that you have train your leaders on how to do that sort of stuff. Do some recognition put those things in talk to your folks about workplace safety, as it relates to, you know covid 19 whether that’s at home, whether that’s in your operation if you’re still operational. And then for, you know, for your business, in itself, this is a great time to step back and say how clear have I been around my mission, vision, my values. How am I using those things to give my organization purpose and the drive alignment?

And then the last thing that I think you should be thinking about is a business’s talent, and you know, this is gonna sound really crazy and very contrarian, but this should be a time when you’re thinking a lot about your talent. And the reason why I think that that’s so important is one, you want to protect the people that are really good on your team. But that’s kind of what everybody’s doing, I think the real play inside of this is, is how can you go out in the market and find two or three really good hires right now.

This is gonna sound really crazy and very contrarian, but this should be a time when you’re thinking a lot about your talent…the real play inside of this is, is how can you go out in the market and find two or three really good hires right now.

Martin Low, OnPlane Consulting

Everybody’s letting people go, or if you’re somebody that’s in a call on charter track, or if you’re somebody that’s trying to build you know some bench strength. I think that there’s going to be a lot of really really good either. Early out of college hires to be made, or people who are super talented they got impact and somewhere else that are looking for something, and you probably have a once in a generation access to really really good talent that you’re not going to get your hands on later. And nobody’s going to fight you for it because everybody is furloughing and laying off off and on a hiring freeze right now. So, you know, if you could swing it, you know, find a couple really good hires it sounds crazy, but if the government’s covering your payroll. And if you can, can shore up that part of your balance sheet. This is a great time to get it.

Charley Miller 18:55
Awesome. And I’m going to jump in because the topic is coming to mind, man, if I’m a company if I’m the leader in a company with all the chaos going on plus all this new stuff coming at me from Washington. I’m having Martin Low on speed dial, you know, Martin what the hell does this mean, how do I manage this, how do I leverage this. I love that you brought it home to say this is a lot of opportunity. I mean, in the small moments of like literally managing your cash flow right now, all the way up to the macro pieces of, you have a chance to really impact your culture, and have long term advantages come out of this in terms of the people you already have really embracing your mission and values and hiring talent outside, to make sure you’re getting the best opportunities, moving forward with the free agents that maybe are suddenly available because of the market situation.

Martin Low 19:49
We didn’t talk about internships at all but I guarantee most of the big companies have slashed their internship programs, and there’s a whole bunch of college kids who are stuck in their parents basement looking for anything to do right now. besides talk to their parents. So…

Dr. Brad Shuck 20:08
Martin I wonder what you would say to those who are looking to hire what are the what are the best ways to go find those people, how would you. How would you use LinkedIn or other platforms to go find that kind of talent and get them in to the business now. Well,

Martin Low 20:23
you know, I think LinkedIn is a great way to do it. I mean, it’s a simple, we’re hiring, get in touch with me. Here’s what we’re looking for. That creates a lot of noise because so many people aren’t. We’ve put almost 100 people into one of the businesses that we’re working for right now in the last week and a half. And the message clearly from every one of the people that we’ve sought to talk to a couple hundred people to get to that number is. Oh my gosh, can’t believe you’re hiring super excited to do this. Great to see that this is happening, and they’re just excited so you have this amazing chance to get above the noise because no one’s making any noise right now on that front. So, you know, Indeed is free and it’s a great way to get something out there, LinkedIn, you can post something up there. Obviously, we help people with that too.

Charley Miller 21:24
Yeah, I was gonna jump into some. And don’t be bashful if you’re someone looking for a job right now. Go to people that you’ve worked with before, trust you as a collaborator and say Hey, would you mind, you know, making the tweet postings on LinkedIn say hey you know this guy or girl who’s like, you know, talented. They’re not gonna be on the market for long you better grab them like it’s okay right now to leverage those really close relationships of people you’ve worked with in the past to kind of surface that you’re available. That’s absolutely the best way to get a job. In my experience, you know, anytime you put out sort of a job posting you get 1000 things back. And it’s so hard to even have the time to look through all that and your eyes start to gloss over resume after resume after resume. You know, it really works is when someone I already know and trust comes to me with a recommendation saying hey, I don’t know if you’re looking for a designer right now, but I know an amazing designer just became a free agent because the project is over or whatever it is. Oh man, I’m absolutely taking a really hard look at that person and thinking if that fits what we’re doing.

Don’t be bashful if you’re someone looking for a job right now. Go to people that you’ve worked with before, that trust you as a collaborator…it’s okay right now to leverage those really close relationships of people you’ve worked with in the past to kind of surface that you’re available. That’s absolutely the best way to get a job.

Charley Miller, Founder of Unitonomy

Dr. Brad Shuck 22:29
I think the conversation we had yesterday about collaboration, which is one of the things we talked about was inviting, right, we have to kind of invite people to be collaborative when we’re in remote settings and in this case, the collaboration kind of works both ways. And the invitation works both ways. So, it could be me going out and doing exactly what you just said Charlie Hey, I would you mind putting some information out there about me I’ve got this opportunity I’m kind of a free agent right now, I’d love to, to work on some projects and gain some experience and then matching that up on the other side of a company saying this is what we’re looking for. We’re inviting. Not like an RFP but I guess kind of like a pill like a people RFP right where we’re looking for these kinds of skill sets, who, who can help us do these things now let’s ramp up and get ready and I couldn’t agree with you more Martin I think this is a huge opportunity for companies all across the United States and the globe, for that matter. To begin thinking about alright they make a little more money. How are they. Yeah,

We have to kind of invite people to be collaborative when we’re in remote settings and in this case, the collaboration kind of works both ways. And the invitation works both ways.

Dr. Brad Shuck

Charley Miller 23:36
I’m gonna make one final comment, and then I’m gonna throw tomorrow, wrap us up, which is, I’ve done remote work for 10 years. One of the biggest benefits of it is I don’t have to hire the best person in my backyard, I can go out and look for the best person in the entire world. That is a huge benefit that companies are gonna start to wake up to right now. Now, everyone in the knowledge workspace is working remotely. Alright Martin, really appreciate you running through this today. Any final thoughts.

Martin Low 24:04
I feel like everyone’s borrowing worries from the future and borrowing worry you know you got plenty to think about today don’t don’t take tomorrow stuff on to. That to me is like one of the biggest things is you think about the financial framework and everything that’s happening, you know, just get your head down and think about that and what you need to do today and then know that there are good things coming out of this, and then if you get ahead of it now. If you start thinking about how you’re coming out of this now, and set your feet under you now, you’re going to be a month or two or three ahead of everybody else that’s in that landscape with you. And that’s going to pay tremendous dividends I’ve talked to a number of entrepreneurs who, you know, if I start off by saying things are bad, they’re like, no, this is great. You know, I had a company in LA, and it was a defining moment for us and while it was really hard for that period of time. We came out of it so good. You know, or same conversations for people that lived through the.com stuff in 2000 in the not 11 stuff in 2001. You know, if you get out of it. The landscape is going to be very very good for you, and that’s what you should start thinking about right now because everyone else is in crisis management, and you’ve got to quickly, you know, put a lid on that and then start positioning yourself in your team and get their mind around. We’re coming out of this, what are we going to look like when we come out of it.

If you start thinking about how you’re coming out of this now, and set your feet under you now, you’re going to be a month or two or three ahead of everybody else that’s in that landscape with you. And that’s going to pay tremendous dividends

Martin Low, OnPlane Consulting

Charley Miller 25:32
Alright guys, thank you again for the time this is a great lot of takeaways today Martin, thanks especially to you’ve run through all this policy changes Alright guys, I’ll be with you a Monday. See you.

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