Last week we held an open forum with HR leaders across the St. Louis area, bringing together peers to discuss how participants are navigating these uncharted waters. As we suspected, there were more questions than answers and this cohort group readily helped one another with myriad challenges. Here is a summary of what was shared:

Vaccination Practices
Understandably, what was top of mind during the discussion were vaccine mandates, exception review committees, testing and tracking, and more. More than one organization shared that they don’t yet have a fully institutionalized plan as there is so much yet to be determined. Other leaders whose organizations have taken a stance shared ideas around current or future plans. Those that shared how they are handling vaccination related efforts stressed that transparent and timely communication to employees is critical right now. Some best practices around vaccination mandates shared included:

• Set up cross functional exception review committees for religious or medical exemptions, with a defined end date on submission of accommodations
• Need to ramp up hiring efforts NOW if vaccination is a condition of employment
• Start sourcing for costs of tests and how testing will be administered to determine potential impact to employees and the organization
• Pick an approach with the information that is available now, and go with it. Wavering and changing course can erode trust and confidence in leadership.

Employee Engagement and Retention
In addition to managing the regulatory challenges in the current environment, there are also concerns around engaging
and retaining team members in a virtual or hybrid environment. We discussed how leaders are staying closely connected
to team members to understand needs. Some ideas shared included:

• Stay interviews with every team member focusing on “what keeps you here”. Then, funneling this feedback to a staff advisory committee for continued focus on sustainment of efforts such as improved recognition, virtual coffee chats for connectivity, employee resource or affinity groups, etc.
• Formal and informal surveys, again funneling feedback to an employee engagement committee to own the feedback and be a part of the change!
• Focus groups around “what’s on your mind” with lively conversation and emergence of themes for leadership to get on the same page around solutions
• Quarterly, established 8-hours of community service opportunities for every employee to encourage team
bonding and giving back to the community
• Box lunches in the office every Tuesday and Thursday to encourage in-person interactions
• Personalized cards encouraging team members to go to lunch together with instructions on how to expense to department
• Intentional conversations around development, and encouraging rotations to keep team members engaged and growing with the organization
• Implemented a leadership development cohort for leaders to support one another

Losing Talent in the Hiring Process
A final question asked by one of the participants was, “Do hiring managers realize how tough this employment and hiring market is?” Stories were shared of hiring processes taking too long and losing talent along the way. One leader shared that they are focusing on hiring manager training and expectations that interviews take precedence over all other responsibilities. With candidates dropping out of the process at increasing rates, time is everything right now!

As always, we enjoy and appreciate the willingness of leaders in our community to come together and support one another with ideas, “me toos”, and the courage to say, “I don’t know!!” We look forward to the opportunity to continue these conversations and watch the relationships grow between members of this incredibly talented community of leaders.