A Simple Back to Work Plan


Kristen Davidson, vice president of organizational development at Consumers Credit Union, shares why simple is best and employee engagement is critical when creating a back to work plan.



00:07 Lynne Jarman-Johnson: Money, I’m Home! With Consumers Credit Union from finance to fitness. We are here today. Stay safe. Stay home. But I’ll tell you what, it is important that all of us are looking at how are we going to get back into the workplace once the doors open up for us to all continue to do business again. Vice President of Organization and Development for Consumers Credit Union, Kristen Davidson joins us today. Kristen, you’re staying safe and staying home on this WebEx. Thanks so much for joining us.

00:35 Kristen Davidson: It feels really good. We stopped, pivot, and go with I would say about 70% of our workforce when it came to the original orders to work from home. It’s been an outstanding effort of taking your team members, and I’m talking even brand new team members who had been on the job for about eight business days, and looking at what are all those things that we can help and we can do and still serve our members and serve each other. And we really have re-engaged and taken our workforce, and again, we stopped, pivot and go and went down the road to different roles, to massive equipment roll-outs, and getting people prepared. And now it feels really good to kind of sit back and take a breath and go, “Alright. Now we can start to look at what does our new normal look like.” Working from home at 100% capacity with everyone in the credit union, we know is not our future, as it’s probably not with many other companies out there. And currently now looking at our offices and we’re looking at our departments at the Groves, which is our corporate building, and starting to identify and put a plan in place of bringing people back in a slow, safe manner that will keep them engaged, that will help them and be as comfortable as possible.

02:00 LJJ: I know that you have taken a look at the company as a whole. So, businesses who are listening, who are getting ready to implement a plan to go back to work, what’s your starting point?

02:12 KD: Starting point for us is while keeping three absolute core factors in mind of culture, reputation and service will always remain, really looking at that and then whatever you’re about to deploy and discuss and bring in, ensuring what are your non-negotiables, that you’re not going to go to the right side and impact culture, you’re not gonna go straight and impact service or risk. No, it’s really, you have to have your defining factors, and it kinda comes back to basic strategies. When we’re going to deploy something, what are non-negotiables to deploy? And, it’s the same thing with returning our employees back if we choose to do so, and how we’re gonna do that, and really letting your employees have a voice in that.

03:03 LJJ: When you’re talking about a roadmap, Kristen, and you say the starting point is to get employees engaged, get team members engaged … How important is that transparency of where you’re going, but then also how do you prioritize who’s starting to go back to work first? Is it just a, “Hey, my hand’s raised up. I wanna go.”

03:30 KD: Yes, that’s a good question that I think we’re getting all the time. And it’s like again, I would take it section by section, and identify within your department, or within a floor, or within a business unit, what do they currently do, what are they the best at and continue to engage them in whatever they are the strongest at. Really, I think no matter what, again, stay at home and stay safe is number one, and that’s your health, so really identifying all of your employees and figuring out who is at the least risk, number one, and then who is at the least risk without that potential social anxiety and the emotional concern of even coming back? So, really handling the health aspect first, and then layering in other logistics that could become factors. Maybe I don’t have a direct health concern myself and I’m ready to return, but there is an indirect health concern because of someone else in my family and being within that vulnerable category. Am I really the right person to bring back over somebody else who doesn’t have those factors? Other things that I think are incredibly important employers are considering, again, so the emotional … Aside from the physical health, emotional health, and then looking at people’s home logistics and their lifestyles.

04:50 KD: Childcare could be a concern. Many people have children. We talk about young children and how they’re doing online learning, but I have to tell you, I have high-schoolers, and they’re doing online learning and they’re 15 and 17, and they need me with questions. So, it’s really making sure you’re taking the time to know every employee the best you can, and what is gonna be their best fit.

05:14 LJJ: That must be then when you bring in your team leads to help with that, depending on what department someone works in to really engage. How do you then prioritize? Do you do it … Seriously, physically, do you have an Excel sheet? Some corporations that are so large, it must be very daunting.

05:37 KD: Yeah, I’m sure it is. And that’s where I would recommend you look at each business unit, or each department. You really look at those in their own kind of segment and take it down one step at a time. I definitely would recommend engaging, starting from the top of bringing in whoever the executive is of that area as an example and ensure that you’re aligned with that person, and then taking that down, and if you have potentially a vice president level or an AVP level, and making sure you’re addressing their concerns and their questions and their comments just as much as you’re cycling into that same conversation, potential plans to re-engage workforce. Then I would go down to the manager level and go through with them. I personally do have a spreadsheet, I just did of a data dump of our employees, their job titles, that’s all I have into a spreadsheet, and mine’s pretty simple, Lynne. You might find this kind of funny, but I have red, orange, yellow and green. And those are categorized for me to help me identify at a quick glance who potentially would be immediately ready to come and step into a public role, I would say.

06:49 KD: So, not necessarily a work from home role, ’cause we’re already … all of our staff is working. But they would be a first one potentially that we believe would be able to step into, let’s say, a retail office or someone to come into the Groves, our corporate facility. And then layering from there, yellow is the somebody that has no health concerns and no health risks, and they don’t live with anybody that have a health risk. And maybe they have some anxiety to coming back, or potentially they have some childcare concerns that we have to address. ‘Cause as you know, we’re trying to consider and layer in and identify who can come to work. But if you have children at home, and most of our daycare facilities are closed, or our daycare facilities maybe are somebody who are in a vulnerable category, they’re kind of off the table. We really have to talk through that and identify how can we work together to bring them back and when. So, my red, orange, yellow and green is quite simple again, but it’s a quick glance. I think it’s very easy for everyone to understand.

07:51 KD: Orange, I guess, just to address, would be somebody who lives with somebody within a vulnerable category, and red is somebody who is directly vulnerable. That’s where I’d start. I’d truly start with the health, then we layer in that emotional stuff as we look at that same color-coding system. And then, don’t forget, who wants to come back? Who truly says, “I wanna come back. I’m ready to come back.” And who doesn’t? I think the other thing, Lynne, to acknowledge and to share with people, is we are coming down a plan of bringing people back in a slow fashion. This is not a rush. And again, we have no idea what society is really gonna give us. We don’t know what the world is gonna look like in 90 days. Today, I feel like people are nicer at a grocery store than ever before. So, we see people smile under a mask, you see the cheekbones rise, and we make eye contact with people.

08:42 KD: Sometimes you’re making eye contact just because you’re fearful on, “Are they getting close to me?” And other times it’s a simple, “Excuse me,” and we wait for each other, and we just don’t know, right, what the world’s gonna bring? So, my recommendation is, really build yourself a business road map on how to bring people back, determine within your management team you’re on a three-month plan, a six-month plan, a 12-month plan? But, what I really recommend, and what I’m sharing with our management team is get a map out. Let’s do the best we can, assuming the world we know it in this moment, but know that we’re gonna have to pivot one month at a time, or if that’s a road map, consider it a mile marker. As we get closer to that mile marker, what is happening around us?

09:27 KD: Where is the curve with people with COVID? What is happening within our regions? What’s going on with the economy, and what other businesses are not allowed to open? Now that directly impacts us obviously, but those are all things that people need to look at, and as you get closer to that mile marker, you know what’s going into what I would consider month two … Do we, we maybe slow down, and if we wanted to bring back 20% in month two, maybe we need to bring back 10. Maybe we hit a stop sign and we say, “You know what? We’re not gonna do anything, and do business as is for 30 more days.” So, building that plan, having people involved with that plan, and making sure everyone is as comfortable as you can make them, I think are key.

10:06 LJJ: It really must be a focal point of the type of service a business is completing. So, I look to restaurants who currently are either shut down or they’re providing take-out or curbside pick-up, and the knowledge that when the green light goes on, there would be a tendency to say, “We are the pedals to the metal.” And yet, I think society will say whether that really happens. Will people be as open, or will they be a little reticent to head into open areas like they did before? And, will that make an impact on what business decisions have to be made?

10:54 KD: Yeah, Lynne, you nailed it. Again, build your plan and be prepared to pivot as society tells us they want to be served. That restaurant, be prepared to be fully open, be prepared to be at 50% staff, be prepared to serve only outside. Right? Be prepared to have PPE and sanitary equipment above and beyond what you have today as if you open 100%. But know that you’re purchasing items that you might only need 50% of. So, it’s truly trying to have the foresight the best that we possibly can and the information that we have today.

11:34 KD: I think that you bring up one other really important topic to talk about Kristen, and that is safety protection equipment. And, I saw that the governor in Michigan has asked us to require masks when we are in open environments that have other individuals nearby you. Meaning, when I say open environments, it’s more like closed spaces that are open. That’s a little bit of a different take, and so the supplies have to be ordered, as you just said.

12:09 KD: And, that’s something I think that also people need to be very aware of. If you don’t have masks, or you don’t have sanitary equipment, you don’t have sanitizer solution, and those are part of your return to work plan, then that’s gonna put you on pause. Right? Or maybe you are gonna open up four restaurants, but you only have 50% of the needs, then you should only open up two. And those are things that we really need to be aware of. We would think … having a similar discussion with equipment and equipment needs. And, if we don’t have enough face masks, or we don’t have enough sanitary equipment or gloves, is the right thing to do to continue opening? Or, do we need to have that as we’re hindering on the availability of these sanitizing stations, and upon those, we would then open up that next. So again, it is truly unprecedented times where people need to have an open mind and be flexible with safety being absolutely number one.

13:12 LJJ: Kristen, thank you so much. Kristen Davidson, Vice President of Organization and Development with Consumers Credit Union. Thank you so much for helping us as we do wade through these very murky waters that we have right now. But remember, it is time for you to stay safe, stay home, continue the plan that you have, and help your team members and those that you work with and live with just feel like, “You know what? They know what’s going on.”

13:40 KD: Thanks, Lynne, I appreciate it. And hopefully we’ll be able to see each other in true close quarters sooner than later.

13:47 LJJ: Oh, absolutely. I sure do pray for that. Money, I’m Home! With Consumers Credit Union from finance to fitness. If you have a topic you’d like us to address, please send them our way. We love our community focus and our community discussions, especially now that we’re focused on helping you succeed during “Stay Safe, Stay Home.” I’m Lynne Jarman-Johnson. Thank you, Jake Esselink for your production skills. And everybody have a great week.



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