Has COVID-19 Shifted Your Employees Into New Roles? Here’s How to Get Them Up to Speed Quickly

Employees having a meeting

April 2, 2020


5 minutes

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused serious shake-ups within many businesses. Here’s how you can shift employees into their new roles quickly and effectively.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused serious shake-ups within many businesses. Some have enacted an all-hands approach, reworking company structure and redirecting efforts from some departments to support those of others. As team members shuffle between parts of a company, it can be difficult to ensure that everyone is on the same page and up to speed on the most current information and processes.

Achieving alignment and operational visibility during this time will be vital for businesses to sustain normal operations and fulfill responsibilities in this crisis. Let’s look at how you can do it.

A Common COVID-19 Scenario

Imagine you have 100 retail locations with a receiving department, a shipping department, and all the things that go on in between. You end up with 10 department heads who must be in concert with each other to make decisions on how the operation will run. These department heads end up being the knowledge leaders and process enforcers for the company.

Now, imagine you suddenly remove one or two of those department heads from the operation. The rest of the department will fall apart without the institutional knowledge that the department heads possessed. It probably took them 10 years to develop their unique system that no one else is using. Imagine the transition planning necessary to replace those individuals.

The typical succession plan is not efficient, especially during a crisis like COVID-19, where multiple employees could be out at one time or with short notice. How can you bring information and processes together so anyone replacing these department heads can immediately get to work and make decisions without losing time trying to build a new way of doing things?

It’s important to have clear processes and maintain operational visibility into whether those processes are being followed. That also means course correcting if things are off track.

There are collaboration tools that allow companies to translate one person’s 10 years of know-how into automated workflows that can be shared and implemented by entire teams. This reduces the risk of being overly reliant on one person and gives companies the agility to move employees around while still knowing the work is compliant and following processes.

Lessons Learned From Utility Emergency Response

To understand how to manage work during the COVID-19 pandemic, we can look to utility outage scenarios to see how crews respond in an emergency when human resources are spread thin. These field service challenges have valuable lessons to teach businesses trying to respond to the current crisis.

When a storm hits a specific area, it can quickly overwhelm a local utility company. These companies rely on the help of outside crews to restore services to the community, but these crews are not familiar with the locations, equipment, processes, or people in this new community. That can put lives at risk and slow the service-restoration process.

Teams can use collaboration tools to operate in sync and in real time to share maps, give directions on their hand-held devices, take pictures of the correct equipment to be used, take payments, complete digital forms, and much more to ensure these new crews can hit the ground running.

For these situations, where people are being asked to step in with little to no training, it’s important that they have access to the people, information, and assets they need to do the work. They need to know the overall job at hand, what their specific tasks are, and when those tasks are due — all while being in regular communication with their new team and manager.

In addition, to know and accomplish critical tasks, these workers require access to all files, images, manuals, forms, and whatever else is required to complete the job. All of these are essential to establishing a defined workflow and understanding — without having to ask — what step comes next.

How to Achieve Operational Visibility in Times of Crisis

You’ll never be able to snap your fingers and instantly teach people everything they need to know about a new job. But with a virtual team in a collaborative environment, and the ability to give workers all the information they need as they go about their roles, you’ll be making the shift as efficient as possible.

graphic showing connections between people

Here are our suggestions for how to get and keep your teams up to speed during this time of significant internal reorganization:

 1. Put a process in place to verify that things are getting done.

During the reallocating of personnel, one of the main things to maintain visibility on is the completion of tasks. This not only ensures that your business is meeting its responsibilities, but it also maintains the integrity of the workflow.

For example, if somebody needs to go spray down the subway to disinfect surfaces, being able to take a photo indicating that the individual completed that work and have that documentation be part of a shared session allows the next person working in that space to know he or she can begin the task. The operational transparency gained through task verification will help your business maintain a sense of connectedness and focus on the mission at hand.

2. Identify, record, and track key assets to ensure nothing vanishes.

Managing assets with a static platform, such as Google Sheets, is cumbersome and likely to become out-of-date quickly. During a time when resources are in high demand and often scarce, it’s imperative that you maintain strict visibility over all mission-critical assets — whether that’s ventilators, vehicles, or production units.

It’s possible that the individuals usually in charge of keeping track of such equipment might become ill or be reallocated to another department, so you’ll need a more reliable method of record keeping. Implement an IoT network to digitally track high-value, essential items, and integrate that tracking data into your larger collaboration system.

3.Identify the tools you’re going to use to manage your collaboration.

Find your tools of record that contain job content and process documents to empower people to understand your workflow on each type of task. You need a way to update these quickly and efficiently, so if the documents are in paper form, they’ll need to be digitized.


A system like Coolfire can even make these processes more multidimensional and dynamic. For instance, you can build a real-time operations manual with integrated chat, tasking, status updates, and notifications. By orchestrating people once they’re up and running, Coolfire becomes like a digital twin of how companies self-organize by synthesizing the tools of record, workflows, communication, and collaboration.

Companies in every industry are scrambling to figure out how to continue operations amid the many changes caused by COVID-19. If you can be flexible in addressing new challenges while keeping all staff current and connected, your teams have a better chance of staying solid through this and into the future.

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