Wearing face coverings, handwashing and keeping our distances are critically important features of our current reality. This presents a real challenge for employers as finding the right balance between employee self-sufficiency and valued high-touch service has been a long-standing struggle for most. While “high-touch” does not necessarily mean face-to-face meetings, it does mean a high level of personal attention, which is often more impactful if done in person.
Employee onboarding activities are typically at the higher end of the personal attention spectrum. Currently, much of it is done through video conferencing, video training, reading material and manuals, etc., all with the objective of imparting a specific corporate culture and conveying a sense of belonging without actually sitting down with any team member for an in-person chat. Many of us are comfortable with a video call but for a number of individuals, it’s just not the same. Employers are having to find creative ways to foster employee cohesiveness and engagement (e.g., social coffee chats, pet introductions, recognition presentations, all done virtually).
On the mobility side of things, suppliers have had no choice but to adapt their procedures to the various sanitary and distancing requirements. The two areas that are the most affected by reduced in-person contact are the move of household goods and housing (purchase/sale or rental). For these activities, it is the personalized, often face-to-face, service that gives employees and families the confidence that their interests are top of mind. The challenge in this COVID environment is instilling that confidence while minimizing personal contact and, when it is necessary, ensuring safety.
Movers who have taken this challenge seriously have focussed on training employees to interact with clients safely and maintain a protected working environment. As an option, they will provide moving estimates and counselling via video while still providing these services in person if requested. Additional safety can be arranged, for example, by having movers deliver household goods to the new residence a few days before the family moves in to lessen any risk of transferring the virus.
For housing searches or sales, the traditional tactile approach has had to change. As well, the reluctance by some to take advantage of the home search trip or to travel back for home sale-related responsibilities adds to an already challenging process. Technology is playing an even more important role and scheduling home visits has become riskier and more complicated. The visiting party will need to conform to the rental or owners’ specific requirements, which may include COVID screening and on-site instructions (e.g., a no-touch directive) and post-visit cleanings. As well, the realtor and client will most likely have to use separate means of transportation to and from the appointments. A process that can create a fair amount of stress at the best of times is not getting any easier to navigate. It takes very good communication strategy to motivate transferees to persist despite what they see as barriers to a smooth relocation.
While high-touch service, when needed, has traditionally favoured in-person attention, the pandemic has significantly limited our ability to engage using this approach as easily as it had been prior to 2020. Employers and suppliers will have to continue to work together to find innovative ways to transmit the level of comfort and connection required to set relocations on the path to success.