It has been more than a year since the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted our lives. It came as a surprise and forced companies to rethink how to conduct their business. As restrictions were put into place to control the transmission of the virus, companies found themselves suffering as economic activities dwindled.
For companies that were prepared, its continuous operation became possible by shifting to a work-from-home setup. Others had to step up and accelerate their digital transformation efforts to maintain business operations. Though the focus of most is the continuity of operations for the business’s survival, we should also spotlight the lifeblood of the company: its people.
The immediate changes and continuous threat of the virus put negative pressure on employees’ physical and psychological well-being. In effect, it is also a challenge for human resources, as they should address the changing policies and protocols and these threats to the well-being of the employees. Companies must cope with government health protocols and create new policies and procedures to comply with directives. They should also initiate activities to address both the physical and mental well-being of their people. From a strategic human resources perspective, how a company responds would also reflect on its practice of organizational justice.
Organizational justice pertains to the personal evaluation of the ethical and moral standing of managerial conduct and has three components: distributive, procedural and interactional justice. The first component, distributive justice, refers to receiving a “just share.” This may include compensation, rewards, benefits, or even promotions. It can be distinguished into three allocation rules: providing equal shares to all, according to contributions, or those in urgent need.
The second component is procedural justice, which is concerned with the means on how the outcome is allocated. This may include consistency and fairness in the principles and processes and the unbiased, accurate and ethical allocation or decision-making process.
Lastly, the third component is interactional justice that pertains to the informational aspect, providing truthful and adequate information, and the interpersonal aspect, treating others with respect and dignity. Although applying these three components may seem tedious, these components interact, and workers can experience benefits as long as one part is maintained.
Applying organizational justice provides favorable effects in the workplace. It can strengthen employees’ trust and commitment. It can also improve the relationship between the leadership and their subordinates, thus improving their job performance. In addition, it is shown to foster organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs). OCBs refer to the voluntary commitment of employees beyond their contractual duties and responsibilities. These altruistic behaviors are customer service-oriented. Hence, it spills over to customers, strengthening customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Putting into practice
With these benefits in mind, what can companies do in the context of the pandemic? To address job insecurity, leadership should be transparent about the status of the company. Awareness of the company’s stability despite economic challenges can help alleviate the constant fear of job loss. Companies can also provide supporting compensation and benefits. This may include financial support, medical access or coverage, or providing work-from-home equipment. They can also initiate well-being sessions, such as mindfulness training, virtual fitness sessions, or social engagement sessions. Flexible working conditions may also help unburden employees. Lastly, companies should keep communications open and create opportunities to involve employees in decision-making.
In layoffs or furloughs, applying procedural and interactional justice has softened its adverse effects to both affected and remaining employees. These include warning and proper communication, transparency of procedures, and just treatment to those involved. Expectedly, providing unemployment benefits may also lessen the negative reactions of affected employees.
For my current company, they immediately put in place an initiative to support its employees. For example, as part of their Global Corporate Responsibility, they have set up an Employee Resilience Fund to help colleagues facing financial hardships due to the pandemic or other natural disasters. Personal well-being and other wellness programs are also provided, such as access to online fitness streaming platforms and exclusive wellness talks, to help us cope with these troubling times. Additional support has also been given to help ensure that our workplace is ergonomic. In addition, leadership has been transparent on where we are as a company and gave updates on business and operational plans as they changed. Lastly, there were continuous social engagements, and our leaders are proactive in checking in on their people to understand our needs. In effect, we felt the concern and efforts of the company to look after our well-being.
With the benefits mentioned, it makes sense for companies to practice organizational justice in the workplace intentionally. By incorporating this into the management practices and the company culture, companies can create additional value, positively affecting employees and customers. There is no one-size-fits-all, but if companies are intentional and strategic, they are on their way to strengthening their competitive advantage. How the company manages and responds reflects its overall image and culture. After all, once the pandemic ends, one of the topics discussed would be: what did your company do?
The author is an MBA student at the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business, DLSU. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.