This is not about politics.
This is about civic and social responsibility.
Voting is a precious, hard-earned, fundamental human right. Yet billions of people around the world are not allowed to voice their opinions on how their countries are run. Those who are often face a gauntlet of confusing processes, noisy campaigns, persistent misinformation and general apathy. Voting may be a right, but it’s not easy. This is why, according to the Pew Research Center, only 55.7% of the U.S. voting age population cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election.
Voting is a personal choice and responsibility. However, companies also have a responsibility to help their employees exercise this right. This is especially true on the frontline. This doesn’t mean organizations should take sides or add to the election confusion. Instead, employers should do everything they can to make sure people have the opportunity to vote—in 2020 and beyond.
Here are 4 things you can do to support your frontline employees during an election.
#1: Reinforce the process
Some employees are election veterans who have been voting for decades. Some just became eligible and are voting for the first time. And some have been eligible for a while but have never taken part in the electoral process. Regardless of past experience, do they all understand how voting works in their state. For example, do they have the option to vote by mail? Can they register until election day? When does early voting begin? You have your employees’ attention at work. They rely on you for accurate, timely information to do their jobs. Help them cut through the noise and find the information that matters. Here’s an example of a video on the importance of voting, available to all Axonify customers in our Content Marketplace.
#2: Establish clear workplace guidelines
Voting is fundamental. Politics is divisive. It can make people passionate, frustrated, defensive and angry. While you may try to keep your workplace neutral, emotion is likely to impact people’s performance as an election approaches. Establish clear policies for what is/not permitted when it comes to politics at work. For example, what should managers do if an employee posts a campaign flyer on the break room bulletin board? How should employees respond if asked about their voting preference by a customer? Be consistent in how you hold people accountable for their actions, regardless of political preference. Make an honest and transparent effort to separate social discourse (civil rights, public health, voting process) from partisan rhetoric (candidate preferences, campaign advertisements).
#3: Schedule time to vote
In the U.S., federal law does not require organizations to provide employees with time off to vote. Some states and counties have guidelines. Some unions have this included in their contracts. Regardless, every company should take proactive steps to make sure employees have the time they need to vote. Corporate employees can usually take care of this on their own because they control their schedules. Frontline workers, however, are scheduled based on business requirements. Their shifts can change from week to week. Therefore, human resources and operations should partner to make sure frontline employees have the time they need, either during early voting periods or on election day. This is especially important if vote-by-mail is not available in their region or when voters have to wait in extremely long lines at polling locations. This process should observe local guidelines and personal preferences, as some employees may wish to vote in person despite the availability of other options.
#4: Provide support before, during and after the election
An election doesn’t end once the results are tallied. After all, there are winners and there are losers. The passion that builds to election day quickly transforms into celebration for some and disappointment for others. Employees will carry these emotions with them on the job, regardless of your attempts to keep politics out of the workplace. Some people may look to express their satisfaction and excitement. Others may be trying to work through anger or depression. Provide clear guidelines on what will/not be permitted, regardless of an election’s outcome. Make sure employees know what resources are available if they feel overwhelmed and need to speak with someone. Managers should also look for behavior changes or signs of emotional struggle and be ready to step in to provide support.
This post isn’t about the 2020 U.S. presidential election. This post is about perspective. It’s about seeing the frontline as people first, employees second. You can help people do their best at work by helping them live their best lives. This includes a range of topics, from weather preparedness and infection avoidance to financial acumen and voting. But first, you have to acknowledge that people bring their whole selves to work, not just what they need to do the job. Michael C. Bush, CEO of Great Place to Work, made this point on The 80 Percent podcast.
“Courageous conversations are required to take courageous actions. Courageous action is needed now. Should organizations say nothing regarding what they believe in or what they don’t believe in? Well, they have a choice. I think that if they choose not to do it, then what they’re asking employees to do is go through life with certain experiences and come to work and forget all of those things. You’re at work now. Well, robots can do that, but people can’t. They can’t ignore what they see and what they hear. It shapes them. It affects them. If a place is going to be a great place to work for all, you can bring your whole self to work.”
Be safe. Be well. Be kind to the frontline.