Normal business strategies and the management of employees have been turned upside down. Businesses both large and small are struggling with attracting and retaining talent. For small and medium-sized business owners it's time to reflect on how the workforce has changed and implement strategies to keep employees connected and productive during times of uncertainty.
While many owners have managed their workforce without internal human resources (HR) expertise, COVID-19 highlighted many new and complex issues. In addition to managing the financial aspects while faced with an economic downturn, they also had to deal with an abundance of HR challenges. These include the physical and mental well-being of their employees; regaining productivity levels while working remotely or hybrid, or under new safety protocols; and dealing with engagement and culture of a decentralized and isolated work force.
So, how do business owners find the balance between careful strategies to improve operations while trying to stay connected and retain key talent? The following considerations should be top of mind for business owners to consider as we recover from COVID-19 and prepare for crises in the future.
1. HR as a sounding board for owners
During an intensive and stressful time, you need someone to listen to your employee and workplace issues, risks, and uncertainties. Rather than working alone, it's critical you reach out to HR experts to bounce your ideas off, to obtain best practices and immediate HR advice and solutions to meet your needs.
Whether it be an urgent standalone issue or a more strategic look at your workforce for the future, a second set of eyes and a fresh perspective can often help put things into better focus.
2. Leadership and management support
Successfully managing a crisis comes down to solid leadership that adapts quickly, is agile, and makes decisions in the best interests of all people. Leaders have been called to make rapid decisions and lead their organizations in what is unchartered territory. Uncertain times mean leaders have to adapt day-by-day to a number of people management issues.
Helping your leaders and managers adapt to the new realities of remote and hybrid workforce arrangements is key to remaining competitive.
3. Return to work programs
As business owners implement some form of return-to-work programs, you'll likely come up against some resistance form your employees. It's imperative to continue to prioritize employee health by maintaining regimented health and safety policies and protocols. Some businesses may want to continue offering flexible and remote working practices. In fact, to accommodate people working in a space they feel most safe, this will be reality for most businesses.
Outlining a plan and communicating it effectively to get workers back into the swing of things will ensure a smooth return to work for employees.
4. HR policies update
The COVID-19 crisis has led to an entirely new working environment for many businesses. Whether it be adapting to employees working remotely, addressing new health and safety measures, or adjusting to the closure or partial closure of the business, owners are having to navigate new waters without formal policies to guide them. Businesses may find that their policies do not have the proper provisions for strategies to deal with the change in their workforce.
Additionally, the current remote working or hybrid models may not be written in such a way to protect both the business and the employees. There are a number of considerations here: how to manage workflows, communication practices, resource requirements, insurance, and health and safety concerns. Having a policy in place to address these issues is necessary to create consistency in these practices. Keep in mind that some of your people may be more open and flexible with new arrangements while others need more guidance.
You need to attract and retain talent, we're here
We provide support for small and medium business owners with Virtual HR services. Our team of certified and experienced HR advisors are a phone call or a virtual video session away from providing immediate answers to all HR issues as they arise, or implementing longer-term HR strategies for tour new world of work.
Hali Van Vliet, VP People Advisory
Marc Fournier, National Leader, People Advisory