As states across the country are reopening for business, business leaders are forced to rapidly adjust to the changing landscape around them. Public health concerns are at the front of every conversation now. Every day the news media leads with shockingly new numbers – stock market numbers, unemployment numbers, COVID 19 numbers which are numbers mostly referencing the number of positive cases, negative cases, and outcomes of those cases. Numbers, numbers and more numbers and not many of these numbers are good numbers.
The small business owners to the large corporations are now trying to interpret these numbers in an effort to effectively operate during these uncertain times. As these businesses re-open “their doors”, now what? The workplace itself has changed dramatically over the last two months given the social distancing edicts in place giving way to once crowded workplaces that are now near empty offices, once crowded malls are pretty much today’s version of modern ghost towns and most eating establishments have pretty much all had to implement some version of “take out” in order to minimize their operating losses. And, sadly enough, it really isn’t going to get much better anytime soon.
A recent Reuters article covered our current economic conditions. In that article, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has sketched out an altogether bumpier ride for the U.S. economy than many are predicting – one that sees business activity stop and starts for months to come until an effective treatment or vaccine for the novel coronavirus can be found.*
Other experts predict a U or V-shaped recovery, but really, only time will tell what will really happen. What we DO KNOW is that it is a new world out there, but it is also the same world. As leaders, we must lead our teams to the very best of our ability. I believe if we focus on doing four things really well, among other things of course, but if we focus on four things today, then our businesses have the very real possibility of coming thru this disruptive business cycle very much intact and intact for the long term.
4 things leaders should do now to be successful given all of the uncertainty that lies ahead:
1. Put Your Employee’s Needs First
Companies, professional sports teams, heck, any kind of team, wins from the “inside out”. Many years ago when I was in college playing football, I almost always knew if we were going to win or lose our games pretty much by the attitude and chemistry of our team on game day. We lost far too many games that we should have won because of a lack of team chemistry on game day but at the same time, we won many games that we probably shouldn’t have won on game day all because we played as a solid team. To win, and win big, focus on the win from the inside out. Put your team first! Make sure your team is healthy, comfortable, and able to express their feelings. Listen to their fears about their families and friends, their future. Making health a priority has its benefits. By taking care of your teams’ health first, they can better focus on your mission, on your customer’s needs and how to keep moving your business forward.
2. Plan and communicate the future state to your team and customers
Your business plan is still there, your purpose, goals, and mission may have changed a bit, but you still need to have a purpose, goals and mission to be successful. Yes, there are challenges. Pull out your business plan, dust it off if you need to, and reevaluate how you can still achieve your great goals and long term expectations. Your projections may look a bit shaky now, maybe you did not hit the same numbers this year as you did last year. Get those creative juices flowing to find ways to be flexible with your business. Maybe you need to add a new revenue stream, or add a new service offering or maybe you need to re-tool your business model and take out inefficiencies to maximize your profit and cash flow until better days return to your business.
Whatever needs to get done, do it and do it now!
3. Develop a robust Workforce Continuity Plan (WCP)
As the Reuters article mentioned earlier stated, we may be facing a U, V or W recovery, or something that’s not even in the alphabet. What most of us are sure of, is we are facing a non-linear recovery. We will have periods of ups and downs, economically, health-wise, and even psychologically. The marketplace and workplace will be disrupted for months, if not years, so best to make a WCP NOW on how to deal with these disruptions as a WCP will help businesses to successfully navigate these unplanned disruptions. I could write an entire blog on what a WCP is and is not, but at its basis core, it’s a plan to deal with the myriad of scenario’s that are happening right now as businesses are re-opening.
For example, what happens when you lose 20% of your workforce capacity because of an outbreak at one of your plants or office locations? What happens when your critical talent doesn’t return to your company post your furlough/layoff because they are pissed off at the company for being laid off? What happens to the quality of your workforce when given the start and stops of the economy restarts, you have to hire, rehire and then layoff again, your workforce? What happens when your more experienced and critical talent calls it a career or switches careers? What happens to the continuity of your workforce as the majority of your workforce uses their Emergency Family Medical Leave (E-FMLA) and Paid Sick Leave (PSL) all at once?
Here’s what a WCP is NOT, it’s not your typical succession chart as that approach is so “yester- year” given these current COVID 19 days that we are living in and going to be living in for years to come. And it’s not s business disruption plan that focuses more on supply chain disruptions. No, a WCP is a “real-time” people focused plan that deals with all of the possible scenarios that are happening in the workplace and this responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of the company’s Human Resources (HR) Function to figure it out. It’s an incredibly difficult time to be in the field of HR today as these HR folks are the ones out there on the front lines with the employees just as our health care providers are out on the front lines with the sick and my heart goes out to all of these HR folks. God be with all of you HR folks, all of you!
4. Fanatical Customer Service
Right now, there is bent up demand in the market. People want and need connections, people want to talk with somebody other than their dog, family or friends as they are tired of social isolation and loneliness. Now is the time your business really needs to listen to your customers with authenticity. Due to your communication and planning as mentioned above, your team is now prepared to offer its best customer service level ever. Look to set up listening posts, aka task forces, big or small, focused solely on customer needs and retention. Don’t be afraid to reach out to clients you have not worked with in a while. In these changing times, they may be receptive to your fresh ideas, and a positive attitude! Many businesses have hung up a sign stating they are unable to handle their customer’s needs, don’t be one of those businesses, be the business that says, “we are here for you, how may we assist you with your needs?”. This is the time to position/re-position your business with your customers with fanatical customer service!
Bringing it All Together,
I know, you have the world on your shoulders right now as I have this same world on my shoulders as I lead my own team forward through these uncertain times. And, you are also facing the same economic, health, and personal issues your team is facing. However, you can make it through this. Now is absolutely the time for you to shine and show the world what you are made of. You and your team have worked hard to get where you are, and a positive attitude and great leadership skills will take you farther than you have ever dreamed of! I’ll leave you with an article from Wharton on creating Opportunities in a Time of Crisis. Click Here to Read. It’s a fascinating read, and might just be the motivation you need to kick start your brain and keep that positive attitude going!
Best of luck to all of you leaders out there as we will make it through these times, stronger, together and better. You got this!
Until Next Time,
Your Staffing Partner, Darrin Rohr- President, CEO and Chief Servant
Current owner of HH Staffing and Former Chief HR Officer for several successful Multinational Fortune 500 Companies. Brings fresh perspective from decades of experiences creating Great Workplace Cultures by building high performance teams while leading and managing people from all different backgrounds. HH Staffing is headquartered in Sarasota, Florida and is uniquely positioned to serve both local and national clients.