As the business community comes to grips with Coronavirus (COVID-19), they are altering the way work gets done. Your company probably has implemented hygiene standards throughout your operations and expanded work-from-home functionality for as many staff members as possible so workers can practice crucial social distancing. Your people’s health is the top priority. But while containing the spread of the virus and exhibiting compassion for those affected, firms still must maintain supply chains, deliver outputs, and service their customers.
As the virus infiltrates every sector of our lives, corporate communications and leadership become even more critical. Managing the business crisis can lend a sense of normalcy to workers’ otherwise chaotic lives. By instituting control over business operations and workforce management, organizations can keep workers busy, productive, and in good spirits. Managing a workforce is made more difficult in times of emergency. Crucial information may be missing or inaccurate; workers become decentralized and difficult to organize; and resources are difficult to source and mobilize. Help your business preserve operational, financial, and quality control by heeding these tips during times of upheaval:
Strong action and confidence from the C-suite fosters calm and confidence throughout the workforce. Staff does not expect the CEO to have all the answers, but the workforce does demand decisive action based on the best available intelligence. Crises, by nature, are dynamic, requiring leaders to reassess their positions constantly. Do not be afraid to countermand an order for fear of appearing weak. Managers and individual contributors will respect you more for admitting you are not infallible and are willing to adjust based on new developments. Leaders may also find it appropriate to alter their management style during times of turmoil. Organizations that pride themselves on a flat organizational structure may, when disaster strikes, benefit from a “martial law” mentality – a more rigid, hierarchical system with an authoritarian at the helm.
To keep workers’ allegiance, make sure all decisions and directives first consider their health and safety. No customer or business objective is worth putting people at risk. Heed medical experts’ guidelines. Save for proprietary or strategic data, do not be afraid to share the information you use for basing your decisions. Employees, contractors, freelancers, clients, and suppliers will appreciate that yours is a difficult position. Showing them the inputs that led to a course of action demonstrates that you do not take such matters lightly or make decisions on a whim.
Companies that have used freelancers or consultants extensively or have implemented a robust telecommuting program for full-time staff have reaped big rewards. Part of the payoff comes from worker loyalty, a repayment of the trust shown by the companies they work for. People who work well independently and take on enterprise projects without being expressly asked usually make the best remote workers. There is no need to “check in” with them to ensure they are busy and productive. The same should be true with employees thrust into working from home as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) or any other crisis. If you trust your workers, resist the desire to spend resources peeking into their daily routines to make sure their noses are always to the grindstone. Intervene only if daily or weekly production fails to measure up to their historical performance. Working from home is all about flexibility.
However, this does not mean you should allow remote workers to operate without direction. Set explicit guidelines on project objectives and deadlines. Invest in a project management software, if there are many, varied tasks and several team members working from disparate locations. The software graphically displays who’s responsible for each milestone, how tasks interact, what resources are required, and what progress is being made. As a manager, you can determine if that progress is satisfactory, if you need to commit additional resources, or if a team member’s performance warrants discipline or training.
A crisis that forces you to assign team members to work from home can also take them out of action. They may become ill themselves, need to tend to an ailing family member, or take care of children who may be out of school. While some relish the freedom of remote work, others can feel isolated and unsupported. Depriving workers of the social aspect of work, the ability to brainstorm and collaborate closely, or just share a coffee break with colleagues can detract from their efficiency. That’s why project team members need to closely monitor each other’s availability and performance. To power through the crisis’s distractions, teams may find that technology improves communication and organization. Video conferencing provides face time that can spur camaraderie and a shared sense of purpose that keeps workers motivated to accomplish a shared sense of purpose.
Working with their managers, teams should be prepared to pivot from their original objectives. The state of emergency has forced businesses to rein in expenditures, scramble to replace foreign suppliers, and reassess distribution channels. As a result, teams and their leaders should reconsider their priorities and deliverables. Some projects – a marketing campaign or software development, for example – may be postponed until the economy recovers, long after the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic wanes. If so, the task force could be reassigned to other duties or the deadline could be relaxed. In other instances, projects may take on greater urgency in the Coronavirus (COVID-19) context. In those cases, teams would need to ramp up efforts, perhaps requiring more people, sophisticated communications and design tools at home, with greater autonomy.
Lessons To Be Learned
The current health crisis contains lessons to be learned by all – governments, healthcare professionals, and businesses. Smart companies will inject management, communications, crisis preparedness, and workforce productivity lessons imparted by the situation to further their business goals long after the current threat has passed.
Work-from-home and other flexible work arrangements are the wave of the future. To take full advantage, firms will invest in technologies that enable remote workers to communicate and collaborate seamlessly. They will train team leaders and project managers in the skills required to oversee dispersed workers responsible for various critical tasks. They will make more comprehensive use of labor data to help them cope with and respond to future disruptions. And they will implement and expand their use of consultants, freelancers, and contract workers to meet their companies’ dynamic talent needs.
How We Can Help
Our team can develop and carry out a talent management program to help you maintain business continuity during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis and to prepare for the next business disruption. Having and accessing viable, diverse sources of critical skills empowers you to maintain business continuity and minimize the negative impacts that disruption can bring to your organization. Furthermore, using mature technology and expert insights from our experienced team, we leverage your team’s institutional knowledge, internal strengths, and workforce expertise to build in scalability and responsiveness to market forces.
We can integrate labor suppliers and talent platforms, supercharge your employer profile, or run your entire hiring function – including recruitment, background check, employment history, and experience vetting, and candidate interviews. Whatever your workforce management needs, our team is able to customize a solution to meet your needs. Contact us today.