Your People and Planning for the Reset
There is an old African proverb called The Fable of the Lion and the Gazelle. To survive every day, the lion must catch the slowest gazelle. For the gazelle to survive, it must outrun the fastest lion. The message for both, “When the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”
Regardless of industry and how positively or negatively positioned a company has been through the COVID-19 crisis, we face a new post-pandemic business normal to varying degrees. We defer to healthcare experts and government leaders as to timing, but as a business leader, you should be planning now for a successful restart of your company when the sun finally comes up.
According to a recent article from McKinsey & Company, there are “five horizons” or 5 R’s that leaders and companies need to think about and act upon during this time and beyond: Resolve, Resilience, Return, Reimagination, and Reform. We are going through the Resolve and Resilience stages now (cutting costs, monitoring cash flow, retaining or transitioning employees, preparing to return, and planning to normalize operations).
All of us have been inundated with content regarding the current situation. However, what about this new post-pandemic period applies to your people? As business leaders, our task is now to manage an efficient restart, a comeback in stages, and begin running toward a better future. The way to make that happen is to focus on your workforce through planning, communications, and deciding whom to bring back and when since it is your people who will determine the outcome.
Planning for the Return
In a recent survey by Fishbowl, 80% of workers across the country do not feel safe going back to work if their state were to reopen immediately. While the data varies by area, these are startling numbers that point out that there are still many unknowns relating to widespread testing and a vaccine. Regardless of the size of your company, you could also face litigation if any employment laws are broken. What is an employer to do?
Returning after such an abrupt forced shutdown will be challenging, especially with a fearful and reluctant workforce. To overcome these hurdles, three areas of planning will be crucial: business and operational considerations, communications and timeline, and then a plan to return to the workplace.
BUSINESS & OPERATIONAL CONSIDERATIONS
Refer to plans that you may already have in place, such as your original business plan or strategic planning you may have engaged in before the pandemic to serve as a guide. Working with an HR consultant may help in developing Disaster Recovery and Infectious Disease Control Plans, as well as a plan for normalizing operations. Review your financials, develop a 13-week cash flow forecast, and determine your priorities by function and location. You may have previously had an annual 1-3-5 year plan for your business. Now, focus on a 30-60-90 day plan. If your HR Team has been working remotely, they will need to be one of the first back to the office to assist in staging the return of your workforce and ensuring compliance.
COMMUNICATION & TIMELINE PLANNING
Perhaps noted author, John Maxwell, put it best during a recent webinar addressing leadership during COVID-19: “The best thing we can do right now is not to do business, but just do relationships.” As a leader, continue to stay in touch with your people and keep them focused during this trying time. Communicating the return should be positive, but also respectful. In this phase, determine a timeline for bringing back teams in order of priority. Build a communication plan for employees returning onsite denoting the reasons why, work schedules, expectations, safety measures, and explore options for continued remote work if possible. While portions of your workforce may already be remote, or able to WFH, it will also be essential to address furloughed and laid-off employees. Each is a different category that requires a separate communication plan. Furloughed employees will be more accessible, as they never left your system. Laid-off employees you choose to bring back will have to be rehired, onboarded, and put back into your system. This period is also an excellent opportunity to top-grade your talent (more to follow).
RETURN TO THE WORKPLACE & DAILY OPERATIONS
Do you have the staffing to handle the process and administrative functions in your operation? This phase is where you can get detailed in terms of how your people will enter and exit the facility, temperature or other testing procedures (many mobile temperature check methods are available), having suitable PPE on hand, signs for social distancing, personal hygiene, and practices for overall facility cleanliness and sanitation. All are to reduce fear and meet new OSHA, CDC, and state requirements. Prior training and instruction on these new procedures will be crucial as your employees return.
To assist your business in planning for your return, we have put together a Post-Pandemic Checklist — A Human Resource Guide to Normalization of Business Operations (PDF) for your review and use.
Reimagining the Future: Topgrading Your People
The COVID-19 crisis will reveal problem areas in your business, but also opportunities to improve. Perhaps the most critical ingredient to a company’s success in this new era will be the people we surround ourselves with as we embark on this journey. Consequently, we have been provided a painful yet unique opportunity to improve the quality of talent driving our business forward.
The wife of one of our BEST Stakeholders manages a retail store in a local mall. She had the unfortunate task of laying off her people during the shutdown, but she has kept in touch with her team and intends to bring most of them back when they reopen. However, there is one who will not be invited back due to poor performance and bad behavior. For others, she will promote and increase their hours when they reopen. She has been topgrading her people.
Topgrading talent is an interviewing philosophy that seeks out the highest quality workforce by ensuring that acquisition and development focus on the most talented, well-rounded performers, as well as those with a cultural fit. Click here for a useful article on how to “Topgrade your people for post-pandemic success.” While this challenging time may appear to be an odd opportunity to address topgrading, it is a perfect time to do so. All organizations, no matter how they’ve been affected, should be reimagining their operations and looking intently at ways their business can improve. Whether it is to preserve cash flow or to bring a new service or product to market, or a new business standard, there is no better time to review your team than right now.
When rehiring those laid off or hiring new employees as we come out of the crisis, utilize specific behavioral-based assessments to identify their cultural fit. Now is an ideal time to shed professionals with damaging, negative attitudes and poor behaviors, no matter their skill set. Talented people are now looking at their career growth options, and there you will find those who will be a better fit and improvement.
This process does not mean you do not care as a company— far from it. It means you care deeply about the ultimate success of your company and your people. Recognizing the need to top-grade your talent is the ultimate spirit of collaboration, strategic thinking, and positive intention to face this crisis and become a better company as a result.
Prepare for Reform
Back in January and February, you were probably riding high, and then March came. How many times did we say to ourselves, “I’ve never seen anything like this,” or “I wish we were more prepared for this?” As we get closer to normal, business leaders will also reflect on those that were there for them during this time and those who weren’t. As you reconsider relationships and your supply chain, the government will be taking a more active role in labor policy formation, as the FFCRA and CARES Act have demonstrated.
How will the world look six months or a year from now? As a business leader, you should be prepared for new regulations and mandates as we all seek to avoid another crisis. There will be significant changes we will have to manage, whether they are financial (cash flow, need for reserves, loan availability, or increased lines of credit), or related to how we care for our employees (healthcare crises usually bring reforms to benefit and safety programs). Reforming the workplace to increase social distancing will be another factor, whether in a factory, an office, or WFH.
On the bright side, times of significant change bring opportunity. Leaders who plan and act now, continually communicate with their employees, customers, and supply chain, and take a proactive approach to their changing world will do much better than those who don’t. The last stage of a grieving process is acceptance and then moving forward. In the meantime, take care of your people since they are your most tangible asset and the ones who will make your return a lasting one. The sun is rising, and whether you are the lion or the gazelle, it is time to start running.
One of the lasting effects of the COVID-19 outbreak will be the continuing growth of the remote workforce in light of current forced trials. Both the pros and cons of remote work to your company will be especially clear after the outbreak has passed. As business leaders and employees, there are many benefits, behaviors to look for, and best practices to successfully implement remote work in our companies as we plan for a future without social distancing and containment. What better time than now to plan?
Click here for our Special Section on Coronavirus Business & Leadership Response Resources, which is updated daily with the latest news, and how you, as a business leader, can best respond.