Teri A. Coutu, Business & Marketing Consultant
The business environment is changing daily as many States and municipalities are slowly lifting stay at home restrictions, requiring countless companies to prepare to bring back staff and re-open their doors to the public. This creates a whole new array of challenges that companies and individuals need to consider as they begin planning their return to yet another altered working landscape. But, change can be good, and now is the time to take advantage of the benefits this “clean slate” offers you, your team, and your business.
Smart businesses are using this time to create a return-to-work plan that addresses the health protection of employees, customers, and vendors. But return planning needs to go beyond disinfectants and PPEs and look at repairing weak functional areas including company culture, poor job-fit, employee engagement, and team communication.
Company Culture: Each functional area begins with a focus on the well-being of employees to make sure they have the support they need for a productive return. When you consider the fact that every employee has had to adapt their life in some way over the past 2 months, there are likely to be a variety of concerns, fears, and emotions that need to be addressed in order to help employees adapt and focus in the new climate. When your workforce feels comfortable and safe, they can be engaged and productive. This is the cornerstone of an effective corporate culture, and this is the perfect time to build a strong corporate culture that employees can embrace.
Job-fit: Many leaders have been surprised by their team members’ responses to working from home. In some cases, top producers became idle, while employees who were previously disengaged stepped up. This is a signal indicating a look at job-fit/job-matching may be in order. When was the last time you looked at job roles in terms of ideal behaviors, motivation, and emotional intelligence factors instead of just tasks? Return Planning offers team leaders an opportunity to more accurately match job roles and responsibilities with employees who intrinsically possess the styles required. Better job-matching leads to increased productivity, employee engagement, and reduced turnover. Put the right people in the right roles and your business will move in the right direction.
Employee Engagement: Speaking of engagement, this is the perfect time to engage employees while also developing a solid Return Plan (and beyond). There is a long list of things to consider and address as you prepare to return to work, and true leaders recognize they may not have all the right answers. Engage your entire team by asking for their input on how best to move the company forward. A strong employee survey can provide insight into their needs and concerns, as well as what initial priorities the company needs to address, and ideas for new programs and procedures. Asking for input is a sign of respect, and employees who feel respected are more engaged than those who don’t.
Team Communication: If recent events have taught us nothing, it’s that effective communication is the key to productivity during any situation. Pre-Coronavirus, we relied heavily on tone of voice and body language during our interactions. But, society was forced to quickly adapt to using the Internet and other electronics as our primary means of communication. Online meetings and webinars are both convenient and cumbersome, and most thought-leaders agree their increased use is here to stay. With that in mind, businesses need to look at increasing the communication skills of employees, both live and remote, while also expanding the tools available to help keep people connected.
It’s All About Talent
As businesses strive to get through the incessant changes COVID-19 created, all successful solutions rely on employees. Developing a Return Plan that maximizes current and incoming talent will help make this and future challenges easier while creating a stronger and more stable business.
Utilize this opportunity to reform outdated policies, procedures, and personnel roles, and prepare your company for a healthier future.