One of the main challenges to all business leaders and managers posed by the coronavirus crisis is answering the question “Is it possible to lead well, or even to lead at all, when the leadership team and the organisation it leads are not able to be physically together in a shared, three-dimensional space?”
Whilst the UK vaccination programme is proceeding well, with the target of inoculating everyone over the age of 18 by the end of July still on track, it is not clear what steps organisations will adopt to return people fully to the workplace and offices.
The key point to underline is that there are no blueprints for business leaders to follow in this pandemic lockdown situation. There are, however, good frameworks that can act as tramlines and help managers navigate a way through, rather than simply relying on using ad-hoc intuitive decision making. Covid 19 is the biggest challenge to leadership most of us have ever seen. It will expose the worst leadership and illuminate the very best.
Crises like this pandemic tend to follow a clear pattern of required decision making and analysis and it is therefore helpful to understand these so that business owners and their managers can safe-guard the business and its future.
The decision-making steps that should be identified when looking at managing the return to work are as follows:
Step 1 – Response Phase – The need for business leaders to analyse and understand the acute situation and make some initial decisions to ensure business continuity and take visible steps that employees can see and respond to. A key trait that business leaders must show in this phase in abundance is balancing any tough decisions with empathy.
Step 2 – Recover Phase – From the initial decisions in the response phase, learn any lessons and plan ahead to emerge stronger for the new business context.
Step 3 – Build Phase – Start shaping the business for the new environment and new business practices.
The actions that should be followed are:
It is important to be aware of any changing factors on your approach to ensure that you instill stability into the business operation and help deliver a ‘best practice approach’.
The overall goal is about ensuring the financial stability of the business by protecting revenues and managing costs.
Whilst the decisions at the start of lockdown were about stopping production/closing outlets and offices, keeping sales going, moving staff to remote working, calling on cash resources, using furlough or even laying off staff, the focus during the latest lockdown shifted to engaging with staff to make sure that they could thrive in the new situation. This was made possible by ensuring that they had the right technology and communications support.
The focus for management about the return to work is about creating a common purpose and sense of belonging to reinforce the corporate culture. This is where a employee reward scheme or good benefits package that includes a reward and recognition program comes into its own.
Good leaders and good organisations are bold and do the right things for their people. In the case of the pandemic, these organisations have invested in not only ensuring that their people have the right technology, but that they also have the right health and wellbeing support.
This should be provided through the employee benefit schemes available to provide the stress and anxiety support that has been so important over the last twelve months. An employee assistance programme will give access to the counselling support that many people need. This can be supplemented through mental health support through both remote sessions as well as training mental health first aiders in the business who can be the first line of support.
A good reward and recognition programme brings with it a range of communication tools that ensure that all staff can be reached. The hard task for businesses is to ensure that working teams, whether they are in a workplace or working remotely, are engaged with one another. Creativity and successful growth delivery depend on spontaneity and repeated unplanned iterations.
The adopted reward and recognition platform should include a range of options to reward employees including peer to peer, manager to employee and employee to manager. It should also allow businesses to incentivise outstanding efforts with monetary rewards or perks. The platform should allow personalisation of the look and feel so that the company brand and values are reinforced to all employees.
Business owners need to remember that a reward and recognition solution is separate from the pay package, although it can also be monetary in nature. Reward and recognition programmes aim to provide a psychological benefit to employees and make them look good in front of their peers and teams. It will help the business build a resilient organisation during and beyond the pandemic crisis.
Managing Director, Busy Bees Benefits
Provider of the SmartHive Platform
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