As the UK starts to come out of its Covid induced hibernation, companies are starting to grapple with the challenges posed by the financial, legislative and customer encounters they have to face. With high streets facing much reduced footfall, customers nervous about shopping for anything other than the basics and hospitality still dormant there are huge challenges to be faced.
Business owners are busier than they have ever been, with so many plates to spin; Health and Safety requirements, risk assessments, Government guidelines, new products and services and staffing issues and concerns, to say nothing of financial matters. Trying to win and keep customers while keeping both them and their teams safe, observing social distancing and managing the supply of personal protective equipment are all new issues for businesses to tackle. Help with some of these issues is much needed.
Businesses are looking at the staff and skills that they have available to them – some of their teams still working, some furloughed and some already made redundant; and trying to find a way forward. Today’s figures suggest that 600,000 fewer people are on UK payrolls at the end of May than were in March.
So where can we find some positives in this unprecedented situation?
Companies have looked long and hard at what they do and how and where they do it. Distilleries have turned from making gin to making hand sanitiser, restaurants have discovered the market that is there for good quality take-aways, small local shops who have been able to keep going have found a whole new customer base and some have created websites and are trading as online shopping/delivery services.
Businesses have discovered that teams can work remotely and that new technology can be an enabler of work processes – people now calmly chat on Zoom or hold meetings in Teams without batting an eyelid, and are discovering productivity improvements, travel time reductions, and better ways of communicating business-critical information. Some of these new practices will continue to save time and money and increase flexibility going forward into the ’new normal’.
And thinking about the positives on the staffing front, the 600,000 people who have lost their jobs have a wealth of skills to bring to the job market as it comes alive again.
Companies faced with hard choices to make about their own staffing have to consider their options. Is it time to restructure to get a different shaped or sized workforce? Are we forced by circumstances to make redundancies or can our whole team return to business when the regulations allow us to?
As a business, the key factor we have to keep in mind is that we need our workforce to be as agile, flexible and skilled as it can be to enable us to succeed in challenging trading conditions. Look ahead and think, not only of the skillset we need now to trade, but what might we need in the future. It’s time for the crystal ball to look into the future and see what skills we might need. Think about what technical and professional skills you need but don’t forget to factor in communication and technology skills and the critical interpersonal skills you need going forward.
On the first day of retail trading this week, most local shops had a ‘meeter and greeter’ at the door – there was a world of difference in how people were tackling the role. Some encouraged, welcomed and reassured, others nagged and shouted – which shop would you want to give your custom to?
Taking the time to think about what you need in the company going forward gives you the chance to be confident that if you choose to restructure, have to make redundancies or have the luxury of going forward with your existing team you will have made sure you gave yourself the best possible chance of trading your way successfully out of these difficult conditions.
It can often be easier to think through those challenging decisions if you have an external ‘critical friend’ to pose the questions, and support you to think through your answers, and help you to consider the legislative constraints that surround your choices.
Using an external HR specialist for this can ease your load and help you to consider the full range of options available to you by offering advice and guidance on all of the staffing issues you face.
Contact Sue Willmott HR, as we can help you to work out your options and make sure you can go forward with confidence.