Managing a decreasing workload is challenging for employers as well as staff. In our recent report to better understand the HR impact of Covid-19, more than one-in-five (22%) job-seekers said that dealing with a decreasing workload was their biggest challenge.
We know from the same report, that keeping staff motivated and productive is a priority for HR decision-makers as they grapple with the continuing challenges of home working while preparing for a return to the workplace.
Look at the wider business opportunities
One thing that Covid-19 has taught us, is that businesses must adapt and evolve to survive. Often, businesses tend to ‘do what they’ve always done’ simply because they don’t have the time or resources available to look strategically at their business from a strategic or entrepreneurial point of view. As a result of the pandemic, many organisations will have been forced to think and act differently and to consider new ways of diversifying and broadening their appeal.
Why not involve your employees in these strategic discussions? They may have insights and suggestions that you haven’t considered. Not only could this lead to new opportunities but having a frank discussion with staff can build loyalty and motivate them to lean in and contribute new ideas and fresh thinking.
“During times of crisis, business issues become amplified, which means problems that may have surfaced in 5-10 years are coming to fruition now instead.”
Source: Stephanie Burns, Forbes
Larger companies may have dedicated business growth specialists whose role is to secure new business opportunities. But smaller firms should listen to staff from all levels of seniority. You may be surprised to find that a junior staff member has an unexpected contact or a suggestion for a new service that you could deliver.
You may wish to incorporate a dedicated ‘taskforce’ which takes responsibility for working alongside your senior leadership team to identify any wider business opportunities. By inviting staff from different departments or different levels of seniority, you can build an engaged workforce who feel like they are playing an important role in business development. It can help them to feel appreciated and motivated to learn new skills that they can take into their existing role, strengthening their capabilities.
If your employees have time on their hands, why not set them to work on your business if there is not enough work for them to do in your business.
Pay attention to individual performance
Now more than ever, it’s important to pay attention to individual staff performances. We appreciate that there are significant challenges involved in line management if your team is working remotely. But you must maintain sight of the staff who are working harder than ever. You should also pay close attention to those who may be struggling with isolation and need extra support.
“Remind your team about the big picture and how their work fits into it. Review short-term goals regularly and adjust as needed. If some members can’t carry out all their usual work, consider other skills they can lend to others to meet team goals.”
If your staff is affected by decreasing workloads, then now could be the time to work closely with individuals to establish long-term career plans which align with your business growth plan. For instance, if you are considering moving into a new service area, has your team got the required skills to manage this? HR teams may be interested in using this unexpected downtime to look into data analytics. Can you spot the employees who may be showing leadership potential? If so, you can start to find ways to incorporate new opportunities into their workstreams, allowing them to progress and enhance their chances of gaining a promotion.
Invest in learning and development opportunities
In addition to individual performance, you could encourage employees to identify any current or future training needs. This may be a good time for team managers to consider how best to upskill teams in line with the new needs of the business.
Let’s take marketing as an example. This is a profession that has many niche specialisms. You may have a team who each have individual strengths, but can you use this time to upskill employees in adjacent areas? You could have a successful copywriter – can you provide them with SEO training so that their content is more effective with search engines? Likewise, are your graphic designers comfortable in designing for print as well as digital? Can they learn any animation skills which will allow them to move into video design?
Investing in staff development can have many benefits. It can allow you to offer stronger services (and potentially increase your revenue stream). It can also ensure that staff remain motivated and engaged. If they feel that you are supporting their career aspirations, they will become advocates for your brand, and your staff retention levels may improve.
The last thing you want is for staff to idle away their time. Are there any internal systems and processes that you could involve them in? For example, could your HR team create new policies relating to internal communications? Could your marketing department conduct an audit of your website or marketing collateral? Could your PA work more closely with your operations or facilities teams?
However you choose to keep your staff engaged and motivated, the end result is likely to be a business that is better equipped to succeed in the future and which has a workforce that is more skilled, more engaged and more committed than they were before we went into lockdown.
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