We are living in unprecedented times. We are at the end of the first quarter of 2020, and it looks like a long road ahead full of challenges for corporates, entrepreneurs as well as for people in general. The coronavirus has taken a toll on the world in many ways. People have lost their loved ones. Businesses and life have come to a stand-still. And there is still no clarity on how and when would the situation stabilise. All one can do is adhere to the current norm of social distancing and isolation and hope for things to get better in the near future.
From a business standpoint, it’s quite challenging for corporations and small business owners to operate in such unforeseen circumstances. No matter how much reserve funds and contingency plans you have in place, you can never prepare yourselves for a situation such as this where there is no clarity and defined timelines for return of normalcy.
Patience and innovation are the only two ways to tackle this situation. Thankfully, we are living in times of advanced technologies which have the world connected in many ways and enables communication and people to work from home.
Challenges aside, this is an interesting time for organisations to reflect and retrospect. They can choose to view this situation as a menace and crib about it or use this time and opportunity to help the organisation undergo a positive transformation through innovation and creative ideas.
They need to think how can we utilise this down-time to re-think our strategies and also keep employees motivated and wanted instead of invoking fear and uncertainty in their lives. For donkeys’ years, there has been a standard cliché spoken across organisations that “people are our biggest assets.” Maybe it’s time for them to show the world that people really are their greatest assets by actions and not just words.
Here are some of the things that they could explore doing in this down-time:
Training and Development through webinars: There are so many instances in organisations where there is always some sort of firefighting happening with so many top priorities in place with regards to running a business unit or function.
What they fail to understand is that in this scenario most of the new hires or even existing employees are left to fend for themselves and are told to learn “on the job” instead of going through a proper training program with specific learning-based outcomes. On-the-job learning is always a good thing and has its benefits. However, it also needs to be coupled with traditional training and development methodologies to foster a better learning environment.
In this period, training managers, team leads and even head of departments should come together and use this as an opportunity to up-skill their employees.
Knowledge and Information management mechanisms: Even today, the majority of the organisations are extremely people dependent when it comes to sharing of knowledge, information and best practices. There is a saying that no one is irreplaceable, which is true. However, the missing link here is that knowledge that the person carries along with himself/herself when they leave the organisation.
Many organisations tend to engage in a crash-course kind of ‘knowledge transfer’ activity when an employee is about to leave. The question here is, why can’t this be done on a daily/weekly basis while the employee is already in the system to save time and efforts? Attrition in today’s corporate world will always be a challenge. With the economy in turmoil, organisations should anticipate more of it in the near future. This is the best time to ensure that there are checks and balances in place to provide a seamless transition.
Performance appraisals and goal setting for the rest of the year: Most performance appraisals and KPI’s for employees are not well documented and only comes up for discussions during the appraisal cycle. Why not use this type to re-visit those KPI’s and set realistic and better goals for the coming financial year?
This can also be used as an opportunity to genuinely appreciate and reward good performers for motivating them and keeping them in high spirits during uncertain times. Loyalty cannot be bought, but it can be encouraged and enhanced by doing the right things at the right time.
Think of alternative plans rather than laying off people: We all understand that businesses are driven by profits and bottom-line. However, in times like these where everyone is equally affected for no fault of theirs, it’s time that businesses also take a high moral stand and decide not to lay off people to maintain their profitability. There can be other ways and means to cut costs. With the work-from-home mandate, there is any way a considerable amount of operating expenditure avoided in terms of electricity, building maintenance etc.
Surely if businesses announce at this point in time that there won’t be any bonuses for this quarter or for the next two quarters, the employees would understand the situation and would not mind the move.
Knowing your employee/co-worker/teammate better: This down-time can definitely be used to show better team culture and empathy towards your employees. Why not use this as an opportunity to have some fun conversations with your teammates as a leader to get to know them better? Since everyone is working from home, maybe even talk to their families and kids and make them feel wanted and happier with some positive messages and thoughts.
Listen to their needs and issues and find better mechanisms and processes to deal with them once it is business as usual. Poor listening skills or lack of empathy shown towards an employee or team mate's issues are one of the primary reasons for employee dissatisfaction. Maybe this might be a time to reflect on this and help the employee in developing a more positive outlook towards the team and workplace as well as perform better in the near future.
(Venugopal Rajagopalan is a Canada-based sports technology enthusiast with a passion for propagating the usage of analytics and technology in sports. With almost a decade-and-half experience in the industry, he has also been a speaker in numerous sports analytics events.
As a part of his sports technology consulting career, he has also worked extensively with teams like Kings XI Punjab, Kalyani Bharat FC and the Maharashtra Premier League as a performance analyst. Currently, Venu is working with Fanisko to help grow their fan-engagement platform for worldwide teams and sporting leagues)