As the Coronavirus crisis in the UK continues, organisations of all kinds and all sizes are fighting for survival. Business leaders are worried, tired and, often, unsure of how best to proceed from here.
The initial ‘response’ phase is complete, where urgent decisions and changes were made to protect employees and follow government guidelines. Many businesses adopted flexible working overnight, or refocused processes to perform only the most essential tasks. Many others chose to partially close, furloughing employees until business can resume.
The big question now, though, is where do we go from here? Now that the short-term priorities are addressed, how should leaders plan for the coming months? There is still no clarity over how long Covid-19 will remain a threat and the full economic impact of the pandemic.
While every organisation has its own individual challenges and opportunities, there are three core areas of focus that can help crystallise our thinking in planning for the months to come. Every business needs to think in terms of their employees, their customers and their financial position.
It’s become a bit of a cliché to say that a business is nothing without its people – but that doesn’t make it any less true. There’s never been a more important time to keep communicating with your employees, to keep them informed about what’s happening and how you are looking after them.
Your people will be looking to you for guidance, reassurance and a commitment to keeping them safe. Remember, too, that different businesses are approaching the crisis in vastly different ways, and the perception of why you are asking people to come to work – or other difficult decisions you have had to make – could have an adverse effect on your reputation as an employer.
Regular updates, being clear about your decision making, listening to feedback and making gestures of goodwill could spell the difference between success and failure as we move forward through the crisis.
There have been clear leaders in customer care since the crisis began. One comment we heard was: “I’ve had more communication from the chief executive of Sainsbury’s as a customer, than I’ve had from my own employer.”
Businesses that have a clear message to their customers, stating their approach through the crisis and making a clear commitment to looking after them, are likely to retain people’s loyalty in the long term.
Even if you don’t have everything fully worked out right now, you should reach out to your customers regularly. Explain the latest situation, what you’re doing to support your clients and when you’ll contact them next. Uncertainty can be a business killer.
Clearly any business needs to have complete sight of their financial risk at times like these. Now is the time to conserve cash and seek good financial advice about how best to weather the coming months. Make sure you can pay your employees’ salaries, to cement their ongoing commitment, and collect any payments you can to shore up your position.
Taking advantage of government assistance available will help your organisation, but careful management of your cash flow is top priority right now.
We’ve been advising businesses around the clock to help them navigate the people challenges of the crisis. For expert HR solutions and advice, get in touch with us today.