The last 18 months have created unprecedented pressures on employee management, from how to motivate, to mental and physical health, to more or less working hours, pay cuts, changes in working location and decisions on whether to keep teams employed or not, while employees themselves increasingly contemplate career changes and career direction.
Part of the joy of being in business for 26 years is that I’ve lived through many challenges.
But the pandemic has been different: it’s on our doorstep and it has endangered health. The global financial crisis is probably the nearest parallel with and, while it was responsible for the deaths of financially broken families and executives, it didn’t kill as COVID-19 has threatened to kill.
So what can businesses do in such extraordinary circumstances. Hire, fire, explain, cut, hold together? The answer for most employers was all of these.
And the outcome?
People have been held precariously in jobs, and made it through, had hours cut or been made redundant. For some business owners it’s all been too much and they have closed the doors.
Companies have struggled, gone under or survived with all of those scenarios as they played out, much to the angst of HR departments and those in charge and, of course, Australia’s workforce.
Undoubtedly, the pandemic was cataclysmic and triggered change. Many organisations saw a change of staff in the early part of this year. That mass move of people after Christmas has a name — The Great Resignation — and it’s still happening.
As employers, we are now faced with a war for talent.
The talent drought
This war on talent begs the question: is it us as employers who have to retrain and rethink, or is it our teams?
The pandemic has triggered change on both sides of the equation. The need for flexibility and lateral thinking has also emerged in employees who are looking to evolve, reinvent and retrain.
During the pandemic I heard of a professional friend in a big accounting firm on the list for redundancy. They refused the redundancy, asked for time, reinvented and represented their role and won the case to be retained. Smart, entrepreneurial thinking — that actually worked. That individual is still employed and what’s more, is flying high.
Other examples, on my own staff, are those who came forward and said they would do whatever it takes to get us through. Memorable, admirable moments and the kind of experiences that keep you going as a leader. The commitment to soldier on when things look dark is a proud moment as a leader of a team, as is watching mutually aligned core values and loyalty played out during periods of crisis.
At the time, when COVID showed its first hand, I invited my staff to forget job descriptions, think outside the box and become all hands on deck to keep the business going.
It was a personal quest that quite frankly kept me going: a mission to keep them all employed, paying their mortgages supporting their families. In my mind, the pandemic may let them down — but Taurus and I would not.
We talked of reinventing, and what new skills were needed to survive.
We talked of changing the way we look at our roles and being invited to jump to a larger cause of business and employment continuity. Some team members moved to an increased leap into sales, others leapt to learn new skills and reinvent to be there on a whole new level for clients. We created support groups, social zooms, time out and a buddy system. The internal COVID comms group came up with a series of weekly letters and initiatives to our community.
We had administrators move to client service, we had juniors fast track to leadership. We saw database
We took an intern through to fully fledged designer, right through to the point where he was able to give up his part time job. He is now successfully running his own design agency and, of course, Taurus is his client.
Proud making moments. The things that leadership and memories are made of.
- Speak to team members individually and privately to find out what they’re thinking and where are they at. One- on-one conversations between employer and employee/team leader and team member are very powerful.
- Do your research, review the market and be prepared to discuss and offer emerging initiatives or drivers other organisations are ideating for their employees.
- Discuss the options and draw out what will really work for your team member — change takes courage and is often uncomfortable.
- Make recommendations to match what sparks your team members interest — less hours, more hours, more responsibility or less. Consider their aspirations and passion: can you give pay rises, time o, a vision for the future, a new course or qualification?
- Work out what is possible in regards to cashflow, business performance, funds, business objectives, personality traits and capability in line with your businesses short and long-term vision.
- Secure an agreement on a way forward and build the picture for both of you.
- Put practical processes in place for that team member to step forward into their new role or responsibilities. Set measurable KPIs and create a success criteria.
- Change takes energy, courage and encouragement, so set regular review meetings to gauge how things are going.
The train to business success
I have watched several of my team, pivot, grow, take on new responsibilities or chose to leave and move to other futures. Either scenario is a good thing.
Indecision in staff members who don’t want to be on the train causes wasted time, frustration, loss of confidence and slows business success.
You want motivated, driven team members who want to be on the train.
Happy people do great work, and a few conversations are all it takes to get you to that