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Ken Ferguson


Chief Revenue Officer

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Leadership: how to prepare your workforce for the post-pandemic future

Don’t lose sight of your workforce’s future while you’re protecting their present.

The current crisis is an all-consuming ordeal. Business leaders are of course spending their working days focused on immediate problems – from cash flow and client relationships, through to how best to allocate team resources.

Part of being a responsible employer means imagining how any post-pandemic recovery is going to impact your workforce.

This focus on the present is vital, but it can’t come at the expense of dedicating time to the future. In particular, you should be considering how your workforce needs to be managed and supported – both throughout the remainder of the crisis and in the new world that will emerge once it’s over.

This planning will have huge benefits from an employee retention perspective. By showing them you’re prepared for the future, you’ll show them their future is with your business.

Put employee health first

‘Healthy workers are happy workers’ is an old cliché, but right now monitoring their health and happiness on an ongoing basis is vital to your future success.

You probably know right now how many of your employees are on sick leave because of Covid-19, and you probably have a good idea how long they might be off – but this is meaningless in isolation. You need to commit to monitoring the collective health and wellbeing of your workforce over the longer term and ensuring that no team is ever stretched too thinly by colleague absences.

The current uncertainty means that having just one plan for post-pandemic recovery isn’t going to cut it.

This data helps inform recovery planning as it will show you where teams might be understaffed or running on empty and let you react accordingly. If a team is stretched now by just a handful of absences, how will they cope when you need to ramp up activity?

You can’t just focus on physical health, however. While mental health within the workplace is far more difficult to track and quantify, it can have a deeper impact on productivity and the happiness of the wider team.

Businesses need to commit resources now to maintaining and boosting energy and morale over an extended period so that when normality is restored, people are hitting the ground running, not limping to the finish line while looking for an exit. This can’t be a short-term commitment – your workforce will need the same level of consideration as they adapt to whatever the future holds.

Don’t gamble on a single future

Part of being a responsible employer means imagining how any post-pandemic recovery is going to impact your workforce.

They’ll be looking to you for leadership and showing them you are prepared for the future will have a hugely positive impact on their current wellbeing and willingness to commit their future to your firm.

The current uncertainty means that having just one plan for post-pandemic recovery isn’t going to cut it, however. As part of our own planning, we’ve identified three potential scenarios to prepare for:

Rapid return to previous market conditions

This scenario assumes the market bounces back and the economy experiences a period of rapid growth. Under this model you need to ask yourself how well prepared your workforce is to hit the accelerator hard and how you can help them do this without risking burnout.

Slow return to previous market conditions

An alternative scenario suggests a much slower return to a ‘normal’ economy where people continue to fall ill because of the pandemic for an extended period of time. This reality would require considerable workforce agility and as a leader you need to show you appreciate and reward employees willingness and ability to adapt over an extended period of time.

Volatile return to previous market conditions

This final scenario imagines a quick bounce back, followed by another wave of infections and accompanying government measures. This scenario will prove hardest on employees. Asking them to go back to their old routines then having it snatched away will require a sympathetic management style and careful preparation for how you’ll mitigate the worst impacts of a second extended lockdown.

For each of these scenarios you need to develop a continuous management plan, outlining the ways your workforce will have to adapt and the support you’ll offer employees to make these changes as productive and painless as possible.

This takes time, but will ensure your workforce feels looked after and will help you manage staff turnover when people start wondering what’s next after the world adapts to a new way of living and working.

Build around your organisation, not individuals

While it may sound counter-intuitive, a crucial part of making your workforce a central pillar of your recovery planning will involve focusing on the organisation, not individuals. While your instinct will be to review every employee’s role in isolation and ask how it can be adapted to the new reality, this isn’t setting either you or them up for long-term success.

By focusing on getting your organisation right, you’re showing every employee that you’re building resilience and adaptability into the system and showing them that your business will always create opportunities and reward value, no matter how the world changes.

Preparing for life after coronavirus

With so much uncertainty in the world, leadership is more important than ever. If you can show your employees you care about their present and their future, you’re showing them you’re committed to helping them navigate these uncertain times.

This leadership won’t go unrewarded. If your workforce knows you’re doing your best to help them, they’ll reward your leadership with loyalty and help you avoid employee churn once your recovery begins.

Interested in this topic? Read How to lead through uncertainty in a virtual world.

Author Profile Picture
Ken Ferguson

Chief Revenue Officer

Read more from Ken Ferguson

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