Running a business was never an easy job. Then COVID-19 happened. Since March, entrepreneurs around the world have faced unimaginable challenges. The pandemic is set to cost small businesses in the UK alone £69 billion.
Lockdowns have forced millions of businesses to close for most of the year. Many others faced the challenge of re-integrating their entire workforce to remote environments, without reducing their customer service levels.
On top of everything, guidance and legislation has changed every few weeks, with business owners often getting only a few days to completely adapt their strategies. Amongst all this chaos, leadership can feel impossible to get right. How can you keep everybody happy in such uncertain times?
You can’t. Difficult decisions will need to be made and tragically, you might need to make some of your wonderful employees redundant so that your business can survive this crisis. Even if your business is in one of those lucky sectors experiencing a boom right now, you still need to help your employees to remain calm and focused during such a turbulent time in their lives.
The crucial thing is to lead your business in a way that inspires everyone around you and keeps your reputation intact throughout the crisis. Then talented people will always want to work for you.
Here are 5 tips for getting leadership right and making sure that when all this ends, you can call on a brilliant team to help your business thrive.
Avoid woolly messages
While you can’t control changes to Coronavirus restrictions, you can control how you communicate the impact of those changes on your business to your staff. Detail is key here. If you have to let lots of people go or put them on furlough as a result of the pandemic, let them know that the decision isn’t a reflection on their performance and was made to keep the business going.
When you’re giving an indication of when you might be able to give them full hours again, give as accurate a time frame as you can. If this isn’t possible, tell them immediately so that they can start looking for other work.
Set a policy on home working and stick to it. If your premises can only accommodate a set number of employees due to social distancing, keep your employees regularly informed of current capacity. That way, nobody will travel to work only to find that they can’t get into the building and have wasted a trip. If most of your employees can work from home, then encourage them to.
Most importantly, communicate regularly with your team so that they know that you’re finding this time as tough as they are, and you’re trying to look after them as much as possible.
Everyone understands that we’re living in difficult times. They appreciate honest, straightforward and consistent communication that lets them know exactly where you stand at all times.
Make sure you really are all in this together
If you ask employees to take a pay cut, then take a pay cut yourself. If you ask them to move all meetings to Zoom, then hop onto some of those meetings yourself. Follow guidelines to the letter to make clear that there will never be one rule for senior management, and another rule for everyone else in your business.
Avoid any PR disasters. ‘That never happens to us’ are famous last words of entrepreneurs who are about to show a cringeworthy lack of awareness of the public mood.
Putting your staff on furlough and then buying a Lamborghini will probably ruin your business more quickly than you can start your new car’s engine.
On the other hand, if you can demonstrate that you’re going through everything that your employees are going through, then the public will love your business.
Situations are changing by the week. Unless you can adjust quickly, you’ll constantly be playing catch-up between Government announcements. If there’s a press conference on a Sunday night, try to get an email to your team by first thing Monday morning at the very latest. Responding to developments quickly and trusting your employees to get the work done (even if their working patterns change) will put your team in a great position.
Sending employees hampers of sweets, cakes and other goodies went down well before COVID-19. During lockdowns, gestures like these become more important than ever before. Staying at home for weeks on end is stressful. Especially if your people are having to reassure their kids that everything will be OK, despite having no idea whether things will ever get back to normal.
Showing your team that you appreciate all of their hard work from home will mean the world to them. Try not to send generic hampers. Including things that you know they love and sending a nice card will make your gesture extra special. Then you’ll have an extra loyal team.
…and check-in on your people regularly
Everyone is responding to current restrictions in different ways and many people are struggling with their mental health. While you can’t predict how individuals will react to changing circumstances, you can show them that their happiness is your priority.
Take the time to phone or Zoom your staff. Are they OK? Are they feeling lonely? Are they struggling to adapt to life in lockdown? If there’s something that you can do to help them, do it as quickly as possible. Your support could well make the difference between a bad day and a day that your people will remember for a long-time.
While the Kingston Noble team can’t make COVID rules any easier for anyone, we can find you the leaders who will only strengthen your business in response to them. Please get in touch if you need some help finding great leaders for your teams.