What’s the best way to respond to the unprecedented challenges of the coronavirus pandemic? Like people, when faced with threats and uncertainties, businesses may instinctively hesitate, uncertain which action to take. The idea of “pioneering change” can seem scary when so much is changing. At a recent Next Generation Manufacturing webinar, Hire Dynamics CEO Billy Milam joined EVP Kim Wallace and Senior Director Andi Haynes to address workforce alternatives for these exceptional times. They listened to concerns and shared four principles to guide leaders facing workforce and business decisions.
ONE: Start with The Plan You Have.
Having a plan in place before a crisis is ideal, but if it isn’t the case, make one now. Be proactive. An imperfect plan today is fine; crisis scenarios are by definition fast-changing. You can and will adapt over time and that’s okay. Strong strategies are active and responsive.
Where to begin? Triage can help; assign degrees of urgency to the issues you face. What is your worst-case scenario? Define a workplace continuity plan for that — and work from there to define solutions for the (more likely) lesser cases you may face. It may seem paralyzing to anticipate what should be done. Focus on what can be done.
Setting short-term goals is an excellent use of energy and helps leaders acclimate to decision making in an environment of ongoing change. Intentionally set specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound (SMART) goals. Define the top priorities to guide internal teams and add value for clients.
TWO: Communicate Clearly – Right Now.
Once you have a strategy, share it. Explore new ways to assist and engage with all. Who needs you under these circumstances? What do they need that you can deliver? Communicate succinctly and decisively across your organization and to customers and partners.
If workers are furloughed or working from home, explain why; don’t assume they know. Share the information you have on how they can stay safe. Educate them on how unemployment works. Touch base in weekly calls. Provide access to answers when they need them, such as on a webpage or microsite for your workers (active and inactive). Keep it updated, giving them reasons to interact and stay in touch. Provide the information on training/retraining opportunities they may be able to participate in.
Maintain daily contact with workers. Nevertheless, expect changes. Your access to workers will be less than under ordinary conditions. They will have time to look around at other opportunities and consider competitive hourly wages or unemployment payments, putting additional wage pressure on your organization.
Engage customers regularly, too, providing them (and all audiences) a message that balances reality and engagement. Share what is working and what’s not. With employees, customers and partners alike, tone matters. Be calm and measured, honest about circumstances and visible to provide reassurance.
THREE: Embrace Technology.
Many organizations are using new tools – or ones they had but only used in limited ways – to work, manage and communicate. Video conferencing via WebEx, Zoom, Teams or other platforms can help sustain routine meetings, project calls and more.
Hire Dynamics’ Work4HD app, launched two years ago, has proved vital as the need to take applications, process requests and offer jobs remotely became a necessity. Workers can use it to search for roles and we can use it to message them with opportunities. Talent can access scheduling, management and clock in/out features.
FOUR: Enhance Resiliency.
It was around 500 BC when the Greek philosopher Heraclitus first quipped, “The only constant is change.” Time has certainly proved him correct! In the midst of the current pandemic, it’s clear that things will come back, but they won’t be the same.
Look at supply chain – of supplies and human resources. Ensure a sufficient stock of safety equipment on hand. Complete projects that build your infrastructure. Prepare workers to respond to changing needs by training and cross-training them to cover each other’s functions. Double down on prospecting to ensure access to quality employees.
Digital and remote trends are accelerating and perhaps a portion of workers will continue from home, for a variety of reasons. Build a blueprint for working with less. How can you space people and still run?
How can you adapt your operation to make newly needed products? Artificial intelligence and robots will continue to expand their influence in manufacturing and many other industries.
In the aftermath of the global pandemic, all businesses will be faced with new scenarios. As some businesses fold and others expand and grow, some markets may consolidate, resulting in fewer competitors. These principles – a flexible strategy, clear communication, innovative technology, and planning for resiliency — will endure, providing reliable guidance to build a way toward finding opportunity amidst change.