Top 4 strategies to stay connected and retain key talent during critical times

November 01, 2021

For most small and medium-sized business owners, COVID-19 turned normal business strategies and the management of employees upside down.

Pre-pandemic, many owners managed their workforce without internal human resources (HR) expertise—but now they face issues that are new and complex. In addition to managing the financial and operational aspects of the pandemic, they also have to deal with an abundance of HR challenges. These include the physical and mental well-being of their employees; maintaining productivity levels while working remotely or under new safety protocols; and struggling to find and retain the right talent during a labour shortage that’s been coined “the great resignation.”

So, how do business owners find the balance between careful strategies to manage their business while trying to stay connected and retain key talent? The following considerations should be top of mind for business owners to consider.

1. HR as a sounding board for owners

During times of change and disruption, it’s important to have someone who can listen to and understand your employee and workplace issues, risks, and uncertainties. Rather than working alone, reach out to HR experts to bounce your ideas off of, obtain best practices, and get immediate HR advice and solutions to meet your needs.

Whether it be an urgent standalone issue or a more strategic look at your workforce for the future, a second set of eyes and a fresh perspective can often help put things into better focus.

2. Leadership and management support

Successfully managing through disruption, especially during a crisis, comes down to solid leadership that adapts quickly, is agile, and makes decisions in the best interests of all people. Throughout the entire pandemic, leaders have been called to make rapid decisions and lead their organizations in what is unchartered territory. In some cases, it meant having to adapt day-by-day to a number of people management issues.

Helping your leaders and managers adapt to the new realities of remote and hybrid workforce arrangements is key to traversing through the ongoing and long-term impacts of COVID-19.

3. Return to work and flexible work programs

Depending on the sector, businesses in Canada are at different stages of the return-to-work process. But even for organizations whose employees have remained at home since March 2020, owners and leadership teams have already started to implement plans for returning to the workplace, with more regimented health and safety policies and protocols.

There is some division among companies on the approach to the workplace going forward. According to a survey conducted for BDO’s Midmarket Outlook Report 2021:

  • 35% of medium enterprises plan to return all employees to work as soon as possible, while 29% plan to increase remote work options.
  • Large enterprises had even higher rates, with 38.6% planning for return to work and 34.4% for remote work options.
  • Small enterprises trailed though, with only 23.3% deeming return to work, and 15.7% remote work options, as top priorities.

Meanwhile, a growing (and significant) number of Canadians want flexibility when it comes to where and how they work..

Talent retention and attraction has become one of the biggest challenges since the onset of the pandemic. Businesses may want to offer more flexible and remote working practices to accommodate the growing demand for such options from employees. In fact, to accommodate people working in a space they feel most safe, this will be reality for most businesses.

4. HR policies update

COVID-19 led to an entirely new working environment for many businesses. Whether it was adapting to employees working remotely, addressing new health and safety measures, or adjusting to multiple lockdowns and closures, owners have had to navigate new waters without formal policies to guide them. Many businesses found that their policies did not have the proper provisions for strategies to deal with the change in their workforce.

Additionally, an organization’s remote working or flexible work policies may not be written in such a way to protect both the business and the employees. There are a number of considerations here: how to manage workflows, communication practices, resource requirements, insurances, and health and safety concerns. Having a policy in place to address these issues is necessary to create consistency in these practices. Keep in mind that some of your people may be more open and flexible with new arrangements while others need more guidance.

How can BDO help?

We provide support for small and medium business owners with Virtual HR services. Our team of certified and experienced HR advisors are a phone call or a virtual video session away from providing immediate answers to all HR issues as they arise, or implementing longer-term HR strategies.

Hali Van Vliet, VP People Advisory

Marc Fournier, National Leader, People Advisory

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