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

May 29, 2020


For most small and medium-sized business owners, these are unprecedented and stressful times filled with uncertainty. The unplanned and sudden displacement of employees having to work remotely and in isolation—or worse, partial or whole closure of business—has turned normal business strategies and the management of employees upside down.

While many owners have managed their workforce during normal times without internal human resources (HR) expertise, COVID-19 has presented many issues that are new and complex. In addition to managing the financial aspects while they face the prospect of a real economic downturn, they’re also having to deal with an abundance of HR challenges. These include the physical and mental well-being of their employees; regaining productivity levels while working remotely or under new safety protocols; and dealing with engagement and culture of a decentralized and isolated work force.

So, how do business owners find the balance between careful strategies to save their business while trying to stay connected and retain key talent once business bounces back again? The following considerations should be top of mind for business owners to consider during this COVID-19 crisis and beyond. 

1. HR as a sounding board for owners

During an intensive and stressful time, you need someone to listen to your employee and workplace issues, risks, and uncertainties. Rather than working alone, it’s critical you reach out to HR experts to bounce your ideas off of, to obtain best practices and 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 a crisis comes down to solid leadership that adapts quickly, is agile, and makes decisions in the best interests of all people. Leaders have been called to make rapid decisions and lead their organizations in what is unchartered territory. These uncertain times mean leaders are 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 isolated workforce arrangements is key to traversing through these immediate and future impacts of COVID-19 together.

3. Return to work programs

Like any health crisis, the coronavirus pandemic will end at some point in the not-so-distant future, and business owners will have to consider some form of return-to-work program. Employers will undoubtedly have to implement more regimented health and safety policies and protocols in the workplace. Some businesses may want to continue offering more flexible and remote working practices. In fact, to accommodate people working in a space they feel most safe, this will be reality for most businesses.

Outlining a plan to get workers back into the swing of things while maintaining safe work practices and healthy protocols will ensure a smooth return to work for employees no matter what that new normal looks like.

4. HR policies update

The COVID-19 crisis has led to an entirely new working environment for many businesses. Whether it be adapting to employees working remotely, addressing new health and safety measures for those that are still working, or adjusting to the closure or partial closure of the business, owners are having to navigate new waters without formal policies to guide them. Businesses may find that their policies do not have the proper provisions for strategies to deal with the change in their workforce.

Additionally, the current remote working or “work at home” 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.

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 for the new normal.

Hali Van Vliet, VP People Advisory  

Marc Fournier, National Leader, People Advisory

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