• HR Intelligence

How to retain your employees in a Covid world

From governments to large conglomerates to SMEs; no-one has previous experience of how best to deal with the unprecedented changes to living, working, and management practises we’ve all had to make during the current pandemic.

Now, as governments across the world begin to ease tight lock-down restrictions, and kick-start their economies, a new set of considerations have to be managed if your business is to come out of this with minimum damage and maximum employee retention. Given that demands in the UK have become more short term focussed and some of the usual options aren't available, what can you do to retain your employees?

Total transparency with the workforce

With unemployment figures already rising steeply, and furloughing due to finish at the end of October, now more than ever, employees need to know their employer has their welfare at the top of the agenda. Regular, honest, communication now, is at the centre of how employees will take any changes that need to be put in place in the not too distant future.

Employee reward and income concerns

Over the last four months employees have had to face unparalleled lifestyle changes. They have had to change working practises, working from home using unfamiliar digital applications while managing children off school, and safeguarding family during lockdown. Many have been furloughed, not knowing when, or if, they will be able to return to work. With an increasing number of businesses beginning to re-open their doors, a new range of uncertainties and changes are on their minds. Financial changes that may include altered working practises, reduction in bonuses, and even reduced wages. Non-monetary workplace concerns also will come to the fore. Are adequate social distancing measures in place, are masks and face shields available, and are sanitising procedures sufficient? Now more than ever, operating an open and transparent autonomous business model can pay big dividends in the longer term.

Employee trust is paramount

Under normal working conditions, the most successful enterprises already have well-definedx lines of communication between management and employees. Maintaining and increasing that communication level can mean the difference between having a workforce working with you, or finding skilled employees leaving at the first opportunity.

With the uncertainty surrounding so many industries in the return to work, company employees should be regularly kept abreast of the latest developments. For instance, what resources can the company put into place should employees contract the virus, or if they have to quarantine due to work colleagues catching it. Are they going to get sick pay? Before committing in these situations, familiarise yourself with the latest government help available to businesses and employees, and consider what your business can do alongside government assistance to ease any financial burden. Remember, many of your team may already be suffering from the loss of a partner’s income.

Can redundancy be a last resort?

With so many unknowns regarding the economy, and a wish to safeguard the business, it’s very easy to take a knee-jerk reaction and start laying off large numbers of the workforce. Before this situation arrives, is there a better way? Again, frank, honest, and open communication is the best way forward. How your employees view their value within the company pre-covid, will have a large bearing on whether they are prepared to work with you now, for the benefit of all.

Arrange a general meeting with all employees present, either at the workplace, or online if your doors have yet to open. Options that could be considered with mutual agreement include:

  • Are employees with elderly family members, underlying health issues, or other concerns happy to take additional unpaid furlough time?

  • Are employees prepared to continue working from home, maybe on a part-time basis?

  • Will they accept reduced overtime, spreading a basic income throughout a larger number of employees?

  • Will they consider unpaid statutory parental leave or the granting of unpaid sabbaticals?

  • Will they accept freezing pay rises and cutting or reducing bonuses short-term?

With all the options on the table, and why they are on the table, one-on-one discussions with the workforce can be undertaken to obtain their preference and what they may consider the least painful option in their personal circumstances.

If nothing else, this pandemic has proved one thing. Under all the labels, from politician to company CEO and HR manager, to team leader or van driver, to senior hospital consultant or hospital cleaner, Covid makes no exceptions. Now is the time to demonstrate that your employees really are more than just numbers. Compassion and empathy now will lay the foundations of a happier, more creative,