In the current Coronavirus-induced crisis people are understandably worried and frightened, for their jobs, their families and their health so it is crucial for SME employers to communicate changes as quickly and sympathetically as possible.
After all, while you as SME owners are currently facing unprecedented challenges to your business and feeling bleak if not panic ridden about your prospects for survival, at some point this crisis will come to an end and you will hope to still have a business.
With all the financial support measures recently announced by the Government, most SMEs do not need to close their businesses or dispense with staff.
I have posted the latest information with advice for SMEs on how to deal with the coronavirus pandemic on onlineturnaroundguru.com and will update as the details become clearer.
While in the short term SMEs may have had to ‘furlough workers’ (see the above advice link for what this means) but eventually staff will be needed back at work.
Staff are most likely to remain loyal if they feel their employer has done their utmost to help and has kept them informed of developments and these days the technology available is so extensive that this is much easier to do – whether it be a conference call or virtual meeting via an online platform to people who are working from home.
McKinsey.com has some very useful guidance for leaders coping with a crisis.
Firstly, it says: “they cannot respond as they would in a routine emergency, by following plans that had been drawn up in advance. During a crisis, which is ruled by unfamiliarity and uncertainty, effective responses are largely improvised.”
It is also crucial, it says, to promote “psychological safety so people can openly discuss ideas, questions, and concerns without fear of repercussions”.
This means dealing with the human tragedy first and foremost with empathy and understanding as well as being transparent about the circumstances.
If the situation means the way the company does business SME employers should discuss the options as soon as possible.
Acas also has some useful advice:
“Where work can be done at home, the employer could:
- ask staff who have work laptops or mobile phones to take them home so they can carry on working
- arrange paperwork tasks that can be done at home for staff who do not work on computers.
If an employer and employee agree to working at home, the employer should pay the employee as usual, keep in regular contact and check on the employee’s health and wellbeing.
You may be able to pivot your business in such a way that it can keep going, as this London SME restaurant chain has done after the Government ordered all restaurant and pubs to close.
Leon is to turn its 65 UK restaurants into shops, selling meals via both click-and-collect and delivery from Wednesday. Meals will be placed in ready meal-type plastic pouches which are refrigerated and can be heated, stored or frozen at home.
The company’s founder John Vincent has said the move could save Leon as a business but also relieve some of the pressure on the food retail stores: “A lot of people in the industry are just giving up and shutting up shop. But we think this way we can keep 60% of our stores open and keep food production going.”
A good example of a business using agility at very short notice to survive and save staff jobs when It is important to consider the second and third order consequences of any decisions before acting on them while not delaying action.
Check out onlineturnaroundguru.com for more tips on survival
Otherwise please stay safe, you do not need to deal with this alone.