The quick escalation of the coronavirus changed the business world, and for small and medium-sized businesses especially, it placed a bright spotlight on the importance of the HR function during times of crisis. Unfortunately, many SMBs found themselves shorthanded in HR just when they needed it most.
Even when the dust settles, it’s clear that business won’t be going back to the “normal” they knew before 2020, but that can be a good thing. COVID-19 has forced organizations to recognize any shortfalls, learn how to adapt, and improve operations for the future. With the right effort, your business and HR function can be better than ever before.
What Will the Post-COVID 19 Business World Look Like?
The first half of 2020 may have been full of challenges, but those obstacles represent learning opportunities that can help prepare for a new normal. As the world slowly moves past COVID-19, there are clear signs of the future business landscape taking shape:
- A bigger focus on employee health – The most significant implication of the recent pandemic is the increased focus on health, and that will remain an important aspect of workforces moving forward. Employees are more aware of their health plans and benefits, asking tough questions about sick leave and precautionary measures while seeking answers that reassure them.
- Digitalization will accelerate – The business world experienced an expedited and abrupt shift to video calls, cloud computing, and remote work in response to COVID-19. Many employees received a sudden taste of these digital tools and may want them as a normal part of their job. This is the moment to audit procedures and learn what digital practices make the most sense for your business.
- Limiting systemic risk – Before this pandemic, most businesses understood the risk of violating one compliance law or the repercussions of a single employee getting sick. Now, the stakes are higher and the view is shifting to systemic risk. Anything that can have wide-ranging negative implications on a business needs to be guarded against so that operations aren’t shattered.
- Reassessing business models – Every business emerging from the shadow of COVID-19 is seeking ways to improve their resilience. Small and medium-sized businesses are at an advantage in this area since they can typically be nimbler and enact changes more quickly than larger corporations.
- Understanding future legislation – Given recent lawmaking, it’s clear that the government believes in strong intervention in the case of a pandemic. In the future, this intervention will happen more quickly and strongly. Understanding laws such as the Paycheck Protection Program, CARES Act, or Families First Act is the key to knowing what future legislation could look like.
Preparing for the Future
Looking ahead forces businesses to ask a critical question: “If another pandemic hits tomorrow, or in a month, or in a year, are we ready to act quickly?” The last few months were a learning experience, teaching companies that they must enhance their resources and plans so they are not caught scrambling during another crisis. Best practices vary depending on the organization, but often include:
- Building supplies – While wearing masks to work isn’t something that will last forever, maintaining ample supplies of hand sanitizer, soap, and other cleaning products in your business will be a requirement moving forward.
- Remote work planning – If this year showed companies what it was like to jump into a remote work environment with no planning, then a future crisis will hopefully show what it’s like to rely on a strong remote work contingency plan at a moment’s notice.
- Employee absence planning – A contingency plan must also include protocol if multiple employees fall ill and cannot work for several weeks. How will a department or company as a whole continue operations in their absence?
- Growing a financial buffer – Keeping payroll going during a crisis is difficult. If possible, companies are wise to grow their monetary reserves to guard against a future predicament.
- Reassessing everyday procedures – Some decisions may not have been given much thought before because that was just the way things were. Now, all procedures are scrutinized for improvement. For example, does a salesperson have to fly to visit a potential client, or can they use Zoom? Is the time a trip takes and the risk of catching a cold during travel worth it?
Protecting and Advising Your Employees
It’s very likely your employees came to you with difficult questions over the last few months. Who is answering these questions? How are you advising them? Communication is critical during a crisis. While there are many ways to protect and advise your employees, begin with these three:
- Document your business plans – Employees need clear direction and must be trained on any contingency plans that are being created. Just like a fire drill, employees should be able to reference materials and know exactly what the protocol is in the event of another crisis. This will grow their confidence that their employer can handle a future pandemic.
- Communicate safety measures – Similar to the above, any measures taken to safeguard employee health should be placed in writing in places like the employee handbook. While some measures are part of the new everyday life, others that will be enacted only in case of another pandemic must be easily accessible. These actions make employees more comfortable moving forward.
- Encourage financial planning – COVID-19 made it obvious that a large number of Americans are unprepared for even a small financial emergency. Your employees may need help understanding how to save for retirement. Ideally, these individuals should at least be given informative materials or the card of a reliable financial advisor.
Moving Past COVID-19 as an SMB
It isn’t easy for a small and medium-sized business to react to a pandemic, let alone prepare for a future crisis. A lot of planning and effort are needed to set your company up for continued success in a new era. While we can hope a pandemic never hits again, we must prepare for the eventuality that one will. When you don’t have the time or expertise to devote to preventative and future measures, Synergy can be your trusted resource.
Whether you need help finding your feet again or want to streamline your future HR practices, we’re ready to chat about any challenges you have. Request your free consultation today.
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