The coronavirus outbreak has created challenges for businesses and staff unlike anything most of us have ever seen. The Government’s furlough scheme has no doubt been instrumental in saving jobs (or at least delaying inevitable layoffs, depending on how things play out in the next few months), but with it come new obstacles.
Communication between employers and their staff has become incredibly important, especially when it comes to keeping furloughed staff up to date about both their furloughed status and the financial health of the company.
Mental Health & Furlough
Managing employee mental health and wellbeing is another challenge employers face. While there is only so much an organisation can do in this capacity, the benefits of maintaining employee trust and engagement during furlough downtime shouldn’t be underestimated. Not only does it help reduce staff stress due to uncertainty, regular, considerate communication can increase loyalty, retention, and reinforce positive attitudes towards employers. Alex McDowell from job search engine WHATJOBS? had this to say “Our organisation has already implemented optional activities (such as the online quiz – the new going out) to help address potential issues. On top of that, I recently pioneered the weekly ‘tell us about your week’ video call to enable staff to talk openly and honestly about their job and if they want, life outside the office.”
Can Employers Benefit from Furlough?
There is another avenue that is worth considering as well. Furlough presents a valuable opportunity for both employers and staff when it comes to upskilling and training. Below are three reasons why training staff during furlough is an excellent short- and long-term strategy for any business.
1: Training on Furlough is Allowed
It’s important to note that while it is illegal for staff to work while furloughed, employees can embark on training. If employees are struggling with finding projects or other interests to help them get through furlough, then offering some training can be hugely beneficial to both company and employee. Not only that, it creates a knock-on effect, as multiple employees can get involved.
Furloughed or remote working IT staff can train up teams on new software or processes, for example, and such exercises can benefit both trainee and trainer.
2: Build Team Camaraderie, Maintain Employee Engagement
It might not be quite the same as face to face interaction, but online seminars and e-learning conferences are a fantastic way of enabling colleagues to interact with each other in the context of a shared common goal – much like at work. It’s also a great way for furloughed team members to feel productive.
Training presentations and learning sessions can also be used to build stronger bonds between departments and teams too – especially those that may not interact all that much on a daily basis in the office. What’s more, a greater understanding of processes and practices outside a team’s own day to day remit can lead to a much more efficient and supportive work culture as a whole.
3: Future Proof Business Through Employees
While Covid-19 is without doubt the main challenge of the day, the long-term prosperity of businesses will, as always, depend on foresight and preparation. Once the hurdle of coronavirus is over, many companies are going to be faced with hard choices financially, and hiring is likely to decline.
Rather than going through a costly hiring process, it could be wise for some businesses to allocate resources to training now, and upskill existing staff. This way, companies can help to potentially navigate the skills gap problem that the UK has been in the midst of for some time.
Making use of the existing skills of a workforce now, and enabling them to further educate and empower their colleagues for when the new ‘normal’ returns, could be a contributing factor when it comes to employee retention, business performance, and the overall health of a company’s culture and future.