Don’t Covid-19 your people

Every day we read how employers believe ‘people are the heart of their business’. Well, now is the time to test that sentiment.

You may believe people are the heart of your business, however does your business have a heart?

Firstly let’s accept that businesses have stakeholders with a financial interest and they expect a return upon their investment. Let’s accept also that employees have a financial interest in the long term survival of your business, and they expect their employer to look out for them.

When a business lays off staff during the coronavirus crisis simply to meet the needs of its shareholders, the business is profiteering. Those owners are taking advantage of the needs of the broader community, for their own self interest. That is GREED!

While some businesses may eventually have to lay off large numbers of staff, doing so should be the last, not the first option. Even for publicly owned corporations.

Rather than wait for the crunch, now is the time for business owners and management teams to start having the conversation with their employees and preparing their contingency plans.

Even the largest companies are capable of fostering conversations with their employees on how best to remain viable and ensure a sustainable future. For example, not everyone needs to work full-time, others may be willing to job share and some prepared to take long service leave or go on a sabbatical.

The issue I see is that employers do not have the conversation with their employees. They don’t ask their employees for ideas on remaining viable. They assume their employees, the heart of their business have no imagination, they assume their employees will act only in their self interest, and so on.

Yet, having the conversation with your employees opens the communication channels, The problem is shared and a shared solution will often emerge. Even if at the end of the day the only practical solution is to lay off staff; at least those staff will understand why, and they will appreciate having been involved in the decision making process.

This is a brave new world and it calls for brave, new ways of doing things.

Start now. Bring your employees together, whether 30,000 or only 3, open the conversation, show them the financial impact, provide them with a timeline, ask for their ideas and take time to listen. They might just know how to save the business; if you are a manager, then your people might just know how to save your job as well.

Download our Covid-19 readiness checklist for social service agencies.


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