Effective leadership is tricky. But with Covid imposing enormous challenges for businesses, strong leadership and engagement is something all business owners are currently trying to get right.
The latest UK national lockdown has meant many businesses have had to close, after what seems like only just reopening. In London alone, close to 100,000 businesses will be forced to close once again.
With little business and the constant worry of how to retain and engage with employees during lockdown, businesses need to think tactically. Not only to survive financially, but to also engage with existing - and potentially new - employees.
Businesses under lockdown
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the likeness of a second wave has loomed across the economy and determined how businesses have prepared for what’s ahead. Many have shifted to remote working for the foreseeable future, and others have limited office space. Yet now we have been introduced to a second national lockdown, businesses across the country could be damaged even further as we head into the winter months, due to the ever-changing restrictions.
Though it could be argued the national lockdown was inevitable, the announcement has still come as a surprise for some. And many businesses are struggling to balance the new restrictions - pubs and bars must close for example - all while still generating revenue to keep their business afloat.
But businesses are not the same as they once were - especially for hospitality which is one of the biggest sectors in the UK. While restaurants and pubs reopened in recent months, the experience has changed. And many businesses have spoken up about how they didn't have enough customers to make opening worthwhile - sales at pub, bar and restaurant chains plunged by more than a third after the 10pm curfew was introduced.
To add to this perfect storm, with more and more businesses closing because of the lockdown, the job scene has become scarce and the number of available jobs is shrinking. For young people especially, this is detrimental in kick-starting their careers. With limited jobs available, many are left without work.
But despite this, or rather because of this, it’s still important for businesses to keep up employee engagement and company morale in the coming months. They need to ensure that employees feel safe and secure in their roles, despite economic uncertainty.
Maintaining employee engagement
As demand collapses, many businesses will have no option but to switch up their strategy - not only to fit in with the current Covid world, but to ensure that few or no staff layoffs have to be made. For example, restaurants offering takeaway services instead of dining in, so that they can still drive some sort of revenue. But this shouldn’t be taken as a negative. We are in fact seeing new businesses being born out of the pandemic which has come from switching up strategy.
For retaining staff, business owners need to think of new ways to engage with their employees - especially for those who may be on furlough or reduced hours. Additional training courses can be found online - many are free - that will help keep staff engaged outside of work. Not only will this ease the mind of employees, but it may also improve their work ethic as it encourages self-development. Compiling a list of helpful online resources may encourage them to pursue a skill they’ve always wanted to learn.
It’s also critical to keep employees updated on changes to their contract. As new government restrictions come into play, efficient communication will provide a vital pillar of support for maintaining employee engagement, and keeping them well informed.
Another tip is to have a clear leadership strategy set in stone. Businesses should aim for transparency across all areas of the business, so that employees know when they are working, and exactly what work they are doing. It'll make these challenging times far more easy for both employees and business owners.
Finally, it’s important that businesses aim to keep up company morale. Day-to-day social interaction with co-workers is something we all miss, so business owners need to think outside the box and create new ways of interacting - budget and government restrictions permitting of course. Virtual coffee mornings and book clubs, online fitness activities or virtual cocktail making classes, are all ideas that can boost company morale and maintain employee engagement.
No one could have predicted the enormous effect Covid has had on our economy. And since we’ve now entered our second national lockdown, it’s important that those businesses affected maintain an efficient level of communication with their employees during this difficult time.
Dean Sadler, CEO at Tribepad