As of today, the long-term forecast of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is rapidly changing and unclear. The pandemic may continue for several months, with potential catastrophic consequences to certain industries and jobs. What is clear, is that reducing contact where unknowingly infected people may have touched things, and contact with people in general, is not just highly recommended for safety reasons to reduce the spread of the virus, it is starting to be enforced at a fairly rapid rate.
As a professional development specialist, I can see that is highly likely that PD workshops and learning and development in general will be postponed for some months during the lifespan of this new pandemic, as they are deemed non-essential services. This is something to be concerned about from several business perspectives.
As a business owner you need to be as agile as you can, particularly at the moment. Now more than ever you need to be able to act quickly in response to the changes happening around you, not just in your own business, but also responding to what is escalating on a worldwide scale.
You need your staff to be empowered and as best equipped as they can possibly be, so they can respond to unforeseen change and stay ahead of your competitors and keep you in business. This is about adaptability.
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change ~ Charles Darwin
As a leader you need to feel confident that you are able to support your staff in this rapidly changing climate where your teams have real fears, not just about their own health and safety, but that of their team mates, and their loved ones, as well as fears about job security and finances. It is a volatile and scary time and a time that risk management and change management plans are most needed. Now more than ever you need to know what you can do to best support your staff, though this hopefully short term period. There will be a necessity for some employees to be up-skilled or cross-skilled as soon as possible to cover those who are unable to work, or those having to take time off work to care for others.
You will need the remaining staff focused and trained and feeling ready to keep things afloat until the crisis passes. A lot of damage can be done in a relatively short period of time if you don’t have a risk management plan. The consequences to a business could be fatal. Given that we cannot at this moment predict the time frame involved in this pandemic, all leaders need to create clear plans of action regarding up-skilling requirements, so everyone is equipped with the skills they will need to cover staff shortages and inevitable disruptions to supply. You need to make sure your staff are cross trained to cover more than their role. It is about developing an agile workforce. We need staff that are flexible and empowered and able to act quickly to do what is necessary to keep the business afloat until it is business as usual again.
It is highly likely there will be challenges accessing information that has not been captured in a shared system. I cannot tell you how many businesses I have worked with that naively have not captured the knowledge necessary to keep the business running. Essential information is kept entirely in the heads of certain staff and has not been shared. It may feel like you are ‘working in the dark’ when some of these key members, the information keepers, are unable to come to work or show anyone how they do things and the result could be that work will come to an immediate grinding halt or at best be clunky, time consuming and stressful.
This crisis may continue for several months and you may find yourself working with a skeleton crew trying to keep afloat and stay ‘in the game’. Your first consideration is your crisis management plan. If you haven’t got one you may need some help in creating and communicating one for all parts of your business. Everyone needs to know who’s who in the zoo, and who has what role, and what authority each person has. Make sure your chain of command is crystal clear and communicate it widely.
I spent 13 years working in the airlines and can tell you from experience that having an agreed plan to follow helps keep your head straight and stops panic from taking over, enabling you to have the best possible chance of surviving during an emergency.
I was in a May Day situation over the Pilbara on a jet that incurred a 4-engine loss and being thoroughly trained in what to do in the event of an emergency with very clear guidelines and processes kept the whole crew focused and ensured that everything that was possible to be done was done. The crew were all recognised by the Bureau of Air Safety for excellent Crew Resource Management (CRM) and communication, and we were awarded for it. A movie was filmed about the incident to demonstrate the efficiency of the crew‘s communication. What was behind the eventual successful landing (after 13 minutes with no engine power) was the rigorous ongoing training and the clear plans of action to follow.
You need to start thinking about the mode of training if face to face isn’t an option as staff might not be all working from the same location. This might be remote training options for staff, virtual training, or individual or team coaching for all levels of your organisation. Some of your staff may be very concerned and need significant support. Harness the technology and make it work for you. If face to face is not an option, training is accessible though mobile phones, devices and laptops. Where there is a will there is a way!
Have a think about where your gaps and weak spots are for your customers, your organisation and your staff and what specifically you need help and support with.
I personally love using Zoom or Skype with my clients and use them for delivering individual and group coaching and tailored learning and development. Online is really time efficient and may help support your organisation during the next few months while workplaces are in lock down and we are being cautioned to avoid travelling unnecessarily or attending any non-essential group activities.
With all this hysteria out there, I want you to know that the experts here at Essemy are highly experienced in a variety of skills that you can tap into to help you better manage the next few months whether that be risk management planning, leading teams, change management, developing systems and processes, effective communication, public speaking, assertiveness, creative problem solving and decision making.
Don’t be shy, get in touch and together we can create a plan of attack.
Keep safe and let us know what you need your staff to be able to do, to have or to be.
We’ve got this. Take care, Louise.
Communication & Team Building Specialist
Louise has been helping people and organisations improve their professional development for over 20 years, and in that time has worked with hundreds of businesses and thousands of participants throughout Australia, South East Asia and the UK.