Over the past seven days I’ve been speaking in the region’s media about the ongoing Covid-19 situation, trying to help businesses cope, plan and prepare as much as they can.
One of the topics I’ve covered is the need for employers to start putting plans in place now to keep hold of skilled staff once the coronavirus restrictions are lifted, or risk losing them to the competition.
It’s a very real situation that despite the expected increase of unemployment rates, businesses could still face a shortage of skilled staff in the long term.
What is vital is that employers should not see furlough leave and the job retention scheme as a pause button, because many workers will be looking for the best possible deal on conditions and pay once they’re able to get back to work.
This is a difficult time for employees and businesses alike – bringing levels of stress like never before. The government’s newly-introduced schemes are helping to cover some costs, but the reality for many is that they’ve seen their income drop substantially.
The unemployment rate is probably going to rocket, but that doesn’t mean there will be lots of skilled workers ready to fill gaps. Certain industries will still have a shortage.
Despite these difficulties for businesses, now is the time to reflect on common issues which may affect staff turnover - such as low pay, unsociable hours, lack of career progression and poor staff morale. Dealing with these matters now will help businesses retain key staff when they reopen and rebuild.
One positive from the frankly awful Covid-19 crisis has been the significant expansion of flexible working and the ability to work remotely from home. There is no doubt that some businesses will be investigating whether these arrangements could become more long term – with options such as video conferencing being a game-changer for many.
Long-term consideration should also be given to training and development opportunities, to carry out those all-important appraisals and to evaluate long-term development, including career progression. Those are the kind of steps which will help to keep staff in the coming months as we start to recover.
Lastly, now is also the time to also review Contracts of Employment and obtain advice upon the enforceability of any confidentiality and restrictive covenants, as well as implementing policies and procedures for new working practices.