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Return to Business Leadership post Lockdown

Join us for Episode 18 of the Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership’s Making Connections series sees Gary Woodman joined by Louise Hewett as they return to Business leadership and its importance during the current UK economic situation.

Gary and Louise are also joined by special guests Tom Hadley of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation and Dave Morris from Leadership specialists Zentano.

The importance of leadership within businesses post lockdown

Louise Hewett, Founder of Hewett Recruitment and Director of the REC, comments on the importance of Leadership during this time and how it’s playing a vital role during the economic situation businesses are currently working through.

“Obviously, leadership is very important at this time.  We’re still seeing many offices who are continuing to work remotely, and they are choosing to do that in some cases simply because they’ve found that it works for them – so no reason to change.

However, other companies are continuing to work remotely as there’s simply not enough space for current social distancing, they’re just not ready because they're waiting for this distancing space to be reduced. In more than one case, the office space is simply being taken over by production so there is quite simply no room.

We’re hearing this is more likely to start as we enter later July, but currently, there’s a lot of planning going on and of course, it’s a good opportunity for Leaders to take a long hard look at their businesses. We’re not just going to see businesses going back to exactly how it was. Leaders must take a very serious look at cashflow control and things like that, but what’s changed? What are the needs of our customers now and what are the needs of our people now? This is definitely not ‘business as usual’ with a different label, so leaders should be reassessing and revaluating processes right from the top to the bottom. The traditional approach may need reviewing, giving us a time to be creative and adapt in this environment.”

Gary from Worcestershire Local Enterprise agreed, commenting “that’s definitely the case. Even with our small team at the LEP, we have a number of people who are quite keen to get back into the office, and a number who are still fairly anxious. It’s important to go at the right pace and keep that team culture together”.

Communication is hugely essential for businesses. One of the tings with remote workers is that we lose the richness of the face to face discussion. You need to be additionally careful about getting the right messaging and format across, even with particular task someone is going to do, it’s easy to misunderstand online. This could lead to a whole lot of time being wasted, moving in the wrong direction and focusing on the wrong thing. Leaders need to ensure there is a system in place to clarify each individual has accurately understood each request.

Managers in a lot of cases are not prepared and potentially don’t have the required soft skills to develop relationships and trust with workers that are working remotely, so it’s also about learning and refining new skills.

Recruiting virtually:

We’ve certainly seen a lot of time saved on video interviewing through Teams and other platforms, something that was really appreciated by our clients, with shortlisting times being cut significantly.

This has been a huge advantage as we are all busy people and we all know these difficult to find people will still be difficult to find, you know, but the improved speed of acquiring such talent is useful now and will continue to be in the future. It’s something we were a little reluctant to do to start with, as we prefer to meet candidates face to face on behalf of our clients, but now we are really beginning o see the benefits of that so it’s likely to be something that continues

Onboarding virtually:

On the onboarding side of things, we’re seeing employers using virtual onboarding. It’s really all about the process – a slightly different approach, a lot more planning, additional attention to detail and one-to-one communication. We encourage employers to initially check-in with new starters regularly- maybe in the first week a couple of times a day- gradually reducing that as candidates settle in. Having a mentor will ensure new starts accelerate more, and we encourage it to continue.

Technology is just as important, ensuring all the hardware and software works effectively.

But overall, remote working does have huge advantages as geography no longer matters. You can recruit people from anywhere, and that’s something else that our client shave found, allowing them to access an even wider talent pool.

Upcoming challenges for local business leaders:

I think it all depends on a number of factors, one of the big ones, of course, is depending on if we go into another Lockdown. However, we can take forward all the good things we’ve learnt and move forward with them and remember that our people, as always, make our business and that will never change.

What these options provide leaders is choice. It doesn’t necessarily mean all recruitment and onboarding will continue this was, as everyone will have their own processes. But it does give us an additional option, alongside the ability to speed up the process.

Key points for Leaders post lockdown

  • Maintain a flexible and adaptive mindset
  • Communication is key to encourage motivation, keep staff informed and manage expectations.
  • Ensure clear systems are in place to avoid confusion and conflict of actions
  • Engage with staff. This includes staff in the office, working remotely and those who are still furloughed. This could include questionnaires detailing key concerns etc.
  • Listen to staff and negotiate how you both envision their return to work
  • Consider workforce implications of Covid-19 – is there a particular demand? For example, additional HR staff to support individuals return to work or additional security to manage the public and manage social distancing guidelines.
  • Staff training, especially with managers regarding soft skills who must build trusting relationships with staff.
  •  Review business models
  • Join and partake in collective organisations and representative bodies to gain feedback, advice and connections
  • Access experts from other fields for further resources and advice
  • Encourage a sense of purpose throughout all team members

For further leadership advice and support, tune in to the Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership’s 'Making Connections, Return to Leadership’ podcast.