The coronavirus pandemic continues to change work environments for small businesses. Here are some tips to keep your staff calm, committed and engaged during the crisis.

 

The coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has created widespread uncertainty, particularly about the future of many businesses. An unexpected move to remote working, combined with shrinking revenue sources, has created significant challenges for small business. The retention of staff – as a result of budget cuts, difficult decisions or other factors – remains one of the biggest obstacles for small business owners. Here are some of the ways you can keep your staff calm, committed and engaged through this demanding time.

Rely on your leadership to engage staff

As a business owner, the way you lead through a crisis like COVID-19 is crucial for the retention of staff, maintenance of morale and, ultimately, the overall success of your business. Now is a good time to revisit some of your leadership skills to help pull your team together, especially when social distancing is keeping them physically apart.

Important leadership skills include active listening, welcoming diverse ideas, making sure discussions and projects have meaning and purpose, as well as maintaining top-down clarity. Explore thought-leadership resources, such as articles, online courses or webinars.

Keep communication lines open to create staff loyalty

In unpredictable work environments, keeping your staff fully informed is an invaluable way to build trust and help them feel assured and empowered. Studies show1 that 70% of staff feel most engaged with their employer when they’re being regularly updated on strategic decisions by senior leadership. It makes them feel included and part of the bigger picture.

Even if your message isn’t always positive and difficult decisions still have to be made, it’s important to keep communication open. Say only what you know to be true and constantly share knowledge with your senior leadership and other managers, so there isn’t a bottleneck when answers need to be found. If you’re still working on a plan, let everyone know you’re in the process of gathering information.

Act as a guide to inspire employees

Harvard Business School’s HEART Framework2 is one strategy that can be applied to your staff during this crisis. Originally designed to provide guidelines on how to communicate with customers during a crisis, the framework’s five principles can also help small business owners maintain strong connections with their employees:

  • Humanise your company Display a compassionate side and show your staff that you understand the wider context. This crisis is impacting them and empathy is essential.
  • Educate about change Share specific information about how your business is adapting to the changing world.
  • Assure stability Remind them what hasn’t changed, such as your company’s values and mission statement. These values become even more crucial to how your team responds and behaves during challenging times.
  • Revolutionise offerings Outline how you’re planning to evolve the business as a result of the crisis.
  • Tackle the future Reveal your ideas about how to navigate the path ahead.

Empower your employees to boost morale

If you’ve relied on a hands-on management approach, chances are this won’t work as well with the combination of remote working staff and new demands on your time. If you can trust your employees to take on more responsibility, they may surprise you with their capability.

There are other benefits to empowering your staff with greater responsibility. Studies3  reveal that a large majority of employees are more engaged when they understand how their job relates to a company’s wider strategy, illustrating how vital a sense of purpose is in maintaining motivation.

Ways of creating this sense of purpose include communicating about the company’s future plans to your staff and involving them in projects that help realise that vision. This type of engagement is more important now that face-to-face interactions are limited, and also boosts morale. Participants in a Gallup studywere 10 times more likely to experience overall wellbeing if they also found a strong purpose in their work.


1 Harvard Business Review (2016): The Impact of Employee Engagement on Performance
2 Harvard Business Review (2020):
Ensure That Your Customer Relationships Outlast Coronavirus
3 Harvard Business Review (2016): The Impact of Employee Engagement on Performance
4 Gallup (2019): Forging Pathways to Purposeful Work: The Role of Higher Education

More COVID-19 small business insights

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