Last week, I shared some ideas for how to strengthen your operations during the COVID-19 lockdown. Today’s focus will pivot to human capital. Specifically: how can you support your employees in the short-term while also strengthening your workforce for the long-term? Below are a few ideas we have seen work at our clients:
1) Focus on Building a Bench
The current crisis has amplified most companies’ dependence on a handful of highly skilled, older workers. This has been an increasingly critical problem as Baby Boomers continue to retire and companies have become hard-pressed to find comparable replacements in a younger cohort. In the current crisis, the problem has become even more acute as older workers are more susceptible to COVID-19.
To address these challenges, leadership must make expanding the skillset of younger generations a top priority. There are numerous ways to do this:
- Codify the knowledge of your highly skilled workers
- Job shadow with younger workers
- Move your key skilled workers into more coaching roles vs. doing-the-work roles
The main point is that leadership needs to take this problem seriously. This crisis has given you an opportunity to take the reins to set your workforce up for long-term sustainability. Take advantage of it.
2) Supplement overtime so you don’t burn out your current workforce
While it is logical to hunker down in the current crisis, if you aren’t careful, workforce reductions can put too much stress on your current workers. A couple of suggestions to ease the strain:
- If you are working weekends or extended hours, go to Green and Gold teams (this is Wisconsin, so it has to be Green and Gold. 😊) that work every other weekend. Or create contests that allow the winning team to get first choice on extra hours. This way, at least people get an occasional break and feel like they have some control over their time.
- Consider using contingent workers on off-hours or more unpopular shifts. There also may be an opportunity to find a highly skilled senior worker who is currently laid off (more on that below).
3) Start building a workforce for the future
Related to the concept of building a bench, companies need to be much more intentional about beginning to build the workforce of the future. What do I mean by this? Manufacturing is becoming more technical and more computer-driven. This is where your youngers workers can likely help you. Use the (normally younger) more tech/digitally savvy members of your workforce to transition current manual ways of doing things. Have them work with less tech savvy employees to get their buy in and to help them become more technically literate. Making a conscious effort in this area will pay huge dividends, both in how you do your work and how you build constructive, positive relationships within your multi-generational workforce.
We hope these ideas help you think through ways you can take a step back from current challenges and find ways to add value in a difficult time. Next week, we will wrap up our COVID-19 series by doing just that: taking a step back to evaluate some of the broader impacts and implications of the current crisis and what they mean for your organization.
In the meantime, and on behalf of the entire Engauge team, I wish you, your families, and your employees the best of health.