Highly engaging workshop focused on the importance of your staff in the current business climate.
On February 3-4, the Canadian Collision Industry Forum (CCIF) got underway, once again adopting a virtual format in view of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to maintain safety and social distancing protocols.
Kicking things off, was a virtual workshop, presented by Simplicity Car Care and hosted by Sharon Ramalho, former CPO of McDonald’s Corporation and founder, Six Words Consulting.
Ramalho focused on Stop Managing, Start Leading: What You Need to Know to Build the Workplace Back Better. She acknowledged that the unprecedented times we find ourselves in as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, present some unique challenges, but also unique opportunities from a workplace standpoint.
“I can only imagine that many of you are feeling you are at a crossroads—wanting to move things forward but at the same time having to deal with the reality we find ourselves in,” she said.
Ramalho noted that while many of us long to get back to “normal” we need to understand that ultimately, there is no “normal” anymore. Instead, what we need to understand is that the pandemic environment of 2020 has essentially set the stage for things moving forward and what we’re able to take away from those learnings we can apply to our businesses moving forward–creating an opportunity to improve and plan for the future.
She noted that the success of any business depends upon its people “and that’s what this workshop is all about.”
Going back to January 2020, Ramalho said most people had little idea of how the year would unfold and if business leaders have felt concerned and uncertain during the last 12 months, so have their employees and team members.
She noted that there’s been considerable research into what is happening in the workplace, how people are feeling and the factors influencing it.
Pointing to a study from the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), she noted that 45% of employees reported they were feeling burnt out, while 41% were feeling emotionally drained from work.
“So, imagine,” she said, “that four or five of every 10 employees are feeling burned-out or drained but are holding it in and keeping it to themselves.”
Additionally, the SHRM research also showed that among the different age groups of workers, Generation Z, the youngest workers, were feeling the full brunt of burnout with 51% saying they were experiencing it in the workplace. By contrast, just 24% of baby boomers were experiencing similar issues.
She also noted that for Generation Z and indeed, many younger millennials, the pandemic of 2020 was the first time they had experienced economic crisis in the workplace. As a result, Ramalho said employers need to be aware that their younger staff members are likely feeling more stress than those who are older, more experienced and have gone through things like this before.
Another issue facing many companies, is the percentage of managers that are actually checking in and seeing how employees are doing. While this particular survey concluded that 73% of businesses had asked managers to check in with employees, only 39% of employees said their manager had and only 37% of managers had actually focused on and discussed mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.
She also noted that in many cases, where companies had to lay-off or furlough staff, the workload has not decreased. The same amount of work is still there, meaning that fewer employees are shouldering a greater number of tasks overall.
According to a survey by the Washington Post in the U.S. approximately 3.1 million workers have reported having to contend with 48.5 more minutes of work each day and a 13% increase in meetings since the onset of the pandemic.
Ramalho also said that with many staff now working remotely, there is a greater feeling of being “chained to the desk,” in other words, it has become hard to distinguish between work time and down time, since traditionally, many employees used the time commuting to and from work to “power up” and “power down” as it were.
Yet there are positives to all this. Since the onset of the pandemic, a growing number of CEOs are recognizing that losing talent is now perceived as the number one risk to business productivity and growth, therefore, keeping staff happy, healthy and motivated is pivotal to a company’s success.
In fact, according to research by Gallup, businesses that had highly engaged employees, saw a 21% increase in profitability compared with those that did not.
“We know we need to do better for our people,” said Ramalho. “It is the right thing to do for the health and wellness of our staff as well as the performance of our companies.”
Leadership, not management
Yet she acknowledged that doing this effectively requires taking a leadership, not management approach.
“I want you to think about how your employees are coping,” said Ramalho, “and that it is important to recognize that even though we are all going through this storm together, we are all in different boats.”
She noted that some employees are worried about contracting COVID-19, especially if they’re essential or frontline workers. Others might be worried about how an increasing workload is taking its toll on their mental and physical health, while others are worried about job security and how they’ll be able to pay their bills and support their families.
To help business leaders and managers identify how employees are feeling and where their biggest concerns are, she divided different behaviours and feelings into four distinct categories.
- Burned Out (no longer capable of doing the job)
- Overloaded (heavy workload, highly stressed, inconsistent performance and outcomes)
- Recovering (improving confidence have seen positive progress and adapting to changes)
- All-In (highly motivated, business as usual, with high productivity and high success rates)
Ramalho said that the situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic can drive people into and out of any one of these categories, therefore it’s important for businesses to identify A, how people are feeling and B, what to actually do when they fall into any one of these zones.
She said it was important for businesses to understand what the overall outcomes are when half or more of your staff are feeling burned out and conversely, when 50% or more are all-in and highly motivated.
She asked the audience to respond to an interactive poll related to this and the results were very interesting. Among participants in the poll, 55% said their staff were recovering, while 35% were feeling stressed and were struggling.
Looking at some of the solutions to help companies help their staff, Ramalho noted that some best practices are:
- Providing a safe and healthy work environment for employees (including PPE, safety protocols and sanitization practices)
- Keeping lines of communication open so that leaders and managers are able to talk with their staff on a regular basis to see how they are doing and how they are feeling
- Have a plan in place to ensure there are options should staff require support regarding health and wellbeing
- Discussing of workload challenges employees are facing and agree to deliverables that work for all parties
- Remote working practices versus coming into the office to determine which criteria works best for both the employee and the business (an example might be a hybrid model where employees work in the office 2-3 days per week and the rest of the time at home)
- Seeking the team’s input as you build out your future business plans, so employees are informed and aware of the changes coming and feel like they are part of a team working toward a better future together
- Training managers to provide the most effective support for both remote and essential workers
Ramalho said it was important to consider that not all managers are leaders and some managers may not currently have the experience to cope with their team members or have the necessary support mechanisms in place to do their tasks effectively.
Therefore, she explained, it was important have mechanisms in place and training and support programs integrated into part of the company’s overall plans and, given that COVID-19 has caused nearly all training to shift to virtual formats there are a lot of online resources available to make training access easier than ever before.
Moving to the business side of the equation, Ramalho talked about how in a situation like the pandemic it was important to not only take stock of what is happening, but to put together a recovery strategy and create plans to not only get the business back on track but accelerate progress moving forward.
Posing a second poll to workshop attendees, asking which phase their business was currently in out of:
A total of 61% said they were accelerating the business which was a very encouraging sign.
Pointing to Canadian Economic Outlook data, Ramalho said that the economy had contracted by 5.3% in 2020, was predicted to expand by 5.3% in 2021 and grow by 3.9% in 2022.
With that in mind, she said, it was therefore important to be working toward accelerating your business, with a clear focus on three major areas:
On the people side, this meant focusing on the safe return to work for essential, frontline and remote workers, staffing organization and design, employee engagement practices, as well as diversity and inclusion.
On the operations side, Ramalho highlighted the ability to pivot in order to move forward, implement effective changes to operational procedures and the need to adjust product and service offerings to stay relevant to the market.
When it came to the financials, now said Ramalho, was time for companies to make investments in technology and digital services/tools, investments in marketing to let the world know you’re open for business and take a good look at the revenue and cashflow road map, by understanding where the business is currently experience difficulties and where financial investments can be made to ensure long-term success.
“As you build your acceleration plan to accompany the existing business plan, these are some areas you might want to consider,” said Ramalho.