While some states are lifting stay-at-home order, many office environments are still being forced to work remotely. This may be a great time to consider the ways we can capitalize on this disruptive period as a chance to improve our workplaces.
As an added benefit, it may be an opportunity to keep employees engaged if you are one of the small businesses that applied for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan to keep paying employees for an 8-week period and are looking to take advantage of the debt forgiveness provisions.
The list below should be a resource to help identify meaningful tasks whether you are simply looking to keep employees on the payroll and paid at least 75% of their regular wages for PPP purposes or wish to incorporate more opportunities to improve their skill sets and efficiency.
Keep in mind, however, that certain actions causing changes to some employees’ duties may jeopardize exemptions under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Of course, every business is different and every workforce diverse, so not all tips will work for each employer.
Rainy Day Tasks
This first category may be the easiest way to identify tasks, but it can also be an opportunity to engage employees at all levels. Don’t just look at your list of items you have put off assigning during busier times, but ask all levels of your workforce to come up with lists they have been meaning to attend to when time allowed.
Maybe the recent emergency has highlighted a particular area of your business that could be susceptible if an unexpected leave of absence came up in a department. Rather than scrambling at the last minute to cover a position, take this time to cross-train employees in multiple skills beyond their normal responsibilities.
Identify (in a nondiscriminatory method) employees who could be repositioned in a pinch or could take on extra responsibilities when needed and provide them with a trainer or someone to shadow during a meaningful project.
Not only will you be building a more skills-diverse workforce that will provide better coverage during an emergency or leave, but you will also likely find that, by requiring individuals to instruct others on the finer parts of their positions, it will stimulate thinking and creativity, making them more efficient and of greater value to your business. They will also feel like a more meaningful part of the team.
Taking the training focus a step further, look for opportunities to encourage the upper level part of your workforce to identify the less experienced employees who could benefit from sessions that focus on specialized techniques, tricks of the trade, or specialized information unique to your sector, and set up a schedule of training focused on those topics.
Maybe you could teach new sales associates how to respond in certain circumstances, show new employees all available resources, or simply provide detailed explanations instead of just relying on staff to tell them “that is just the way we have always done it.” Also, if applicable, make resources available that encourage mentor relationships. No doubt many of the sessions could be conducted over a “Zoom” meeting.
Unless you already have a perfect staff of employees, you should be able to find at least one area in the list above for each team member to focus on, now that you likely have more time. Use the open blocks of time for improvement, instead of waiting until you must carve out extra time during normal operations to address issues that deserve attention.