Thousands of British workers have already been furloughed, with many millions expected to be placed into the scheme over the next few weeks. A term previously unheard of in UK employment law until Coronavirus struck, furlough is set to be a feature of many people’s lives over the coming months.
But what is it, and how can you ensure that being furloughed doesn’t mean lying fallow? How can benefits be derived from a period of pause in employment, ensuring that organisations and their people emerge from furlough fighting fit and ready to thrive?
Dangers of suspended animation
Standing still actually means going backwards in today’s fast-moving business environment. Being forced to stop work activity is hugely challenging and many organisations will find it difficult to re-start, and it’s particularly hard when none of us knows when or how the restart will come. But rest assured, one day – hopefully sooner rather than later – we will need to pick up where we left off.
In the meantime, we must get prepared. Leaders who are looking ahead and planning for the restart will be giving their businesses and their people the very best chance of surviving and coming out of lockdown on the front foot.
So, think carefully about furlough: who, for how long, and how can you keep furloughed staff engaged and productive? It’s vital to remember that staff are an asset and not just a liability. Make the most of your people now and your business will be all the more resilient for it.
Maximising your people assets
If you need a skeleton staff to keep your business ticking over, now is the time to engage them in development work. All those jobs which get pushed to the back of the queue during normal operations can now come to the fore; challenge your team to take a fresh look at operational efficiency, update processes and sort out administrative niggles.
For those on furlough who are not allowed to work, training is the answer. Subject to following public health guidance, the regulations permit staff training, coaching, mentoring and all other kinds of learning and development, all of which can be conducted remotely.
Spend time identifying the key members of your team and take this unmissable opportunity to focus on enhancing their performance. Where are the gaps in their capability? Which skills will they and your organisation need for the restart? How will the market have changed after lockdown and how can you best prepare?
As this graphic illustrates, there are a number of areas to address, all of which can be tackled through an effective remote learning programme.
Build in resilience
By investing in enterprise excellence now you will be building resilience into your business and your people just when it is most needed. Not only will you be enhancing your chances of commercial success, but also creating invaluable goodwill.
Employees who are engaged and feel valued are more loyal, more productive and generate greater financial results. As Richard Branson famously said, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”
These are the toughest of times for all of us and focusing on learning and development NOW will give everyone the best chance of emerging from this period stronger.
To find out more about the right kind of enterprise excellence support for you and your team during furlough, please get in touch. There are a range of remote learning options available, starting in the next few weeks.
I urge you to make the most of this opportunity to flourish during furlough, not flounder!