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Creative Thinking Required: Business Success Could Depend on How You Support Employees and Families Right Now

Uncertain times create unexpected problems. That could be the tagline for 2020 along with about a thousand other possibilities.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has put virtually every person and every company to the test, one of the most critical questions impacting economic recovery continues to be, “How do we keep companies open and employees safe and productive during and after the pandemic?”

In my more than 30 years in the staffing industry, just when I think I’ve have seen it all, new challenges emerge. The pandemic has caused employers, including Manpower, to tackle unimaginable questions:

  • How do we keep America working while maximizing safety?
  • How can we keep the country stocked with life’s necessities (and not just toilet paper)?

How do manufacturers respond and reinvent their lines to create much needed PPE, ventilators, hand sanitizer, cleaning products, hospital equipment, and beyond?

It may not have felt like it, but as a country, we have been incredibly nimble. People and companies rose to the occasion and together invented solutions to keep things chugging, albeit slowly, along in the face of tremendous adversity.

How Parents Balance Work and Family During COVID-19 Requires Help From Employers

As we continue to fight the pandemic, we are faced with the next dilemma: How can families balance work and care and education responsibilities as the nation grapples with back-to-school plans?

Parents are faced with seemingly insurmountable questions:

  • Will my child be safe at school or their childcare setting?
  • If at not in school, will my child fall behind in their learning and social development?
  • How will I home school or supervise my child while effectively doing my work, if working from home is even an option?
  • If I’m required to work onsite, who will care for my children if school doesn’t open in-person? How will my children continue their education?
  • Will I have to quit my job?
  • What happens if I get sick?
  • If a family member gets sick and I must care for them, will I get terminated for too many absences?
  • How will I provide for my family?

It can all be so overwhelming, it takes your breath away.

Employers, this is your moment. Your workforce is begging for you for options, for answers. What can you do?

Manpower supports up to 7,000+ clients on any given day with staffing needs and workforce solutions. In the era of COVID-19, we’re not pretending we have all the answers, however we have the workforce expertise, staffing solutions and network of best-in-class businesses to drive creative thinking and ultimately help you determine the best approach for your organization.

Review Your Reality and the Realm of Possibilities

Let’s start with those employers who have employees who must be on-site for their jobs.

Review your workforce.

  • Do you have an idea of how many employees in each department and/or function will most likely have issues maintaining your pre-pandemic shifts and work scheduled?
  • Review schedules relative to the potential loss of employees so you know what the probable downside will be to your company. What will not get done if they have to leave?
  • Realizing there is no perfect answer, what are your options?
    • Change shift schedules to afford more flexibility of when your employees may work?
      • Is it adding a 2nd or 3rd shift if you don’t already have one?
      • How about asking employees who work off-shifts to volunteer to make a change in order for someone who simply cannot work during the day be able to stay with the company?
      • Job-sharing? Maybe that might work for some?
      • Split shifts? Not the best option, but, dependent upon your roles, it could work.
      • Rolling shifts? Again, it requires more work to create new shift options and it may, in fact, increase the need to expand your supervisory/management staff, but, compared to the cost of lost revenues because your product or service is slowed or stopped altogether, it is probably worth that cost.

Employers with remote or partially remote workforces, your workers need flexibility as well.

Even though they are working remotely they may still have work issues resulting from having kids, especially school age kids, who are home each day needing supervision of some sort.

The review is essentially the same as for on-site employees with, possibly, a bit more flexibility available.

  • Review each job classification’s duties.
    • Is the only time of day that those duties must be performed from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.?
      • Is job sharing an option? Could an employee who does not have the childcare or schooling issues volunteer to work a variable schedule so that someone with those issues can balance it all?
      • Is it possible for them to work a flexible schedule allowing for home schooling needs
      • Does it matter when the work is performed as long as it is accomplished?
  • Does your company have the required technology to make working remote feasible?
    • If not, what would you need? Is the cost of what you need far outweighing the cost of losing employees, rehiring, training, etc.? It is EXPENSIVE to replace a well-trained, knowledgeable employee and I am not referring to acquisition costs. I am referring to the cost of the time it takes to get a new employee producing the quantity and quality of work as the lost employee.

Think Outside the Norm – Unusual Times Call for Creative Solutions

Now, let’s really color outside of the lines and think about other ways in which employers might support? I find that this is the most difficult thing for most employers to do but can help companies seriously distinguish themself from the competition and accomplish their goals.

Consider the possibilities:

  • Employee focus groups to discuss real-world work challenges potential solutions. My dad always used to say, “all of us are smarter than one of us.” The most creative, realistic solutions to problems usually come from the group of people experiencing the problem first-hand.
    • Pro Tip: Position the group as a think tank to generate ideas without limitations. Afterwards, determine what could have the greatest impact, should be prioritized, and what is feasible.
  • Engage local colleges or universities to explore a partnership with your organization to develop creative win-win options for the home schooling conundrum, especially for families with older children who may require more school tutoring vs childcare.
  • A “how-to” guide and/or networking opportunities for employees to potentially forge partnerships with trusted, local friends to share and balance child care and/or home schooling supervision with work responsibilities.
  • If you are a larger organization, consider the possibilities of on-site childcare or virtual school support for your employees with children at a certain grade level, engaging with educators or childcare professionals and ensuring proper PPE and social distancing. Parents could visit on breaks and feel their children were safe, allowing them to focus on their work. You’d certainly want to engage with your legal team to ensure you’ve thought of everything.
    • Pro Tip: Consider forging a partnership with a nearby company already providing on-site childcare.

Get more ideas to consider for your own organization from our roundtable discussion with business leaders: “Outside The Lines: New Approaches to Today’s Extraordinary Workforce Challenges”

Lead with Flexibility and Compassion for Your Workers

Retaining your skilled, knowledgeable workforce will be essential for business recovery. Now, more than ever, employers should do everything within their power to be as flexible as possible in order to keep valued employees.

In addition, embrace your role as a leader. Workers are looking to their employers for guidance and solutions. Don’t shy away from the challenge - Be a part of that solution. No one company has all the right answers to these new challenges, but together we can get creative, put people first and come out on top.

Since day one of the pandemic, Manpower has been focused on keeping America working safely. And we will continue to provide helpful guidance and expertise as we navigate the future of work together.

Through it all, try to remember this situation will not last forever. It may not happen tomorrow but, at some point, there will once again be stability. The actions we take today will determine our success for tomorrow. Embrace creative solutions and position your organization to be a premier employer of choice in your industry and your community. If you can preserve your workforce, you will be served well in the long-run.

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