A key theme of the pandemic has been saving jobs, and the government‘s furlough scheme has allowed businesses to save potentially millions of positions across the UK.
The unprecedented furlough situation has been a learning curve for both employees and employers alike – never before have employers had so many employees who are still employed, yet unable to undertake any kind of work for the business.
With the furlough scheme set to be in place until October, this means some members of your team will potentially have been out of action for over six months – an incredibly long period by anyone‘s standards.
Your employees might have ‘self-selected‘ themselves for furlough when given a choice, or the decision might have been out of their hands. Either way, you should not underestimate the effect this time out of business will have had on their skill level and overall morale.
I‘m sure during this time, the wellbeing of your furloughed team members is of paramount importance to everyone in your organisation, so today we look at how to maintain positive wellbeing and high levels of engagement with your team, to keep them motivated through this challenging time.
Today, let’s look at ways to motivate and engage your team members who are still furloughed to benefit them personally and professionally and to strengthen your business for when they return.
1. Be Honest and Open
First things first, engagement with all team members is essential, furloughed or not, during this business-critical time.
Some leaders fall into the trap of thinking that furloughed team members will not need or want to be informed of events happening within the business, but in doing this, you could be unwittingly creating a sense of resentment or mistrust.
If your team has been split between furloughed and non-furloughed employees, this can create a natural rift if left unchecked.
Ensure you keep your furloughed team members in the loop with key events happening within the business – whether it directly involves them or not.
Be honest and open with employees, even with challenging subjects such as restructuring, business planning and even redundancies, to maintain their trust and confidence that they are working for an organisation with values.
2. Maintain Communication (Using the Right Channels)
Despite being several months already into furlough, it is essential to maintain contact with your team now and until they return to work.
At the start of lockdown, managers were checking in with employees regularly, but over time it can be easy for these communication channels to slip.
The aim of your communication should always be that the furloughed employee feels informed, included and considered, without being overbearing or causing them excess stress.
An acquaintance recently told me about a friend who was put on furlough and hasn‘t heard from her manager in weeks – this is an example of how not to ‘do leadership‘, and a fast way to diminish trust.
While your employees are out of action, they are of course not legally allowed to be working for you, but as training is both allowed and encouraged, you can keep them engaged by creating specific learning and development plans.
So, don‘t bombard your employees with emails (not that they‘re allowed to check them on furlough anyway!) – this could make them feel as though they are in limbo between working and furlough. Instead, use more casual channels like social media groups or a weekly phone call.
3. Make Use of Learning and Development Plans
Depending on the size of your team and the number of employees who are still on furlough, think about how you can help them both maintain and grow their skill level with training.
Time away from your everyday role can help people get a clearer perspective of where they want to develop; this could be career-related or otherwise. Learning and development not only keep brains active, but it helps build confidence and gives people a sense of purpose – vital factors when on furlough.
Ask employees what skills they would like to develop. What is your budget for training? Offer as much help and support as you can; this can include internal or external e-learning/virtual programmes or one-on-one coaching sessions.
The time and resources you invest in your furloughed employees now will help build valuable skills for the future.
4. Prepare Employees for Reintegration
Over the coming months, employers will recall millions of employees to return to work, in an environment very different from the one they left.
During their time off work, employees may have been suffering from job security anxiety, loneliness, vulnerability.
It will benefit both you and your furloughed employees to put together a reintegration pack. In this, you can cover how the business has changed, if their role has changed, any new physical changes to the workplace, new team structures, training and development upon returning and new goals for the future.
Great leaders act with empathy, compassion and understanding.
The challenges of recent months have been a significant test of leaders‘ capabilities, as businesses have had to think carefully about the levels and types of support needed by different team members.
Leaders who focus on the wellbeing of their team during this difficult time will see their teams strengthened for the future.
P.S. If you would like help to develop your post-Covid culture we can help. You can get in contact here.
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