What the furlough?!

Furlough, a word that most people hadn’t even heard until a month ago and now there’s a million and one things to learn about it and the hundreds of questions that it’s thrown up including those around the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme. But the question which has been left for companies to grapple with is how best to support our teams and keep them engaged during this challenging time?

Whilst your team can’t undertake any work whilst furloughed, this does not mean that you can forget about them until their furlough ends!

I’ve seen a lot of opinions about what is and isn’t acceptable to do whilst furloughed but to be clear:

“…an employee cannot undertake work for, or on behalf, of the organisation or any linked or associated organisation. This includes providing services or generating revenue.”

This does not stop you interacting with your team or training them, in fact, training is very much encouraged (provided you pay them).

You & Your Team

As an employer you have a duty of care to be checking in with your people, but it also makes business sense to keep your workforce engaged and active whilst they’re out of the business operationally.

First things first though, you’re in no position to support anyone else if you’re not looking after yourself. In order to get through this situation and be able to ensure your team are able to do the same, you need to ‘put your oxygen mask on first’.

Every member of your team is different and has different needs, that doesn’t change because of this situation, what does change is that perhaps those needs are less visible to you and that they have one common ‘umbrella need’ which is to get through this challenging time.

Personalisation and customisation are key focus areas for most businesses in terms of their customer experience and the same is necessary in terms of the employee experience, particularly whilst they are furloughed.

To lead and support your team through this period, one of the key factors will be your ability and willingness to understand those needs and to tailor your approach to meet them.

Communication

One of the biggest challenges in any business is communication, people like to be communicated with in different ways and during this time it will be no different.

According to LinkedIn’s latest Workforce Confidence Index, less than half (47%) of respondents said that their companies are providing well-timed communication to help employees navigate the crisis.

If you can, ascertain how you teams would like to be communicated with. Even if they are already furloughed, it’s not too late to ask the question.

There is so much information out there but lacklustre comms on your part, could lead your teams to fill the silence with assumptions which are incorrect, all in an attempt to bring some certainty to their situation.

Some team members may not want to engage. And that’s okay. Being socially isolated is tough and everyone has different circumstances.  Silence on their part doesn’t mean they are disengaged. Pick up the phone and see how they are for starters and take it from there.

If ever there was a time to make your team feel valued, it’s now. Employees that feel recognised are 5 times more likely to stay loyal, even if team members are not working currently doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t continue to show them how much you value them as part of your team, the contributions they have made in the past and that you will need them to make as part of business recovery. This is especially important when they may be struggling at home with feelings of inability to help.

Learning & Development

This for me is the biggest opportunity. Provided you are paying them in accordance with the relevant legislation. Overloading your team with training during a challenging time isn’t good practice but having regular opportunities for online training participation is great for individual development & fostering teamwork.

If employees are required to complete any job-related training while they are on furlough leave (which is permitted as long as it doesn’t involve them in providing services to, or generating revenue for or on behalf of their organisation) they should be paid at least the National Minimum Wage rate. If the training is mandatory the you must make sure everyone is on an even playing field by ensuring training is accessible to all your employees regardless of their personal situation and access to technology.

There is an abundance of online resources available that you can signpost to for employees to choose what to undertake, if they want to and at their convenience to ensure they stay engaged & ready to re-join the operation.

 

Supporting Wellbeing

As we know, these are challenging times for everyone, so ensure helpful resources are available, such as employee assistance programmes that your team can contact if they need support & sharing information about diet, sleep & exercise are also really valuable.

Financial wellbeing is also key especially if team members are receiving 80% pay, ensure that they are aware of all support available & share tips of how to make money go further or supporting them to find additional employment elsewhere that they can do whilst they are furloughed from your business.

“If contractually allowed, your employees are permitted to work for another employer whilst you have placed them on furlough.”

Many will also be missing the social aspect of going to work as well as not being able to spend time with friends and family so creating opportunities for social interaction through activities such as virtual pub quizzes and dinner parties can also help with this and further emphasises the need for frequent communication. Think also about the wellbeing of the families of those living with your team members and the effect that this is having on them.

Your Leadership Brand

You may ask “What’s in it for me?” 

What you do now is more visible than ever & will be remembered for a long time.

Doing the right thing & showcasing your support for your current team will not only be recognised by them, but as an ambassador for your business it will be recognised by future employees of your organisation and wherever you go to work in the future.

Don’t just do the right thing, be proud of the fact that you’re doing it, showcase it and set an example for others to follow.

OPPORTUNITY IS NOWHERE/NOW HERE

 

There can be no doubt that we are in challenging times but every challenge brings an opportunity, it’s up to you to look for it and take action but in the words of Harry Truman:

“A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.”

One key thing to remember, whilst your team need you to lead them through these challenging times, you can’t do it all on your own. You’re still going to need support and as a leader, you may find that having a mentor will be truly valuable to you not just now, but for the rest of your career.

Adam Rowledge

About the author

Adam is a leadership and employee engagement keynote speaker and the Managing Director of Rowledge Associates, a consultancy and training business which supports companies to gain competitive advantage by putting their people first and to enrich the lives of team members through positive impacts in the workplace. A former 5* hotelier, Adam was named Independent Hotelier of the Year by the Independent Hotel Show Awards in 2018, Adam has also been awarded British Travel & Hospitality Hall of Fame Young Manager of the Year in 2017.

You can get in touch with Adam using any of the platforms below, he would love to hear from you.

➡️ LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/adamrowledge/

➡️ Email – adam@rowledgeassociates.co.uk

➡️ Website – www.rowledgeassociates.co.uk

➡️ Instagram – @adamrowledge

➡️ Twitter – @adamrowledge

➡️ Facebook –  https://www.facebook.com/RowledgeAssoc/

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