Ensuring our frontline staff are looked after
Running a business is hard, and it's not about to get any easier.
We all know costs are rising and interest rates are going up. Financially, things look gloomy.
On top of this, employee expectations are higher than ever after a tough few years. They want, and need, more pay, more flexibility, more support.
How can you, as a business owner of an SME, keep your key workers happy and sustain your profitability?
It seems like a difficult challenge, but a challenge that is possible. This article will provide some information and tips to help you.
Who is a key worker?
Key workers are the staff who work on the frontline of our most required services.
These include Health & Social Care, Education, Transport, Infrastructure, Public Safety, Food Production and Distribution, and, of course, the government.
There is a more detailed list available here.
How can you support your key workers and inspire confidence?
Start with the right mindset
COVID-19 was a global problem, but we learned a lot from it, and some things have changed for the better.
As a leader, when employees have problems, it might negatively affect productivity. On the flip side, it's also an opportunity to show empathy and build trust in your leadership, which is much better long term.
Showing support and being as flexible as possible with meeting your staff's needs is critical when they are going through a tough time.
Understand what your employees need from you
Most staff want the same basic things from their work: Stability, respect, inclusion, and appreciation.
Providing this for them makes it much easier to navigate any issues with less impact on their work.
If you don't already, make it a habit to regularly write or email 'Thank You' notes to your staff. Try to include them in decisions, or, at least, listen to their viewpoint.
Think of your employees as members of a sports team where everyone's input and work are highly valued.
Provide individualised support
It should come as no surprise that employees want their leaders to understand their individual needs, preferences, and circumstances when making work arrangements to feel they are receiving the support they need.
So using a single approach for all of your staff is highly unlikely to work. It's better to understand each employee personally when making decisions.
For example, employees with children or caring duties might need more flexibility with their shifts. Allowing them to request shift swaps when needed, and then reviewing these on the rota, is a quick and easy way to empower them.
How to set clear boundaries
Of course, it's unrealistic to meet each need of every employee all the time.
There will be situations and circumstances where the help and support you can provide is limited.
For example, in situations where long-term illnesses or an economic crisis are causing stress and impacting an employee's ability to work, there is only so much you can do.
At times like this, you can still offer verbal and emotional support. With time off and flexible working, allow what you can but set clear limits and boundaries.
Keeping your staff motivated and profits flowing
Staff motivation is critical to the success of every business, but sometimes it's easier to talk about in theory than successfully instil it in employees.
The key is to focus on motivation every day and not just when things start to dip because, when this happens, it's much harder to get back on track. Motivated employees love their work. They also enjoy being around their colleagues and helping to achieve their team's vision.
So motivation starts with ensuring your team works well together, creating a culture where everyone feels secure, heard, and understood by everyone else.
That's not an easy task! However, team building days, regular open discussions, and high expectations of each other really do help.
Be open about mental health
Everyone seems to be talking about mental health, and it’s clear that our key workers have been under a lot of strain over the past few years.
It's great that the stigma around it is disappearing, but you might be concerned about how to help your staff and what they expect from you.
It’s important to recognise that you don’t need to have all the answers. Always listen to what your employees are saying. Create a culture where it's safe to talk about mental health, stress, and so on.
But if you feel unsure of how to support someone, it's perfectly ok to refer them to a professional or ask for support or training so that you know what to do.