COVID19: Don't Just Survive but Thrive!

By Merrick Dresnin Company Director, Cote Family Destinations


Do you remember what life was like in mid-February of 2020?  In Human Resources (particularly in hospitality) I clearly recall multiple meetings where we sat in an office – not social distancing – facing a white board drawing notes, ideas and strategies to figure a way to attract new talent. 


We wanted to over-hire so as to counteract the inevitable loss of employees to hire paying jobs.  So many opportunities – it was a candidate's market.  Everything was on the upswing from a business perspective.  Our only anxiety was whether or not we could meet customer demands.


Then March 1st came, and we began hearing new vocabulary terms – pandemic, health crisis, quarantine, social distancing and shut down.  Community by community, state by state and then most of the nation found itself indoors, out of work and stopped.  We seemed to reach the top of a cliff, and instantly fell off.  Many found themselves erasing those same white boards filled with unique, powerful staffing strategies, and replacing them with layoff, downsizing notes.


While not through this disaster, many companies find themselves strategizing towards next year or beyond with far less resources, openness to investment and staff.

So what is next?  How do we achieve and establish goals with less resources to complete them?


Take a Step Back – Understand Where You Are

We are all fighting through this.  In this Covid-laden period, companies are trudging through much like soldiers slosh through knee deep mud on their way to battle.  This is not the time for companies to stop marching.  However, it is a time, when business allows, to pull decision-makers into a conference room (with masks) or put everyone on a Zoom Call and take a snapshot of what the company is dealing with and what it must do in the future.  Things can be done to ensure a bright tomorrow:


1. Establish Goals

It is essential to think through one's goals and how one intends to achieve them.  These goals need to be both short-term and, more importantly, long term.  Address the "slosh" of today to ensure revenue, controlled expenses and the maintenance of your business; but think through how you want to look when the nation recovers.  Leadership may look at the company's offerings and decide that it may want to change them.  This is the time to make changes and think through repercussions of changes made. 


As the economy reawakens, surviving companies should be prepared for internal rebirth – perhaps a rebrand, redirection, general rejuvenation.  Regardless, this is not a time to sleepwalk or allow the exhaustion of dealing with Covid to stop your ideas and progress.     

Once you identify your goals, communicate them and ensure that everyone is on the same page as to their priority and importance.


2. Your Team

Take a good look at your team.  Do you have the right people in place?  Where do you need to shore up labor resources?  Is everyone invested in the future, and working together?  Just as this is the time to think about one's output and product, it is also time to think through one's labor pool.  While everyone may be Covid-drained, look around and make sure everyone can pick themselves up from the ground and start taking future steps again. 


This is the time for company leadership to set the example for everyone else.  Leaders should have the right attitude and demeanor – we have businesses to run, and everyone has to focus on the part they play in that running.  If your leaders are not focused and not pulling themselves up, their negative mindsets will trickle to their subordinates.  Negativity will then become the culture.  We all know how difficult it is to change culture, so keep the right team intact and expel those not part of it. 


When thinking about the structure of your team, recognize each person's strengths and gaps.  Leverage their strengths and fill gaps with the strength of others.  You may feel that you do not have enough people to meet your needs – make the most of who you have.


3. Your Resources

Understand what supplies you have on hand and what you might need to achieve your goals.  Times are tough; but investing for the future is never unwise – we will recover, and it is wise to prepare now.  If you choose not to invest in basic equipment and supplies, there are two consequences.  First, you will not be able to complete company objectives efficiently or safely.  Second, your employees will notice and interpret the lack of investment as cheap and uncaring – dangerous interpretations when you are trying to keep your employees motivated and focused.


Investing in new software systems or new machinery dedicated to increasing company output may set a company back initially; but it will pay off when your company made the investment while those in your competitive set did not.  This is the time to consider, for example, a new time and attendance system; such a system, though an expense, might reduce "buddy punching" or other clock manipulation techniques and make timekeeping more efficient and reliable.  Implementing when the employee population is down, along with business, may allow for a lower negotiated implementation price as well as an easier conversion with less employees to move over to the new system.


When maximizing your resources in these challenging times, get creative.  In Human Resources, difficult times generally lead to cuts in administrative staff and training.  Solutions to cuts might include software systems replacing live presentations – "brainshark" is one such system allowing voice-over on powerpoints.  Expand train-the-trainer programs, allowing operators to take on roles previously reserved for HR trainers. 


Centralize problem-solving strategies and consolidate resource costs.  Perhaps you are a multi-state company; there are cost-savings in handling on-boarding, compliance and other matters from a central, corporate location.


4. Your Timeline

Once you identify your goals, evaluate the status of your team and resources, when are you going to take necessary steps to meet your goals?  Having targets allows you to keep your team in focus and moving in the right direction.


Dreaming big is not enough.  How will you make those aggressive dreams a reality?  It is essential to set a realistic timeline for your team, ensuring that it is realistic and everyone accepts it.  Do not underestimate the strain everyone is under in their personal lives; set an aggressive timeline for revisions, change and implementation.  However, ensure that timeline is accepted by all and deemed achievable.  No one needs more failure or discouragement right now.  Goals should be real and within reach. 


5. Expressly Prepare to Celebrate Success

As said, no one needs more defeat right now.  This is such a hard time for everyone – every company and every individual is trying to weather this unprecedented storm.  We all need to recognize success stories and celebrate them.  Take mere moments to recognize a high performer or major company achievement.  When goals are achieved, virtually "clink" glasses of wine together.  We need wins and with good planning involving everyone, you will have some.  Enjoy them when they come. 


Conclusion

It may feel like we are stuck.  Individually and within our workplaces, we are struggling to get by and wonder what the future will bring. 


Your organization most likely looks different.  You are operating at a level below where you would like to be.  Despite all your efforts to strategize and adjust for today's reality, there may be a drop off in service delivery, guest service, etc.  Expect it and try to solve it.  However, do not let your teams be discouraged what will inevitably come.  You are trying to accomplish business as usual when nothing is usual.  It is ok to fail once in a while, so long as you openly strive to improve.  


If you take stock in what you have, strategize around your current resources and hold together while pointing everyone towards the future and goal-oriented achievements, you will survive.  In fact, you may thrive. 

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