Protect your employees now as best you can, and that loyalty will be repaid later both by staff and customers, was the message of participants in a webinar earlier this week run by COREcruitment.
Participants acknowledged that businesses may have to make hard decisions to protect their employees and ensure there is a business to operate once normality resumes following the coronavirus crisis. However, HR consultant Marco Reick, whose career also includes overseeing HR at Bill's, Leon and Black Sheep Coffee, said the current situation is "an opportunity to sort out the problem with extremely high staff turnover".
He said: "If you protect your staff, that loyalty will be paid back. As hard as it may be, it's well worth protecting your employees – stand by them or, if you can afford to do so, train them… employees and customers will repay the right thing."
Reick urged employers to consider reinstating employees who had been made redundant before the announcement that the government would cover up to 80% of wages, and consider if the job is redundant or whether there is an opportunity to reinstate it through the job retention scheme.
Delegates also urged employers to support and regularly check in with staff. "Employers should be keeping in touch, making sure that communication channels are open," said Purple Cubed co-founder Jane Sunley, while Reick added that "in this situation you probably can't over-communicate… going to work isn't just a ways and means for most people, it's also a sense of belonging".
Sunley suggested employers keep their staff busy, "there are things you can do to give people a sense of purpose". She said, for example, 1,000 Mandarin Oriental employees dialled into a training webinar last week.
Martyn Ball, group people and development director of Malmaison and Hotel du Vin, said in the group's weekly communications with employees that they say when staff can next expect to hear from them, which helps staff "manage their anxiety".
Apps such as Yapster were suggested as less-intrusive means of communication than WhatsApp. Director of the Dorchester Collection Academy Beth Aarons pointed out that employers need to understand the human circumstances of employees: "Take into consideration not just the employee's mental health but also the mental health and wellbeing of those around them who may have been furloughed, lost a job… it's really important for leaders to be asking how the wider connections are – how their parents, grandparents, children are," which she said helps to create "a human connection, which at this point is absolutely invaluable".
She added that employees would not be expected to spend eight hours a day on their laptop in a normal working environment and should be encouraged to take regular breaks as they would normally: "It's the time to really show your kindness, your generous spirit, your humanity."