Retaining employees during COVID-19 – don’t let your talent go to waste!

An initial work-related worry for business leaders after the news of the COVID-19 outbreak was how they would balance retaining talented employees while keeping their company financially stable.

The British Government’s Job Retention Scheme is designed to minimise the risk of businesses having to make employees redundant due to the coronavirus crisis.

Steve Dyson, a business journalist, discussed job retention with Kathy Daniels, Aston Business School employment law expert and Sarah Beattie, Managing Director of holiday childcare company FunFest Ltd.

The top tips below taken from the podcast highlight financial, legal, social and ethical considerations for business leaders when addressing employee retention during the COVID-19 period:

  1. Get your facts right “Don’t take advice from people taking their best guess”

In this episode, Kathy warns businesses to be “very careful” about understanding the detail of the Job Retention Scheme to avoid sources providing inaccurate opinion.

Kathy recommends using the government website to find out the latest information on the scheme as further updates to this and other government-led COVID-19 schemes are subject to change.

  1. Plan beyond COVID-19

It may seem like we’re under a dark cloud now, but COVID-19 isn’t going to be around forever (hopefully); Kathy and Sarah reiterate the importance of planning beyond the current pandemic.

Producing a Cashflow forecast for the next three months just to get through this initial ‘survival mode’ doesn’t take into consideration potentially unexpected changes to the market as customer, client and employee situations are altered as government regulation changes.

There will be a time once the coronavirus scare reduces when businesses are having to re-evaluate their entire process, but being organised now will put you in a much better position to get back on top of processes once usual business is resumed.

Sarah has praised Aston Business School, and in particular, the Aston Programme for Small Business Growth for working with her on a cashflow forecast long before the COVID-19 lockdown which has proved to be highly beneficial in the current climate.

  1. Scale back your non-essential costs

Once you have established your business priorities and worked out your finances, it’s time to cut back and keep outgoings to a minimum during this uncertain time. Can you film your marketing campaign from home using a smartphone? Could your classes be delivered online while you save money on office utility bills? Is it possible to stagger your supplier deliveries?

  1. Speak with your bank

Banks should be there to help companies through this financial challenge -  British Business Bank website is the best place to start for a comprehensive guide on available support.

  1. Communicate with your employees – keep them happy!

It’s important to keep in contact with employees, especially if they have just been furloughed and need reassurance that you will be bringing them back into the fold once your business is back up to full capacity.

Sarah has launched a ‘survive and thrive’ plan and shared it with her employees to give them some optimism that this is a temporary situation and show how the company will overcome the challenge.

The Job Retention Scheme ensures eligible employees get a grant to cover 80% of their monthly earnings, up to a maximum of £2,500 but, some employers such as Sarah have decided to make up the extra 20% earnings for company employees using company reserves.

There is no legal obligation of the business to add to the 80% provided by the government as part of the scheme, although showing some gratitude to employees for their services will hopefully motivate them to want to come back and work hard for you once this is all over – by which time you’ll probably require all hands on deck to keep your business growing!

Listen to the next episode in this special Aston Means Business series: SMES dealing with COVID-19 (building resilience)