As the economy prepares to return to normality and organisations begin to plan for the implications that will ensue, it’s important we consider a range of possibilities to best equip ourselves for the future.
Here are our top tips for assessing transferable skills and redeploying staff.
Is this a redundancy situation? Perhaps one of the most difficult questions employers can ask themselves. If the answer is ‘yes’, make sure you follow the correct procedures and adhere to the legislation. Those at risk of redundancy, and certainly those under formal notice of redundancy, should be offered suitable alternative employment, this is known as‘ redeployment’. Redeployment gives employees the opportunity to try out or be outright offered a new position if the work and terms are reasonably similar, they have transferable skills, and the circumstances can be adapted to suit.
Consider employee’s legal rights. If you are enforcing redeployment then technically it is a redundancy situation (see point 1), but whether enforced or voluntary, the employee will need a new contract that covers the change that is being made. Make sure this is given in advance of the change taking place and that the employee is clear on any new or different terms.
Fairly assess individuals. Making changes to your business seems inevitable. As we ease lockdown businesses should identify the changes they’ll make permanent and any new changes that need to be brought in. This includes changes to what employees do, both now and in the future, meaning you need to assess their skills, knowledge and attributes. It’s important this is done in a fair and transparent way, as the changes may not be welcome to all. In assessing individuals, avoid any protected characteristics or using any criteria that would be considered illegal, such as their working pattern or previous actions such as whistleblowing, using parental leave or taking part in industrial action. Work with employees and / or their representative to agree a fair way to properly and thoroughly assess individuals.
What do we need now? In looking ahead to the future and forecasting any changes that will impact revenue, many businesses fail to see what they currently need. Bear in mind that the skills you think you need in your organisation NOW may not be the ones you need long-term. It’s impossible to know for certain when things will return to normal, or how long any social distancing measures may last. You are likely to need people who are flexible, adaptable and able to cope with rapid changes – on top of the skills they already possess to do their job. Do you know who in your workforce has those attributes? If you don’t then you should start thinking about this now.
What do we need in the future? Again, this is crystal-ball gazing to a degree, but on the assumption we return to some kind of normality, how prepared are you for the future? As your industry recovers and moves into a new future, it’s worth identifying which jobs will change and how individuals will need to reskill. It may help you keep ahead of your competition.
Do the right thing. If you are looking at redeploying staff, whether enforced or voluntary, you need to act fairly and transparently. There is no such thing as over-communicating – talk to staff, individually, and as a whole, and ask them for their views – jointly developing an approach to redeployment and being honest with staff is likely to reap rewards. Throughout the process, keep communication open – update staff frequently, even when there’s not much to say, and listen to suggestions and questions.
Assess transferable skills. Although it may not seem so at first glance, most of your employees are likely to have transferable skills that would lend themselves to a variety of other roles. Rather than looking at the technical skills and knowledge needed for a role, think about the generic skills like communication, planning and organisation, decision making, problem solving, conflict resolution and more. These are likely to be useful in other roles – think about what employees CAN do rather than what they CAN’T – they can often pick up the specialist technical skills and knowledge.
What have they learnt in lockdown? Some of your employees will have learnt new skills during lockdown.. Many will have been home schooling, therefore planning training sessions. They may have been juggling a range of different responsibilities and multitasking. They may have had to make some important financial decisions involving extensive budgeting and financial planning. What have they learnt that could be of use to your organisation?
Don’t overload. When reallocating work, whether to accommodate trial redeployment periods, more permanent moves, or simply to cope with circumstances, be mindful of people’s limits and their mental state. People may be hesitant to speak out if they are overloaded because they are fearful for their jobs, so the onus is on employers to behave ethically and fairly. Talk to employees about volumes of work, their own capacity and their concerns.
Consider the future. Whatever you do now may be a short-term reaction – but don’t neglect the longer-term situation. How aware are you of (in a non-Coronavirus world) trends in your industry and the ways in which your organisation is changing? Have you considered the future skills and which employees may need to upskill in a more general sense? Tools like PESTLE and Porter’s Five Forces may help you to get a better understanding.