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Follow us and learn more about the challenges that come with the development and management of sustained business growth and how to tackle these challenges.

Supporting managers through uncertain times

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With the pandemic, front-line managers have seen their roles change considerably as they are faced with many new challenges.

In these uncertain times, managers are expected to:

  • Ensure implementation and compliance with evolving sanitary measures
  • Address employee absenteeism linked to COVID (quarantine and anxiety) and family obligations
  • Be responsive to their employees’ new psychological needs
  • Adapt to variations in the supply chain and to changes in production demands
  • Reorganize work accordingly.

Many managers will have the impression that they are “sandwiched” between upper management and employees on many issues.  Their stress level will increase considerably and as a result,  their emotional stability and their adaptation to new expectations will be difficult to achieve.
The manager’s behaviour will be remembered by his/her staff in these difficult times and the employee experience will be intricately linked to the employer brand.
Human Resource Professionals can make a difference in supporting managers in leading in the “new normal”.

How can HR Professionals support managers in the “new normal”?

  •  Regular and frequent communications adapted to the department’s reality
    HR Professionals can assist managers in developing new reflexes and integrating regular communication in their workday.  HR can assist the manager in determining the calendar and the most appropriate means to communicate. Employees need frequent communications to follow new procedures to prevent the spread of COVID.  They also need to get a better understanding of the company’s business issues and challenges to assess how this will affect them, personally.

    Communication is key to advising employees and circulating essential information as the situation develops.  This will reassure staff and should also allow for opportunities to listen to their concerns and eventually address them.

    The fine line between our personal and professional lives has blurred.  A manager who shows genuine interest in their employee’s personal and family circumstances will more easily show empathy, will be able to respond in a most relevant manner and will be in a better position to influence  upper management and HR on people issues.

  • Management and Communication Tools
    Checklists and handy reminders such as those found on the CNESST’s website (specific to COVID) can certainly be helpful.  Other communication tools that are easy and fun to use as well as visually catchy (an image for a message) will help managers communicate and remind staff of essential messages.

    In uncertain times, anxiety seems to take over and people tend to jump to conclusions (sometimes wrong) too quickly. These tools will certainly help emphasize essential messages.

  • People management skills development
    Learning-in-action strategies are most appropriate in the context of COVID.
    Co-development and discussion groups with colleagues can help the manager in adapting to the new normal and build resilience.  The HR Professional will ensure that meetings (virtual or not) are held in a “safe space” conducive to learning and developing new management reflexes.   Managers will address their most pressing concerns.

    Individual coaching will support the manager in addressing specific people management objectives, with a personalized approach.

  • Promoting healthy lifestyle choices
    Expectations are high and managers can be overworked.  An exhausted manager will not have the listening capabilities or the empathy that is expected.

    For remote work, the HR Professional can prepare a framework where expectations, flexibility and “unplugging” are addressed for the manager and the employee.  As a result, a work/personal life balance should be valued for both.

The HR Professional can also propose different measures for the employer to value work/personal life balance (exercise, rest, quality sleep, nutrition) for all staff, including management.

Finally, an Employee Assistance Program is an essential service to provide timely support to managers and employees for personal issues in these uncertain times.

Reading suggestion:
How do you know you work for a good manager in uncertain times? Marcel Schwantes,
Inc. Magazine, April 23 2020.


When recruiting strategies are not enough to fill jobs

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Finding and retaining competent workers are great concerns for the manufacturing industry.  Whether a company is planning growth or not, the concern is the same.

While attending the « Usine 4.0 » conference in Montreal,  the challenges of labour shortage came up in conversations with business leaders and in all presentations.  It is obvious that this challenge has the potential to slow growth and reduce the ability to compete.

In fact, for many reasons, tough times are ahead for recruiting both, skilled and non-skilled workers, in most industries.

What can be done to attract and retain workers for key positions?

6 Steps for a better strategy

  1. Clarify your business strategy and your vision for the future
  2. Identify the impact on work (what will be eliminated, modified or added)
  3. Redefine the division of work to be done and the workflow (roles, responsibilities, jobs, new technology )
  4. Identify new skills and related training
  5. Examine the company’s workforce profile ( skills, age, retirements, retention rates..)and identify critical issues
  6. Identify strategies to reduce vulnerabilities and fill key positions

With a clear vision of the future, you will have a better picture of your workforce needs, the number of workers and the required skills.  You may find that your needs are different (numbers, roles, competencies).

With this strategy, you will invest in targeted recruitment, the development of relevant skills for the future and in new programs, such as succession planning, focused on your future-based needs.

Instead of recruiting staff skilled for positions that will change in the near-future, and will eventually leave,  you will increase your retention rate of new-recruits and key employees. 

Furthermore, labour-related costs will be used strategically, efficiently, and in line with business objectives.


How to identify key employees?

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In times of uncertainty and change, we need to know who will step up to the plate, and contribute  to facing tomorrow’s challenges. Now, who are these employees?  Have they been with the company for many years or are they new recruits? More often than not, we tend to come to the wrong conclusions. Inevitably, it all depends on our vision for the future.

 

Part I :  Determine your plan for the future

In order to identify key employees, you will need a clear road map for growth.  A vision of where you want your company to be in the next few years and an action plan to achieve your vision, including who will do what and when.

Your business strategy for the coming years as well as your action plan to achieve growth and implement change will help identify the impact on employees and their work, such as :

  • New tasks and work methods
    Will certain tasks be modified or eliminated?  Are changes to roles and responsibilities, part of the plan?  Will training and coaching be required to succeed?
  • Implementing new technology
    Is the purchase of new equipment required? Will staff need training? 

Your banker or investor will like to know that your key employees are on board.

Part II: 7 steps to your action plan

Once you have determined your road map for growth, effectively communicating it and engaging your employees will make a significant difference in achieving it.

  1. Communicate your vision for the future to all teams in many different ways (formal and informal meetings), with regular updates
  2. Clarify and communicate your expectations :  expected behaviour, performance
  3. Give voice to employee concerns
  4. Foster the identification of stumbling blocks and problem-solving
  5. Clarify and explain changes to the work to be done, and to roles and responsibilities
  6. Engage and inspire employees to contribute to small projects connected to the plan of the future and acknowledge success
  7. Promote skill development and value continuous learning (training, coaching)

So, who are your key employees?

A key employee could be a new or a long-standing employee.  Seniority is definitely not a factor. It is the attitude towards change that will give you a good indication.

Throughout the 7 steps, notice the employees who are open to change and exemplify team work.  Be aware of those who take initiative in identifying roadblocks and finding solutions.

Finally, discover those who have the potential and the interest to learn and to grow.

Your key employees will surface if they are well-informed and engaged in your growth plan.  They are your best allies for success!