Collins | Assessing The Workplace – Where We Go From Here
How do you recruit, onboard, train and retain a highly productive workforce in the time of a global pandemic? COVID-19 has certainly forced us to rethink how and where our employees work, and in many instances, it has escalated some changes that were likely inevitable.
According to a recent report on NPR, at the start of the pandemic, “job losses were centered in tourism, travel and restaurants.” As the months have dragged on, the ax fell on a wide range of white-collar workers. Moreover, some workplace experts say many of those jobs will now be done by contractors permanently. A seismic shift.
Laura Kahn, president of Media Staffing Network, says it is time for media companies to re-think their staffing, especially their sales departments. She offers some advice in her column “Retooling for the Rebound,” which appears in the September/October issue of MFM’s member magazine, The Financial Manager.
Kahn has consistently suggested the subject of flexible work options to her clients. To attract the best workforce, she’s recommended companies consider including the possibility of working from home or non-standard work hours. Most just did not “buy into the concept.”
With all businesses now forced to conduct business remotely, some, she says, are embracing employee flexibility as more than just a temporary solution. There are benefits to adopting flexible work schedules; among those Kahn cites, are flexibility, reduced turnover and lower expenses. With that, can come increased company loyalty. This, she says, is in line with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates’ philosophy that flexibility is one of the top benefits a company can offer an employee.
Offering this type of work-life balance can lead to increased productivity, even if the arrangement is part-time. Such offerings can also make the company an employer of choice, boosting both recruitment and retention.
The generation now coming into the workforce, as has been said before, has different motivations and expectations. Kahn says employers may need to make changes in compensation, onboarding, and training to increase their longevity within their companies. This problem is not going away anytime soon. In fact, Kahn expects turnover to continue to increase in the future.
Companies must take a holistic approach when they begin to recruit again. That means reviewing all recruitment and marketing materials, the company website and social media messaging. It is important that those materials reflect the diversity the company is targeting. When considering diversity, keep in mind that it refers to more than race; also consider gender, culture, and including different generations. It should go without saying that an inclusive workforce is one that reflects the customers the company is working to serve.
When responding to the economic downturn, a number of businesses left roles unfilled, eliminated positions or both. Given that, this is also the time to reassess job descriptions to make sure that what needs to be done is being done. Kahn says that understanding and confirming duties will ensure “nothing falls through the cracks.”
Kahn is a proponent of building skills-based teams. In her view, this leverages each employee’s strengths and talents. For example, some sales people may be better at prospecting, while other are more successful in developing client needs assessments. Allowing each to lean into their strengths will mean that both the company and the individuals involved will be successful.
Building a team around leaders’ strengths can also provide training opportunities. In the sales example above, if the strong sellers are focused on bringing in the business, the new hires or lower level staff should be handling related tasks such as creating proposals, following up on creative, or inputting orders. All these things can free up top salespeople, while also teaching new hires the business and what it takes to be successful.
Consider Flexible Schedules
Some media companies are facing impending brain drain because they have a whole group of people ready to retire. Offering job flexibility could result in keeping them on the job longer. The company will benefit from their expertise and maturity. At the same time, these seasoned veterans can mentor new hires, allowing the business to retain some continuity in standards and practices.
Kahn has previously suggested job sharing as a way to allow new mothers to continue working while also spending time with their new family. A job-sharing arrangement might also appeal to younger workers, who Kahn says may be juggling multiple jobs. Many company handbooks tie benefits to the number of hours the employee works on a weekly basis. This means that filling positions with part-time employees can also provide cost savings.
Keep Employment Materials Current
It’s important to make sure that employee manuals, and other materials, reflect company employment policy changes. These can be a strong recruiting tool when they show that the company is progressive in its approach to employment. On the other hand, a disgruntled employee can use an out-of-date employee manual in legal action against the employer.With all businesses now forced to conduct business remotely, some are embracing employee flexibility as more than just a temporary solution. Click To Tweet
Lastly, if you are considering shifting some positions to contractor roles, be sure to discuss the move with counsel before implementing the change. California has already enacted restrictive regulations to limit independent contractors. Additionally, many states have expanded their definitions of who can qualify for unemployment assistance to help those left vulnerable by COVID-19 job losses. With record jobless claims emptying state coffers, legislation to redefine employment, with an eye to additional revenues from unemployment and other taxes, cannot be far behind.
And take heart; moving forward purposefully in this time of constant change can help stabilize your organization and perhaps lead to new opportunities and a reinvigorated workforce.
Media Outlook 2021
MFM’s annual industry outlook seminar, Media Outlook 2021, typically held in the fall in New York, will be virtual this year. With so much uncertainty about 2021, we have chosen the theme The Future is Now – Progress, Profit, People. The seminar, which includes four hours of content, two hours each on the afternoons of Oct. 20 and 21, will be free for MFM members and $250 for never-members. The never-member rate includes a one-year trial MFM membership. For more information, visit the MFM website.
Mary M. Collins is president and CEO of the Media Financial Management Association and its BCCA subsidiary, the media industry’s credit association. She can be reached at [email protected] and via the association’s LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts.