We’ve had to radically change how we work in a matter of weeks. Businesses have reacted to demand fluctuations through scaling up or down rapidly. As we look to the future when the economy begins to stabilize, we need to be prepared for how to scale your business to flourish in this new normal.
Some organisations are starting to plan their return to the office or have already begun welcoming employees back, and in this same stride they should also evaluate their talent plan for the future. If you had to scale down due to demand constraints, you may be looking to scale back up if business is returning, or perhaps you had to hire new talent to help cope with an influx of new business and now you have to prioritise what talent should stay.
We’ll be detailing how you can scale up and scale down sustainably while also putting in proper considerations so that the culture of your team isn’t damaged. It’s not easy, every business is unique and there’s no one size fits all. But it is possible to scale your business successfully.
Understandably, your five or twelve month business continuity plan may have gone out the window, an unforeseen global pandemic will do that. However, now we have the new opportunity to plan for events like these in the future, but also be prepared for another second wave. Just because you’re planning on returning to the office, it doesn’t mean that restrictions won’t be changed later to protect public safety.
In the interim, look to plan for the short term. Consider breaking your plan down into bite size chunks. What do you want your team to achieve in the next month? What can we plan with for the next quarter? Speak to your team and look to revenue reports to understand where you can scale.
Businesses still need to consider the long term, just differently. Pivot your thinking to embrace business agility and flexibility, we’re not going to be in a smooth sailing scenario for a while. The more your teams can work flexibly and on terms that work well for them, the better it will be for retaining them as employees, which leads to higher quality work.
If your business was preparing to scale up when the pandemic hit and went on a hiring freeze, it might be time for you to consider ending the freeze if your demand is still strong. Just like we mentioned above, try not to think of the hire as a long term investment as you may have done before. If it’s going to take longer than three months to train up this new team member to work at full capacity, weigh up your options with diligence. We simply don’t know what the next three months or even six months holds for the world of business. However, if your teams desperately need the support and having a new hire will lessen their load and improve morale, then new talent in this team should be advocated for. It’s a hard balance getting this right, but options must be weighed with a thoughtful and timely approach.
If you have the ability to hire a contractor for a limited period of time with the possibility of an extension, this may be a good way to alleviate some stressors your team is facing. This option allows you to work with flexible time parameters whilst also assisting your team where you can.
When the pandemic hit, you may have been put in the unfortunate circumstance of having to stand down team members. Preference welcoming these team members back to your organisation before looking to hire new talent.
In the unfortunate event that your business has to downsize, it’s important to think about the best way to do this. Giving the proper time to think about how you’ll scale down may not be a luxury for your organisation, but we recommend that you take into account the following factors.
Encourage your team to take their annual leave. What this allows for, is a reduction in hours but not letting your team members go without pay. This option may not be available as some team members may have recently taken their leave.
Reduce the hours of employment for your team to cope with a lighter demand. This means that they won’t be spending idle time at work with nothing to do and your business is able to recoup on expenditure on wages. This option can also be varied to help your business when necessary. Work with your team members to establish how this will run, it may be a 3 day week or one week on with one week off. Maintain communication with your team throughout the planning process, and if feasible consider their preferences.
Reduce the pay of team members. This can lessen the financial burden on your business. Firstly communicate with your employees the importance of this decision and emphasise that it is for the longevity of the business. Check the pay grades of your employees and ensure that you’re meeting relevant rewards. Investigate if job seeker payment is available to supplement wages. Having to constrict is sometimes necessary, however it’s understanding how to scale your business for the long term that will lead to success.
Standing down employees may be the only option if you can’t support your employees with a lower wage or reduced hours. This option allows for a team member to return if business stabilizes. It’s important that you continue to support these team members wherever possible so that if they can return to your organisation, there is a good rapport there.
The most important thing to do during this time is to look after your people. If you’re scaling up or down, pay close attention to your culture. Check-in with your team regularly and see how they’re adjusting to the changes and how you can work with them if they have any concerns. Work with your new team members to foster a positive culture. Find new ways of engaging them if they’re working remotely for your business. Look after your people and they will help scale your business to success.
Don’t fall into the trap of believing that just because the job market is low that you can skim over cultural elements because people need jobs at the moment. The job market will bounce back and you don’t want any of your talent looking elsewhere when your business has stabilized. Culture is made during times of crisis just as much as when business is good and that should be the focus of scaling sustainably.