- May 20, 2020
- Posted by: David Marshall
- Category: Leadership, Management
The last few months have been pretty rough, and many companies had to lay off associates or at least furlough them, just so they could collect unemployment for the 2+ months no one was working. But now that we’re reopening the country, the return to normalcy may be a little harder for some companies than it is others.
And a lot of it has to do with how you treated your associates before the shutdown began.
If you’re going to reopen, this is the time to get your associates involved in the process, rather than dictating what they should be doing. In other words, make them part of the planning and execution process so it’s a shared burden instead of a hierarchical top-down dictate.
For starters, involve them in everything both in how the workplace is organized, how they can listen to customers, and develop ways of meeting customers’ needs, while at the same time, safeguarding everybody in the workplace.
You’ll want to make sure that safety is still the top priority. That should always be your number one non-negotiable. That means taking the necessary precautions when it comes to face masks, hand sanitizers, social distancing, and so on. Let your associates create the policies and procedures surrounding this, since they’ll likely know the flow of the floor and foot traffic better than the managers.
Whatever you do, you should put your associates first — they should have been a top priority from the beginning — because companies that do this have a higher customer satisfaction. It shows the staff that you have their back and that they’re your top priority.
I’ve heard countless stories of rude customers berating the staff at a restaurant, retail store, or even an airline. But it’s uncommon to hear the story about the manager who backs up the associate over the loud and angry customer. I’ve found that the company that has its associates’ backs tend to get greater productivity and loyalty from them than the companies that would leave their associates to deal with the angry customer, or worse, side against their own staff to placate a customer.
Additionally, companies that do this tend to bring their associates closer to the customer, and let them make decisions that affect customer service. There’s not an intermediary, like a manager, to interpret what the customer wants and relay that to the associate to deal with.
Ultimately, your return to normalcy will depend on the empathy and understanding you have shown your associates before the pandemic started. If your associates felt like you were watching out for them, were taking care of them, and were as loyal to them as you wanted them to be to you, your return will be much easier because they’ll want to come back and support the people who supported them. And customers will want to reward those companies that they saw helping their associates.
But there have been an awful lot of people who were hurt in this process. Companies that treated their associates and customers poorly. Left them to fend for themselves, or worse, actively seemed to work against their associates’ and customers’ well-being and financial security. Those companies will have a harder time coming back from that.
We’re living in extraordinary times, so we have to deploy extraordinary measures and go outside of the norm to search out and create a new normal. But if you laid a good foundation for treating your associates well, and making them feel appreciated, you’ll be able to find yours a lot quicker.
I’ve been a manufacturing executive, as well as a sales and marketing professional, for a few decades. Now I help companies turn around their own business, including pivoting within their industry. If you would like more information, please visit my website and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.
Photo credit: Michal Jarmoluk (Pixabay, Creative Commons 0)