Covid 19 forced many companies to cut costs but cutting their payroll. For many it started by cutting salaries, and then for some, they had to cut the workforce. This was not always managed well and in many instances it has undermined the trust of the employees towards their employer.
People power a business, says Pavlo Phitidis. The building blocks of a business can be very simple. It’s similar to building a bridge – you can mechanically put each in place build the structure. He sees three critical building blocks in a business:
- You need to stand for something: what does your business do, for whom, what problem do you solve for them and why do you matter?
- Build the functions of the business into systems: marketing, sales, operations and administration. These systems deliver the promise you make to your customers and clients.
- Unless you power 1 and 2 with people, they don’t work
Listen to the podcast of the discussion that Pavlo had with Bruce Whitfield on The Money Show on 702 & CapeTalk about this
Business leaders in the SME space in South Africa have been through the wringer for the last 5 years: Working in a regressive economy, with a government who doesn’t seem to like business or know how to engage us. And then we have been under assault with the unreliable power supply due to Eskom.
When Covid came, SMEs already had thin balance sheets, it felt like the final straw. For many who have been running their own business for 5 or more years, they have become virtually unemployable, and have no option but to make that business work. Covid pushed people into a place of concern and panic, and many behaved towards their teams in a way they may now regret. It wasn’t necessarily deliberate, it was the shock of how Covid disrupted their environment.
There were a number of variations from cutting salaries to advising staff of no pay raises, to trying to make staff look to the upside of not travelling in traffic due to working from home… in all instances, the subtext was that if you don’t toe the line of the new policy you can find another job, knowing there are very few out there.
Pavlo witnessed many instances where the labour act was not followed. Paycuts were done for some but not all, with no transparency, which breaks the most precious ingredient between the business owner and their team. That needs to be rebuilt now.
While remote working via Zoom and other online platforms enabled work to continue, in many cases it has further broken the connection of culture that evolves in a workplace through daily interactions.
Pavlo hopes that most businesses have reset themselves by now to be relevant to the changed lives of their customers.
There are number of things to do to now to rebuild the people part of the business.
- Recognise that you are a leader
When you run your own business, that is what you are: a leader! No-one else is going to lead it whether you employ 3 or 300 people. So you are the one that has to rebuild that trust with your people.
If remote working is the new normal, you have to develop policies and systems that allow for effective communication. Pavlo’s advice is NOT to turn camera’s off in meetings – you miss body language and have no idea what people are doing on the other side. It takes all of the human engagement out of the discussion. Use all the tools at your disposal to increase engagement on screen if that is how you are working now.
- Start an engagement
Don’t leap into the issue. Start an engagement that will elicit some level of emotion. Pavlo does this often by asking a business owner ‘what inspired you to get into the business’ which removes it from a fix-it type of conversation, to an expressive one. So now ask: What did you do during lockdown? What caught you offguard most? And follow that genuine conversation with: So where are we now?
- Set a strategy
While acknowledging that things will change and evolve as we are in uncertain times, the team needs to know there is a game plan, and understand WHY not just how it works and the role that they play in it.
- All in it together
Everyone has everything to gain, and everything to lose in the business’s survival and success. Unemployment is going to become even worse in the coming months, Covid is still around, and so people are going to be very apprehensive about employing new staff. If the strategy makes sense, and is consultative with the team, and people get to contribute, which makes them co-creators, this makes them take accountability and responsibility for it.
If you are struggling with a people problem in your business, contact Aurik to get the building blocks right for growth.