To keep the economy moving and safeguard employment in the UK, the government introduced the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme as part of a package of measures to alleviate the impact of Covid-19 on organisations.
It aims to help employers to avoid redundancies and alleviate the economic impact, as well as ensuring organisations have the workforce they require once the situation improves.
In our other article we already discussed the people management implications of the coronavirus situation, but with regards to the novel Job Retention Scheme, what are the crucial leadership considerations?
Communicating with employees on furlough
Clear communication is a critical leadership skill, even more so in times of change and ambiguity. Our earlier article on the People management implications of coronavirus shared insights on the importance of communication in these unprecedented times. However, furlough brings new challenges which require further considerations around communication. Unlike the communications around Covid-19 and the ambiguity surrounding business implications as the situation develops, the concept of furlough provides some very clear and likely unpopular decisions to communicate. If individuals who are put on furlough do not understand the reason behind the decision or the consequences it will have for them, they may feel a sense of betrayal and show resentment towards the organisation . However, if individuals feel that the decision has been reached through a fair process and the implications for them as individuals are sensitively communicated, they are more likely to accept the undesirable outcome [2,3]. Handling a conversation around furlough should follow the same steps as other difficult conversations in the workplace:
While it is not mandatory for individuals to stay in touch with their organisations during a period of furlough (and they must not be contributing to business continuity efforts), communication has been found to have a positive impact on engagement , so think about setting up a plan for how you will communicate with your furloughed employees in a way that is helpful and appropriate.
Engaging with employees on furlough
Maintaining engagement of employees while on furlough is vital for future business success when they return to the organisation. Higher levels of engagement contribute to organisation success, so it’s vital that employee engagement is maintained as much as possible to facilitate a successful onboarding when the individual returns.
Re-boarding after furlough
Re-boarding employees back into the workplace is not a new challenge, and there is plenty that can be learnt from research and best practice in returning from parental leave or sabbaticals. It’s important to be clear with employees about the role/responsibilities they’re coming back to (if different) and what’s expected of them. Individuals who perceive the work or tasks they return to as a demotion are likely to experience a psychological contract violation, impacting their engagement and performance and in the worst case, prompting them to leave the business . To encourage successful re-boarding back into the business, leaders are encouraged to:
Implementing a furlough plan for your people may trigger challenging conversations and the period of furlough and return will continue to present situations that challenge you as a leader. Being mindful upfront about how you communicate and handle the situation for your furloughed employees as well as those remaining can help increase your chances of success through this difficult period.
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