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How to keep staff productive - an opportunity to retrain or upskill?

Written by Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce | 09 Apr 2020

For all the anxiety surrounding the ongoing coronavirus situation, there have been some inspiring tales of positivity and stories of people stepping out of their usual roles to do something great.

The new Nightingale hospital in East London was created in just nine days, thanks to the collective efforts of 200 army engineers working up to 15-hour shifts, 160+ contractors, and NHS staff.

Cabin crews from EasyJet and Virgin Atlantic are being retrained for service in the new critical care hospitals across the country. And doctors are stepping out of GP surgeries and being prepped to work on Intensive Care Units.

Meanwhile, F1 and Dyson have switched from manufacturing sheet metal and vacuum parts to producing much needed personal protective equipment for NHS staff on the front line.

But beyond the fight against coronavirus, there may also be new opportunities for people in small and medium-sized businesses to retrain and upskill in new areas.

Some companies will find demand for their product or service has slowed, while others may find themselves busier than ever. Either way, all companies are having to consider their operations and how to make the best use of their staff.

All hands on deck

Just like cabin crews are being retrained for service in hospitals, some companies may need to change up people’s usual roles to support the business.

You may find that some areas of your business are swamped with activity while other areas have quietened down. It’s worthwhile considering where you have that skills gap and building capacity from other areas of the business that are quieter. Perhaps you could retrain your team co-ordinator to support your sales team with responding to enquiries, for example.

For some businesses, it’s going to be a case of all hands on deck, with people ‘mucking in’ on tasks outside of their usual responsibilities. Upskilling members of your team into other roles might be what helps prevent you from buckling under the pressure. And at the very least, it’s an opportunity for people to get a better insight into other areas of the business.

Using downtime for knowledge and skills development

In the same vein, if you find business has slowed right down, perhaps now is an opportunity for staff to focus on knowledge and skills development.

Are there any online training courses your staff have signed up for but haven’t got round to doing yet? Well, now might be the time to take advantage of those.

There may be webinars you or your staff could join that are relevant to your industry or skills. Likewise, people can use the time to divulge in other media such as podcasts and videos that are related to their work - things they don’t usually have the time for.

Look out for free online training courses too. The Open University, for example, offers a range of free courses in a variety of subject matters.

At the Chamber, we have a number of members in the training industry who may be offering online courses of interest to you. Click here for a full list of our members in this space.

Using any downtime to invest in improving the knowledge and skills of your team will ensure that, once the dust settles, you’ll come back better than ever.

Creating a stronger business for the future

It’s likely that you and your team are already finding yourselves learning new skills. If your entire team is now working from home when you used to go into the office every day, you’ll already have learnt a number of new skills. Like getting to grips with video conferencing technology and how to make virtual meetings a success.

You’ll probably also find that your team forge a closer bond in this time. Perhaps you are seeing that already. And not just because you get a glimpse into each other’s homes on a daily video call, but as you’ve adapted to find better ways of working together when you can’t physically be in the same space.

All this is helping your team to develop into a stronger version of what it was before, and that will only help serve you better in the future.

Now is a key time for small and medium-sized businesses to be thinking about how they can adapt their operations to support the company. If you’re busier than normal, you may need to train staff to take on responsibilities they hadn’t before to keep up with demand. If you’re quieter than usual, then it’s an opportunity to focus on knowledge and skills development.

One thing for sure is that once things get back to normal, your people and your team will come out stronger than ever.

For up -to-date business advice on coronavirus, please visit the British Chambers of Commerce Covid-19 Business Guidance Hub.

Topics: people development

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