Small Business HR: Lessons Learnt During the COVID-19 Pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented economic upheaval. Millions of small businesses had to either suspend operations indefinitely or take on huge losses as the demand plummeted. Businesses that have survived the worst as well as others that have shut permanently have numerous lessons to share.
As we reach the end of 2020, let us take a look at some of the most important HR lessons the small business community has learned this year.
Small Business HR Lessons
People Are Your Most Valuable Assets & the Biggest Liability
Small businesses often tend to rush and start recruiting people, including those who don’t fit so well in the culture of the organization. It generally happens when a business goes through a period of aggressive scaling.
During a crisis situation like the Coronavirus pandemic, such employees can become a liability.
Small businesses had to change directions, alter day-to-day operations, and even change their business models during the pandemic. They had to remain agile to sail through the unprecedented economic crisis.
But, people who aren’t properly aligned to the organization either resist any change or fail to put in their best efforts when the crisis knocks on the door.
On the other hand, people who are fundamentally aligned to the company not only put in their best efforts but also come up with new ways to conduct business, cut costs, and generate revenue to help their company stay afloat.
So, depending upon the alignment, people can be your most valuable assets or the biggest liability. During the pandemic, HR managers, supervisors, and small business owners have learned the ‘hard way’ it’s not worth adding new resources if they don’t really integrate with the company.
Bloated Fixed Costs Will Come Back to Haunt You One Day
Whether you are just bootstrapping or have a small business running for many years now, chances are that you and your HR manager have a tendency to execute everything faster and better. In that endeavor, small businesses often end up increasing their fixed costs.
When the business is growing and the economy is in a good shape, it’s alright to try and complete all projects in-house. On good days, for instance, it may be profitable to hire people instead of outsourcing a project or a job role.
But, on bad days, bloated fixed costs are pretty much like a fishbone – hard to swallow and hard to spit.
Millions of small businesses have learned that high fixed costs can pull them down in times like COVID-19.
Have a Downside Scenario Built-In the Small Business Plan
The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally altered how small businesses plan for the future. HR managers as well as small business owners are now keen to have a downside scenario built into their plans. The pandemic has made people realize the importance of being ready for a rainy day.
The crisis had many HR professionals scrambling to create work-from-home policies, manage remote-work teams, and prepare contingency plans. Since everyone had to react on short notice, there was little margin for mistakes even when there was a lot of room for errors.
Adopting HR Tech Is Not As Difficult As It Seemed
Millions of small and medium scale businesses worldwide continued to resist digital transformation until the COVID-19 pandemic took us all by surprise.
Amidst nationwide lockdowns, stay-home orders, and abrupt economic downturn, businesses rushed to digitize as many processes as they could.
What was once a wish-list item for HR managers became a necessity during the pandemic! Although some businesses were hesitant to adopt HR tech, they did not have an option.
Over the last nine months, small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) have realized the fact that technology can be both an enabler and a savior in times of crisis.
You Can Hire Even In Dire Situations
Many SMEs and large scale companies were forced to impose layoffs and hiring freezes during the pandemic. But, there were businesses (such as those offering essential services or products) that had to hire more people.
For instance, a dine-in restaurant that shifted to a takeaway model or started making home deliveries may have needed to make fresh hires in recent months.
For HR managers, both layoffs and accelerated hiring are difficult. It was nothing short of a challenge for organizations to conduct background screening and pre-employment drug testing during the pandemic. But, with the help of experienced recruiters, many businesses were able to add new people quickly.
Work from Home Is Not the Same as Remote Work
Business owners, as well as HR leaders, have realized that work-from-home and remote work are not the same things. Remote work essentially means that your employees can work from anywhere they want – it can be a bedroom, a café, a co-working space, or a hotel room in the mountains. But work-from-home involves working from “home” with little or no opportunities to travel or move around.
So, ‘remote work’ is far less challenging than ‘work from home.’
Small business owners and their supervisors know now that our homes were never built to accommodate micro-offices. For us, the home was always a place where we relax, unwind and spend quality time with our loved ones. On top of that, everyone has a different situation going on at home. Some have young kids who just can’t be restricted to one area of the house. Others have sick or elderly family members.
So, you cannot expect an employee to “deliver one hundred percent” while working from home, simply because s/he has been provided with the necessary tools and incentive to do so.
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