Certainty: the best perk you can offer your team right now

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Between Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic, UK manufacturing has had to bear the brunt of some of the strongest external influences in recent years. January 2021 figures from the ONS state that UK GDP was down 9% on the year before, reflecting the general state of uncertainty in the industry.

But beyond a macro view of manufacturing, we also need to consider the heart of our businesses – our employees. All of these external factors are contributing to feelings of doubt and anxiety. It’s up to us, as employers, to offer those extra assurances.

Reassurance in an age of uncertainty

How can we offer certainty to our teams when we don’t know what’s around the corner ourselves? It’s an excellent question. But the fact is, when do we ever know for sure what’s around the corner? None of us knows what lies ahead, particularly at the moment, but if you share what you DO know as often as you can, and focus on the reassurances you CAN give your employees, that will go a long way to help ease the anxiety many people are experiencing currently.

This is particularly pertinent in the manufacturing world. For many companies, feelings of doubt are constrained within their own four walls. UK manufacturing, meanwhile, is a frequent talking point in the media and may lead to questions from your staff around areas such as Brexit related material shortages, reduced staffing resources or shipping price hikes.

You cannot speak for your industry but you can speak for your company. It may be helpful for your teams to hear about the current situation in your supply chain, and what you’re doing to fill in any gaps. Show your employees that you’re staying one step ahead of potential issues and seeking alternatives, whether temporary or permanent.

You might also consider adding details of your completed ‘Staying COVID-19 Secure’ risk assessment to your workplace comms.

What’s the best way of communicating with my team?

For manufacturers, it’s not always as simple as sitting down to a weekly Zoom call. That’s why you need to have a stringent internal comms process that keeps staff abreast of changes such as:

  1. Working hours and pay rates
  2. Access to benefit schemes
  3. Factors affecting the industry
  4. Your response to the latest developments.

As workforces remain fragmented, with a combination of on-site and remote working, it’s easy for our teams to feel out of touch. In a recent blog, Managing a Divided Workforce, employee engagement specialist Michelle Mook said: “Communication is everything. Do your best to reassure and make people feel valued.”

What does this mean in context? It means focusing on the assurances that we can give our employees, rather than those we can’t. And when it comes to internal communication, keep these tips in mind:

Keep talking

Silence speaks volumes, so schedule regular communication to keep your teams abreast of what’s going on. Ideally, the answers to those key questions on pay, benefits and ongoing work should be answered by senior managers.

Keep listening, too

When we say listen, we mean really listen. Offer opportunities for one-to-one chats, and remember to always ask for feedback. You need to know if your teams are crying out for more/different information or better communication. This is an emotionally-charged time and your staff may be feeling more overwhelmed than usual. Feedback is still one of the most valued indicators of job satisfaction, so don’t neglect it while you’re focusing on other things.

Choose your channels

Now is a great time to review your current internal communication and make sure it is still fit for purpose. It could be an opportunity to revamp – or introduce – an internal newsletter. Consider linking to any updated documents, such as changes in HR policies or your coronavirus safety checks. The latter should also be available in public areas, for example, posters and files in staff rooms.

Honesty is the best policy

Whether it’s emotional support or simple admin, honesty is key for employee retention. You may require more of a ‘handover policy’ if you’re reallocating tasks to different staff members. Conversely, if you’re heading back into the office, your teams may appreciate a ‘re-onboarding strategy’ – giving you all time to focus and plan for the months ahead.

Celebrate the wins

Keep rewarding the little things. Even if you can’t offer all the perks you once could, feedback is one of the biggest motivators for better workplace performance. You can try methods such as:

  • Employee of the Month in your newsletter (with the promise of a prize later on!)
  • Thank yous for new client wins
  • Regular one-to-ones to focus on and reward personal development.

Have fun!

Fun should be part of every workplace culture. Work hard to keep it alive. If you’re talking regularly to your team you’ll know what will float their boat, from quizzes or team challenges to charity events.

Above all, don’t be too hard on yourself. Whatever your position in the company, you will not have all the answers and, with a policy of transparency, your employees will appreciate that. Your business has no doubt weathered storms in the past, and will have come a long way in the last 12 months, too. Hold your head high and keep talking for, as they say, this too shall pass.

With a renewed focus on people and communication, your business can weather the storm of political and economic change. Download our free internal comms guide or talk to us today for help.



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