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Janine Mostyn | Are you fully prepared to get back to business?

Janine Mostyn, founder and director at Huckleberry Sport, discusses what businesses need to consider post-Covid-19, to get the right balance and skill sets in their teams when they are able to return to work

Although sport is taking its first, understandably hesitant, steps towards a return, it is clear that it is not going to be ‘business as usual’ for some time to come.

None of us know exactly what the ‘new normal’ will look like as, to a large extent, it is out of our hands and in those of governments and scientists.

But one thing we can be sure of is that any substantial change in the way a business operates must lead to a re-evaluation of its people, their roles and the way recruitment is carried out. That’s just sound business sense.

Of course, in the case of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, there are extraordinary factors to take into consideration. For example, many businesses were forced to furlough staff at the onset of the lockdown as some of their colleagues continued to work as normally as possible from their homes.

Any assessment of how a business is likely to operate in the future has to consider the role of furloughed staff under changed circumstances. If a business has changed fundamentally it may be that its needs have altered and it would be naive to assume that, at some point, a whistle will blow, and everybody will simply return to their exact former roles. The sad fact is that, for some, there may not be a role to return to.

For those who are returning there are challenges around how to manage them back into the business as it is possible that furlough may have a divisive impact. Employees who have been on the outside of the business for months are likely to feel somewhat remote. There is also the potential for them to be baffled, or even resentful if changes to practices and procedures have had to be made in their absence while others were doing parts of their jobs.

Consequently, integrating returnees into teams in a positive manner is a challenge which has to be faced and overcome quickly if a business is going to thrive.

If an organisation has reduced its headcount during lockdown, gaps may be exposed when business ramps up again. For example, demand for the work previously done by in-house specialists in areas such as creative and digital disciplines, may be sporadic and business owners may be unsure about investing in permanent hires in those roles. The work still has to be done and using freelancers can be an attractive option. But if a business hasn’t worked with freelancers in a particular field it raises immediate questions about how they can be found and how their abilities, expertise and experience can be verified. Mistakes in this area can be particularly expensive to rectify.

The months without sport will have had an impact on every business in the sector and owners and directors are likely to have used the opportunity to undertake root and branch reviews of their businesses and many will be considering what they have learned about the way staff are deployed, the roles they play and the way different roles and teams operate within a business. In some cases, this may lead to a restructuring of the business, the departments and teams within it and of individual job roles – all of which requires careful planning and effective – but sensitive – management.

In addition, this period of changed working practices may have provided food for thought about potential skills gaps in teams that have become apparent during a time of remote working. Being able to fill those gaps confidently is central to a fast-start and the avoidance of potentially costly missteps as business builds up to something approaching full speed once more.

While the new norm may be somewhat fuzzy right now, at least one old certainty remains: the quality of its people is critical to any business and getting the focus, balance and skill sets of your teams right will be a major factor in building for future success.

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