By Kevin Basnett, 4th February 2020
Many of us as employees will be well aware of the concerns surrounding job security and income reduction due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Many employers are struggling to maintain pre-Covid work levels or pivot and realign their businesses to meet changed demand, working practices and the pressures imposed upon them by lockdown.
Many employees will have already lost their jobs or will have altered working arrangements or reduced salaries and will naturally be concerned about more changes and difficulties to come.
With the vaccination being rolled out and numbers coming down again and the hopeful convergence of reduced numbers and effective vaccine, there is the strong likelihood that the Furlough Scheme which is advertised to end at the of April 2021 will actually end then, despite having “enjoyed” several extensions. For those employers that have not already done so but are hoping to “ride it out”, that will almost certainly force them to re-evaluate their working arrangements, staffing level and skills. The implications for many employees will be the possibility of reorganisation, restructuring and in many cases redundancy.
What should employees be thinking about during this time?
A good honest look about the way their employer is performing and the messages that are being sent out may well bear fruit. If there is not much messaging or it is negative then ,as an employee, we would be well advised to start trying to find a plan B now. That may be easier said than done but hanging on and hoping for the best is not a great strategy.
What a lot of employers have learned over the last year is, through necessity, the need to be flexible, agile, embrace new technologies, and quite possibly accelerate plans which were in the back of their minds but never had any real impetus. That means that they will be looking for the workers who can support them in those areas. They are likely to be those who have a positive outlook and bring a positive attitude to work, those who are flexible and can cope with change and acquire new skills, (particularly IT skills) and those who step up and say “I can help”. Whether or not that happens depends upon the relationship between the individual employee and their employer. Obviously that is laden with psychology, feelings of trust, value and opportunities like progression , training and development. If it is not there then as an employee it is going to be much easier to make the decision to look around and try to find something else than to just let things drift, but it does require action. The best way of looking at this is that each of us as employees are a business as well. We are in our own business of actually making money through what we do just the same as employers make money through our efforts by managing and controlling and utilising our efforts. So we should treat plan B as our own personal business. Take it seriously. Strategise, plan and execute.
At these difficult times it pays to be really business like and focus on the business of “us”. What makes us powerful and desirable as a worker / employee? Also, we should be confident about checking in with our employers. If we feel that the relationship is worth preserving and we wish to stay with that employer, why not simply check in with them to see how they feel about us as individuals working in their business? Too often employees see this as a one-way street. In other words they wait for the employer to make the decision. But if we are in the business of running our own lives, then we should be controlling the agenda just as much as the employer.
But what happens if when we do that mental stocktake or we check in, we get those bad feelings? Well hopefully we will have progressed our plan B and then we can make some decisions about whether we wish to hold on in the hope that we may get some sort of redundancy payment. Or if, unfortunately, the relationship has become contentious or fractious then we might want to become more combative and explore avenues as to whether or not there may be some settlement deal forthcoming in order to save the employer some management time and difficulty in dealing with us as individuals. All of these are possibilities. Every relationship depends on a fair amount of psychology. Companies, in the way they deal with staff, have cultures and psychologies just as much as we do as individuals. As employees we need to make judgements about how those may play out.
We may also, be extremely fortunate if our plan B (as sometimes happens) turns out to be a really good prospect of a job which may give us the confidence to simply resign, leave and take up the new role.
We should not forget of course that even if we are not minded to stay with our current employer, upskilling and working on those attitudes and approaches are the things that are going to set us apart in applying for new roles where, in most sectors , given the increase in unemployment, it is likely to be extremely competitive. So, it will pay us, even if we do not want to invest in our current employer, to work on our own life business to make that stronger and more effective in what is likely to be a tough job environment.
Finally, if we are minded to try to negotiate some sort of financial package or settlement then we will need to look at how we may go about that in terms of the psychology and the approach.
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