As William Arthur Ward said…


The pessimist complains about the wind, the optimist expects it to change, the realist adjusts the sails.

COVID-19 is causing many businesses to ‘press pause’ and re-think their strategy and positioning in the marketplace. The strategic plan for 2020 is no longer relevant, the focus is now on either survival or pivoting to take advantage of new opportunities and new markets.

Here at Human-By Design, we have been talking to HR leaders for some time now about the importance of preparing your business for VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity). Click here for a PDF presentation.


Here are our top tips for HR on how to create greater certainty in
‘uncertain times’:


  1. Act decisively to preserve the business
The government has put in place a number of measures to support employers and employees through these turbulent times, make sure you are plugged into the resources available. Visit: Enterprise Ireland or for SME’s: Local Enterprise Ireland.


  1. Conduct Scenario Planning.

What are the possible scenarios that might play out for your business and what do the impacts look like for each one? I.e. if sales declined by 20% what does it mean for the business and your people versus if sales declined by 60%?

Which of the scenarios do you need to prepare your business for?

We suggest you have a plan for a minimum of 3 scenarios that are most likely to play out, from best case to worst case.

In uncertainty, having a plan in place can really help ease stress, because you and your employees will feel safer in the knowledge that your business has a ‘plan of action’ in place, regardless of what scenario plays out.


  1. Communicate clearly with compassion and empathy.

Give your employees regular ‘up to date’ information on how the situation is unfolding and is being managed. Be transparent and honest with employees. Are you scaling back and decreasing expenditure or are you going to invest aggressively in new opportunities emerging from the market?

Clear communication that sticks to the facts will help to balance emotions and prevent the fear rumours from propagating. Remember, you can’t control what is going on in the outside world, but you absolutely can control how you and your team respond to the changes, focus on what you can control.


  1. Demonstrate Leadership.

This is a time now where the characteristics of true leaders need to shine through. In times of great uncertainty, the rules of the game have changed. Dr. Dan Harrison’s 30 years of research concludes that the best leaders are those who have cognitive agility and a balanced mindset, they have what’s called ‘paradoxical leadership’ traits.

While leaders must be certain of their opinions, at the same time they must also be open to alternative opinions and be willing to reflect and adjust their viewpoint. The best leaders acknowledge solutions can come from anywhere in the organisation.


  1. Revisit your ’Why’.

Use this time as an opportunity to reflect on why the business was started in the first place. How does it serve the greater good? How will your product or service help people during this difficult time?

Encourage your employees to remember their ‘why’. What was it about the organisation that inspired them to join the company?


  1. ‘Respond’ rather than ‘React’ to change.

It’s really key during this time to not have ‘knee jerk’ reactions that you may regret later!

Companies who focus solely on the ‘top line’ figures and reduce the workforce to cut expenditure, may be making a grave mistake in the long term. It’s important to remember that its’ not just about preserving financial capital, it’s also about preserving ‘human capital’.

Research shows that when these periods occur, companies that react by laying off staff, underperform in the future.

This is a big lesson learned from the crash of 2008; many organisations that ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’, end up losing valuable skills, intellectual property and customer relationships. This can take decades to re-build.

Those employees ‘left behind’ may go into ‘survivor mode’ and worry if they are going to be ‘next’. This is not ideal as research shows employees are at their least productive in environments where they don’t feel safe.


  1. Ask how can your employees be part of the solution?

Instead of suffering job losses, would employees be willing to take a pay cut across the organisation, including the executive for a period of time?

Talk to your people, ask for ideas. This is a time not only for ‘Top-Down’ leadership, but it’s also a time for bottom-up leadership. When employees are empowered to ‘have a voice’, innovative solutions can come from anywhere in the organisation.


  1. Create CLARITY.

Now more than ever, it’s vital to understand the skills and strengths of your people.

What ‘hidden’ resources does your company have to draw on? How can you leverage the skills and strengths of your employees? Can you channel them in new directions and empower your employees to utilise their creativity and ingenuity to think of new approaches to overcome the challenges of the business?

When this is all in the rearview mirror…there is going to be a lot of reshuffling in the new structure.


  1. Conduct a SKILLS AUDIT.
As an HR professional, a helpful exercise right now is to conduct a skills audit of your employees so that you have ‘visibility’ of the collective skills and strengths of your organisation.  As a result, you’ll be ready to re-position people back into their old jobs or into new roles to make a strong comeback!


  1. WORKFORCE Triage.

Triage is defined in medical terms as “the process of prioritising and acting in accordance with what is the highest priority for the greatest good of all”.

In some cases, business re-structure is the only option left after all other options have been carefully weighed up and evaluated.

While we may not be able to save everyone involved, triage actions will stabilise the situation now and secure success for the workforce of the future.

We will provide our best tips on WorkForce Triage. So, you will know what to keep in mind when going through a restructure so that you bounce back strong…

As always here at Human-ByDesignwe hope you enjoyed this article, and I hope you found the tips helpful. Do you have any thoughts? We would love to hear them.You can reach us by Clicking here.

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