If the COVID-19 outbreak in Australia were a movie, we’ve only just finished the previews. If you want to get a feel for what this outbreak will look like in May, June and July – have a look at the impact it’s making in other developed countries like Japan, South Korea and Italy.
The largest impact that Australian employers are going to feel over the coming three to six months, is a lack of people. Both staff and customers.
Some recent case studies have already become evident where a suspected case of exposure has caused teams of staff to be isolated until further notice. In Kirkland County USA, an entire fire department was closed due to expected staff exposure on recent service. We’re also going to see a major change in the way our workforce will need to operate – i.e. working from home, en-mass.
When the outbreak evolves to the point where state health departments start closing schools, you’re going to see an immediate effect on your workforce. In particular parents staying at home, to care for children.
At this scale, this complex series of challenges is largely un-chartered waters for Australian businesses. But there are things you can do today that will assist you weathering the storm and mitigating the impact.
1. Building your talent pipeline to manage staff outages
What does your business look like if you removed 10 – 20 of your top performers in one go? How about a whole floor of workers due to a clustered outbreak in your building?
This isn’t unrealistic. On 5 March 2020, Clayton Utz sent home hundreds of workers due to an onsite Chef “potentially” having been exposed to novel-coronavirus. This was not a confirmed case, it was purely suspected exposure. In the instance this becomes a confirmed case, and the subsequent workforce becomes ill, you have an instant outage of hundreds of qualified and skilled workers.
Working on your talent pipeline has never become more critical than right now. There will be certain roles that you can plan for through the development of your talent pipeline. People who are suitable to backfill roles on a casual or part-time basis. Building up this talent pipeline now becomes a mission critical step.
Take the time to identify critical roles where you do not have an in-house back up. Either cross-train staff within your team to fulfil the critical functions of those roles, or look to build up temporary options for the coming six months. The critical thing is to start now, not when you experience the outage.
Remember, COVID-19 isn’t anticipated to peak until at least May/June in Australia with some predictions saying it could be as late as September or October 2020. This is a marathon race and we’re only getting started.
2. Planning for critical supplier outages
Most, if not all of your suppliers are facing the same exposure you are. If their business and service relies upon people, then they’re facing the same people outage challenges you’re facing.
So, ask yourself:
- How long could your organisation last without service from your top 3 suppliers?
- Do you have a contingency strategies for people or service outages?
Start your planning today. Work through the top suppliers that you rely upon and ask if they have undertaken any pandemic or business continuity planning. Consider your options with alternative suppliers now, on the basis that despite best endeavours, they will experience an outage.
This might include your current staffing solution? Are you relying on an agency?
Agencies, rely on people, to to find people, to fill roles. If those people are ill and their entire office is subsequently in isolation – how will you find those people that your business relies on?
Challenge your assumptions. Things may not work the way you expect them to.
3. Prepare for mass “Work from Home”
Flexible working arrangements in a Business As Usual environment is one thing. It’s a very different thing when 70% of a city’s workforce might be forced to work from home at once. Questions your organisation needs to ask today to prepare for mass work from home:
- Have employees got access to a safe and productive environment, in a work from home arrangement?
- Has an ergonomic assessment been undertaken on their work from home set up?
- Does the answer to the above change if their entire household needs to work from home over a 4 – 6 week period (doe they have more than one home office?)
- Do employees have the appropriate internet connectivity and bandwidth for their workplace requirements?
- Has your organisation considered the appropriate cyber security for transfer of company information?
- Will they have a quiet space to undertake client facing calls?
- How will you support your employees if they begin to experience working difficulties associated with “cabin fever” through social distancing and isolation?
- Do you have an EAP employees can access?
COVID-19 is going to change they way Australia operates. It’s just a matter of time. Whilst there is absolutely no need to panic, there is an absolute need to plan. That window for proactive planning is closing fast, as the situation continues to evolve.
If you’d like to learn more about building up contingent workforce options, start your planning today with a targeted poach talent campaign. Request more information HERE
Cover Image: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images