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How to reintroduce a furloughed workforce

Written by Sabby Gill on Monday, 22 March 2021. Posted in HR, People

The government’s furlough scheme has supported around ten million UK citizens since March 2020. With many hailing its success as having saved countless people and businesses from bankruptcy. But all things must come to an end.

How to reintroduce a furloughed workforce

The government’s furlough scheme has supported around ten million UK citizens since March 2020. With many hailing its success as having saved countless people and businesses from bankruptcy. But all things must come to an end.

The inevitable end of furlough brings a fresh new challenge for businesses. One that’s never been dealt with before at this scale. And the pressing question on every manager's lips is how, when and why should they bring back their furloughed employees.

For retail, hospitality and entertainment industries - the ones who have been hit the hardest - safeguarding measures must be in place for staff’s reintroduction into the workplace.

But for white-collar workers who preside mainly in offices and on laptops, it’s clear their world of work is changing forever. The pandemic has proved that, for many their job can be done sitting at the kitchen table. Hybrid working is now a reality and businesses must take this into account when developing a plan for transitioning workers back into the office.

But there are three key considerations businesses must make to successfully re-introduce their staff.

Treating returning staff as if they are new employees 

Just because staff have been off work for long periods of time doesn’t warrant viewing furlough as a holiday. Many may have found themselves at a loose end and could have struggled with mental health or well-being issues - which must be taken into consideration. 

As would be the case with any new employee, businesses need to make sure furloughed staff are thoroughly understood and welcomed back with open arms across all teams. And quickly and transparently brought up to speed with any critical changes that have taken place within the organisation while they were off. This can be done through regular one-to-one catch-ups and team meetings. But there are other tools that, when combined with traditional methods, prove extremely effective.

Asking team members to take psychometric assessments is a great way to welcome back furloughed staff. Results can generate bespoke onboarding guides that will help staff hit the ground running. Through analysing the data behind their behaviour, aptitude, personality and emotional intelligence, line managers can identify strengths, weaknesses and any skills that may have been lost - avoiding a potential drawn out, inefficient and costly talent training programme.

Maintaining strong employee engagement

Communication is fundamental and, if done correctly, extremely effective in creating a happy workforce. As such, it is vital that businesses over-communicate what is expected from returning employees, and offer genuine understanding and reassurance while they settle back into working life.

Certain types of assessments - such as emotional intelligence - can provide accurate and powerful insight into what makes an employee tick, and how they may react to work relationships and situations.

Behaviour assessments can also help line managers and HR better understand their employee’s communication styles to help keep them engaged and motivated while coping with this new working world. This type of insight can help businesses both effectively communicate and ensure staff are comfortable and engaged during - and after - being reintroduced to the workforce.

Re-identifying existing skill sets 

Businesses must be alert to the fact that some of their furloughed workers could have lost critical skills from being away from the workplace. In fact, almost 2 million people in the UK have not worked for more than six months. However, this is an opportunity for businesses to help their furloughed workforce re-identify their existing skills, and even discover new ones that will help them progress in their role.

Aptitude assessments that measure mental agility - including problem-solving and adaptability – allow businesses to understand how quickly someone learns new information and adapts to change. Businesses can then use this insight and build a bespoke development programme that ustitlies their current and emerging skills. Ultimately improving productivity and performance in their role.

What lies ahead?

Nobody could have predicted the circumstances of the past year, and it’s difficult to see where and when the next obstacle will be.  

However, businesses can prepare for whatever the next challenge may be through harnessing innovative processes that improve understanding, communication and relationships which in turn lead to better operational results.

Businesses must show their employees added support and deliver a clear communication strategy that’ll help keep returning employees engaged and motivated. Only then will they be able to successfully re-onboard their furloughed staff and succeed in a post-Covid world.

About the Author

Sabby Gill

Sabby Gill

Sabby Gill is the Chief Executive Officer at Thomas International, the leading global talent assessment platform provider. He brings more than 30+ years' experience in the technology sector, spanning sales, operations and customer service. He has spent his career supporting businesses of all sizes with the right technology that unlocks their potential.

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