Our small business can’t be operated through flexible working arrangements like work from home, especially now that we have an Enhanced Community Quarantine on Luzon. Our workers reside in various areas and the strict implementation of the lockdown makes it impossible for us to continue without workers. Therefore, what would you advise us to ensure that all of us remain productive during the 30-day period? — Anxious Apple.
Any shoe salesman will tell you of one important challenge in selling: “If the shoe fits, the customers wants another color.” That’s because there’s no such thing as one size fits all. Tailor-fitting is as imperative as breathing, eating, playing, working, and of course praying, among other essential things. So, if you think a work from home scheme is not applicable in your case, then so be it.
To a certain extent, you have to take care of your workers in these trying times. Many of them are minimum wage earners. Of course, your management action will be dictated by your company’s capacity to pay adequate compensation to the workers. Before you do anything, be guided by the latest labor advisories issued by the Department of Labor and Employment so that organizations can survive COVID-19 and provide safety nets to the workers.
These advisories are Department Order No. 209 or COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP) that entitles qualified workers to receive P5,000 each and Department Order No. 210 or Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Displaced/Disadvantaged Workers (TUPAD).
So, what can you do under the circumstances in addition to these labor advisories? As I said, it depends much on what your organization can afford. If the employees don’t have enough leave credits and you would want them to remain productive at home and be paid at the same time so you can display management magnanimity, I am recommending practical and low-cost approaches suited for a small business like yours.
THREE PRACTICAL APPROACHES
Peter Drucker was right: “Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else.” This means everyone has enough time in their hands now, at least for the next 30 calendar days. Whether it’s good or bad days, let’s think of ways we can make each day productive for the workers and the whole organization.
Ask and answer the following basic question: How do we manage the employees’ time, so they come out motivated, inspired, and refreshed with new ideas when they report back for work? Here are some practical ideas:
One, require all employees to enroll in free online courses. Yes, you read it right. There are many “free” online courses. The Internet offers an ocean of courses that cover almost the entire gamut of disciplines — from business, marketing, technology, even data science. In fact, Harvard University offers free courses via edx.org. These courses are self-paced and the candidates can choose to receive “a verified certificate for a small fee.”
Another institution that I’d like to recommend on free online programs is the Asian Productivity Organization (APO) at eapo-tokyo.org. For your type of business, APO offers an open, sophisticated course on Management of Innovation in SMEs. Aside from that, you may consider topics on Critical Strategic Foresight Tools for Sustainable Productivity and Basic Smart Manufacturing 101 in a Blockchain-driven Era.
However, if you think that Harvard and APO are too high-end, if not too challenging, for your employees, you can recommend online courses through TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority). TESDA at e-tesda.gov.ph offers free basic vocational courses like automotive, electrical and electronics, entrepreneurship, health care, information and communication technology, among others.
TESDA also offers the latest program on basic competencies in “21st Century Skills” covering Environment Literacy and Workplace Communication.
Two, require employees to identify and solve operational problems. Again, using the Internet, you can find many instructional materials on how people and organizations may solve issues in the workplace. These issues may include poor product quality, low labor productivity, or the high cost of doing business. If you know me from Adam, you may well understand that I am a firm believer in Kaizen, Lean Management and its branded equivalent like the Toyota Production System.
Forget about Six Sigma. It’s a complicated tool for many people. For one, it uses many statistical tools that are frowned on by many. Two, if you follow the Six Sigma approach strictly, you may not be able to complete your projects before the lockdown period.
Using a form like the A3 problem-solving worksheet (a template can be found in the Internet), your management and the employees take a uniform approach to identifying problems and generating solutions. Whatever it takes, you can start or restart doing continuous improvement. And the “best time to practice Kaizen is when we are in crisis mode. Start from the need to survive,” according to Japanese expert Jun Nakamuro.
Last, reward employees who choose one or all of the above options. Whatever one chooses, your management must agree to employee proposals before they are entitled to any reward. Assuming that your employees don’t have enough leave credits, I suggest paying those concerned their one-month salary, at least for their minimum reward. That is, if they can finish the course or courses subject to the condition that they secure the certificate, if not pass the written exam to be administered by your human resource department, in collaboration with Harvard, APO, or Tesda.
Another option is for your employees to design a plan or a road map on implementing their findings for the benefit of your organization. Try to estimate the concrete results that could come out of these programs and recognize your workers accordingly.
BUSINESS CONTINUITY PLANNING
Crises can happen anytime. To a great extent, your reaction will be dictated by the nature of the crisis. However, your organization should always be ready to meet any unforeseen emergencies. This can only happen if you have a dynamic business continuity plan that you can use as a general guide.
It’s important for any organization to have such a plan that can be modified annually depending on actual situations and other emergencies like a super typhoon, mass transport strike, labor strike, a major client’s factory closure, or a pandemic. Once you have a plan that contains general guidelines, it will be easy for your organization to manage any crisis that may come your way.
ELBONOMICS: All good and bad days should always result in higher productivity.