How do you create an effective post-lockdown recovery plan?

08 April 2021

At the moment it is probably difficult to think about recovery when every working day is so heavily focused on survival. However, we are going to get through the current situation so while tomorrow must be your primary focus, ensuring your business gets back to where you want it to be will also require you to start making concrete plans for your recovery. 

We would suggest that while you are of course preparing for the future, it will be what you do now that provides your recovery plans with the solid foundations they will need to succeed. As a starting point we would suggest you integrate the following three steps into your standard operating procedures:

1. Monitor the health of your workforce.

Keeping tabs on the wellbeing of your employees will reflect well on you. It demonstrates you take your duty of care seriously and while things are so strained for everyone that will be appreciated. 

More practically knowing exactly where you are will allow you to act quickly if replacements or alternative resources are required to maintain productivity, staffing and service levels.

2. Make sure you are ready to continue to provide your business-critical products/services.

When we finally do reach the end of lockdown it is very likely that one of these three models will represent the ‘new normal’ (and apologies for having to use that terrible phrase!):

  • A rapid return: We will recover almost as fast as we fell into the current downturn thanks to residual consumer demand and the success of the government’s precautionary and economic provisions.
  • A slow return: If people continue to fall ill or if we see a second wave of COVID-19, the economic damage could be prolonged which would force a slower recovery. By extension, this model would see consumer confidence, demand for new products and spending power stay low which could prolong the recovery further still.
  • A volatile return: If the infection returns intermittently over the next 12-24 months, recovery could be forced into fits and starts which would make it hard for businesses to navigate the peaks and troughs effectively. Worse still if the lockdown must be extended it could cause significant long-term economic damage.

Naturally, each scenario would require a slightly different strategy but in very general terms all would need to address the 6 Rs:

-     Reviewing your business plan and your commercial objectives

-     Redefining roles and activities

-     Required resources

-     Relocation of key tasks

-     Remote working capability/infrastructure

-     Redeploying team members to more critical tasks

3. Put a plan in place to accelerate your post-Coronavirus recovery.

None of us know how long it will be until things get back to normal (whatever ‘normal’ finally means) but if you keep your focus on your people and your productivity while we are locked down, recovery will be faster.

As well as keeping basic organizational planning tasks going, your business’ leaders should also be discussing:

  • The changes you can make to ensure improved performance after the crisis.
  • The changes you could make to your standard work policies to support your workforce during recovery.
  • The focus, structure, and content of your recovery plan so that it is ready to implement once the current crisis lifts and so that you have variations to tackle a rapid, slow, or volatile return to ‘normal’. 

If you follow these 3 steps you should have the basis of a sound recovery plan but to paraphrase General Patton:

“A good plan well executed now is always better than a perfect plan executed next week.”

On the surface this means ‘good enough is good enough’; do not keep fiddling with your plan, bogged down, and distracted by the finite details of perfection. Given the total uncertainty we are facing, things are highly unlikely to play out just as you had anticipated so it is better to get as close as you can then act.

From a practical point of view the following tips could prove useful when it comes to implementation: 

 

Create a recovery team.

While your recovery will involve everyone in the business, your plan is much more likely to progress if it is driven by a few well-chosen members of staff. Choose one person from each of your departments (and backups in case the original members are unavailable at any stage) and make sure each knows their role, their objectives and what is expected of them.

Retain your best people.

Identify the people in your organisation who a) have the knowhow you will need to drive your recovery and b) are the stars of the future. They may be sitting in mid-level positions now but obviously have the ability and ambition to become the leaders of tomorrow.

Once you have identified both groups, work out how to keep them happy. While some may respond to money, not everyone does. Who is looking for promotion? Who is looking for security? Who simply just wants recognition and thanks?

Get everyone onboard.

Silence now will be hugely damaging later. If people do not know what is expected of them and why, how can they play their part? Make sure you communicate your plan as often as possible and put it in words your employees will not only understand but recognise.

Make your plan and action plan.

Coming up with an overarching recovery plan is essential but if you do not add what needs to be done by who and by when, implementation will be much harder to manage and much harder to measure.

What gets measured gets done?

Once you have added what/who/when to your plan, schedule regular reviews to make sure what you planned to do has been done and to assess the success of each measure so that you can make improvements as you go.

And do not stand on ceremony; be critical or the exercise will not add any value.

Do not talk about crisis, talk about recovery.

Implementation is hard when you are constantly worrying about what could happen to you or your job so make sure you are using the right language. You are on the road to recovery, not fighting fires or prolonging the inevitable.

Cash is King.

The physical embodiment of your recovery will be your cash situation. Is your cash reserve growing as planned or are you spending more than you are receiving?

Keep track of your cash positron daily. Pick up on bad debts quickly (and be prepared to act assertively) and highlight the costs you can cut without affecting productivity or morale.

Treat every bump like a crisis.

I know we have all been through a lot but there are more bumps to come. If you are going to facilitate a successful recovery you cannot afford to be relaxed about these bumps. Act as decisively as you did when the pandemic occurred so that glitches do not become the types of issues that could hamper your recovery.

Focus on quick wins.

Given how unpredictable your market may be once we start getting back to normal, turning your attention to high level objectives could be risky. Instead set yourself a series of smaller, more achievable goals. Not only will quick wins make immediate and measurable impact on your cash position, but the morale also boost it will give your employees will help to motivate them to achieve the next goal. 

And the next. 

And the next.

Revisit your incentive scheme.

In a crisis it is easy just to write off any bonuses but what effect will that have on your team? Now you need to increase loyalty and productivity and taking away any opportunity to for extra rewards is not going to encourage either. Instead revisit your incentive schemes and introduce smaller but more regular targets linked directly to financial performance so they remain affordable. And do not be afraid to underline that bonuses will only be paid if 100% of the target is achieved.

Increase external communications.

Marketing and PR are also easy costs to cut. However, if you are not keeping the lines of communication open with your customers and suppliers and your competitors are, that decision could be massively damaging to your business. Instead put together a schedule of positive, forward-looking communications and ask your marketers to use the channels you do not have to pay for – email, social media, SEO - to promote them so you can save on advertising, advertorial and sponsorship fees.

Identify alternative suppliers.

It may sound harsh as we are all going to be in a very similar position once lockdown has been lifted but if you can identify alternative suppliers for the business-critical supplies and services you need, you should be able to negotiate more favourable terms and make some much-needed savings.

If you would like to discuss the points in the article or require some free advice, please get in contact with us today.

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