Back into lockdown? Don’t forget your frontline!

The United Kingdom and France are back under nationwide lockdowns until the beginning of December. Germany has closed bars and restaurants. The United States is now reporting single-day records for new COVID-19 cases. Hundreds of thousands of businesses—big and small—will struggle to survive during what’s supposed to be the busiest time of the year. 

Public health considerations will continue to guide government policy and consumer behavior for the next 12 months (or longer). Some businesses will fail. Many will see sharp revenue declines because they don’t have digital and logistical resources like Amazon and JD.com. The simple truth is there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for this. It’s easy to prioritize financials over people as you struggle to keep the doors open. However, the early months of the pandemic taught us an important lesson: no matter what comes next, your frontline must be prepared

Learn how Briscoe Group in New Zealand kept their frontline engaged and prepared during lockdown.

Here are five reasons to keep the frontline top of mind as you face continued business disruption:

Upskill your team

Restrictions will continue to hamper holiday sales. Retailers, restaurants and other businesses with dramatically reduced foot traffic will rely on their online and click-and-collect operations. This means your frontline staff must be ready to support customers using these methods. You may have limited online fulfillment to specific roles in the past. You may have drawn clear lines between front of house and back of house. Now, your entire staff must know how to handle these processes so you can keep up with changing customer demand. Make upskilling a priority for your entire frontline so you can put the right people in the right positions and flex your business agility on the fly. 

Mitigate risk

How many people are allowed in your store at one time? Do customers need face coverings to eat at your restaurant? Are your grocery aisles one-way or two-way now? The rules of engagement are a moving target. Regulatory change is familiar. But the pandemic has taken it to an entirely new level. Today, failure to consistently follow the rules can result in unnecessary fines, closures and confrontations. Make sure communication and training is part of your frontline workday so employees are always up to speed regarding the latest rule changes. Otherwise, you could risk the health of your customers, employees and business. 

Download your Frontline Resilience Action Plan and make sure your teams get the training and support they need (and deserve).

Maintain engagement

Our open/closed/open/closed/open reality is devastating for businesses. It’s also devastating to employees who are worried about their next paycheck. You’ll need your frontline team to be there for you, ready to execute when a lockdown ends. You’ll need them to trust you and believe they’re safe when they enter the workplace. But first, they need you to be there for them. It doesn’t matter if they’re at work or at home. Provide consistent, reliable, timely information so they know what’s going on and feel like an integral part of your strategy. Talk about what’s going on in the business, but also make time for messages of hope and inspiration from influential people at your company.

Reboard rapidly

Hopefully mitigation efforts in places like the UK and France work as intended and businesses reopen in early December. This will probably come with a new list of health and safety requirements with less than 30 days until the new year. You’ll be challenged to bring in whatever revenue you can from what’s left of the holidays. Pent up customer demand may flood your stores. You won’t have time to onboard new or existing employees using traditional methods. Start the reboarding process now. Use digital training to deliver new topics and reinforce essential knowledge. Make sure your frontline is ready to go as soon as you’re allowed to reopen. 

Build resilience

Nine months. People around the world have been dealing with COVID-19 for nine months (or more). Everyone is burnt out. Everyone just wants things to go back to normal. Unfortunately, this isn’t going to happen soon. This is why the most important skill you need to focus on in your business right now—at all levels—is resilience. According to subject matter expert Dane Jensen, we can all build the inner skills needed to support resilience under pressure

“These are the skills like perspective, changing how I look at a situation. These are skills like imagination, which is tuning into what am I imagining about the future? And am I imagining the stuff that’s going to support my performance or be corrosive? Am I keyed into my inner thermostat and making sure that I’m making the decisions that are turning it up and turning it down appropriately.”

Listen to our full resilience conversation with Dane Jensen on The 80 Percent.

It feels like things just keep getting harder. It feels like every time we take a step forward we get pushed five steps back. But we’re going to get through this. We’re going to learn a lot about ourselves and our organizations along the way. And the frontline will continue to clock in and  play an essential role in moving our businesses and communities forward—but only if we are there to support them every step of the way. 

Be safe. Be well. Be kind to the frontline.

JD is one of the most prolific authors and speakers in workplace learning today. His practical approach integrates science, technology, storytelling and pure common sense to enable employees, improve performance and drive business results. For 20 years, JD has executed strategies for global organizations, including The Walt Disney Company.

Let’s work together to drive frontline performance in all the right ways.