As businesses continue to carefully ramp up, it’s probably no surprise that you may be operating with less than a full team for some time. Unfortunately, you’re likely to count on your existing team members to perform some tasks that are outside of their normal job descriptions.
Asking your employees to temporarily perform different types of work is not necessarily a problem. As a matter of fact, some loyal workers may volunteer to do more before you ask. They may even welcome the opportunity to gain new skills.
Still, you need to avoid stepping over the line. Here are some unwritten rules that can help you identify where that line is.
First, Carefully Assess Your Employment Needs
Even though you might expect to have an unlimited choice of new employees right now, this is not the case. For a number of reasons, people are not standing in line for jobs that you have available. Plus, there’s the issue of being able to pay them over the long term.
Most of us have never before witnessed a time of such total uncertainty. There are sporadic spikes of the virus within certain regions. These spikes force almost-daily adjustments to the lockdown rules, so, you don’t want to go overboard with new hires right now. You should certainly identify critical tasks that must get done, but you might be wise to turn first to your existing team to perform them.
Try to spend some time identifying your current needs, along with those that you expect to arise in the near future. Then, recognize that you can’t do everything yourself. You need to look at your existing team to identify how many extra tasks they have the skills and the time to handle, at least over the short term.
Use Current Responsibilities and Skills to Identify Appropriate Extra Tasks
Unless a new task achieves growth and future promotion, don’t expect employees to take on too many jobs that have nothing to do with what they are doing right now. Asking an administrative person to start recording incoming and outgoing parts on a spreadsheet might not be unreasonable.
Still, that person isn’t a programmer, so asking him or her to enhance that spread sheet so that it automatically analyzes the data and makes buying decisions would be a step too far. On the other hand, that person might have dreams of becoming a technical analyst. If you offer training and potential future promotion, then everyone wins.
Reward the Extra Work
If extra work requires overtime, then overtime pay is appropriate. Extra bonuses are nice, too. But, budgets are tight right now, and more money upfront is not the only way to compensate your employees for their dedication.
Promotions are a powerful way to reward employees. When I was a WP Temp at one company, I always took on extra work, which dramatically expanded my skillset. I wasn’t a temp for long; they hired me full time as a Technology Analyst because of how much I learned about the existing equipment – and what the company needed to automate the entire business. Of course, I had to train everyone, and I was soon promoted again to Training Manager, complete with a staff. I can report first-hand that I was a very loyal employee.
Of course, don’t forget to say “thank you” with the full sincerity that you feel. These employees helped to save your business. If you can do the same for them down the road, so much the better.
Be Willing to Take “No” For an Answer
Many small business owners find that their employees are more than willing to help out in any way that they can. This attitude is common when employees see themselves as part of your family. Still, there may be times when an employee balks at the idea of taking on extra work.
There can be many reasons for a “no” answer. Perhaps the employee already has too much work to do or does not feel qualified to do take on this type of task. Maybe you had to cut pay recently, and being asked to take on extra work seems unfair. Even if the employee just doesn’t have a can-do attitude, this is not the time to terminate employment. Just accept their answer, and move on without any repercussions.
These employees may not be first in line when promotion time eventually rolls around. But they still worked hard during tough times, and you need to recognize their loyalty when better times return. At the very least, they deserve words of appreciation from you.
There’s a Difference Between Making Requests and Taking Advantage
There’s a limit as to how many extra contributions your employees should be expected to make, even if they have some outside talents that might come in handy. Just because an employee can sew, don’t expect free uniforms for the company’s soft ball team. Still, that person might be a valued training resource if you decide to expand into the face mask business.
There’s nothing wrong with asking employees to continue going above and beyond, even when the virus-created downturn starts becoming an upturn. However, do not plan to permanently re-define their jobs, unless there’s something in it for them.
Your employees know when times are tough. They also recognize the time when your business returns to financial success. Hopefully, you can hire more people to take on the extra tasks. Or, you may send monetary rewards and promotions their way. Whatever you do, make sure that they feel your whole-hearted appreciation. They, in turn, will reward you with continued hard work as your business continues to grow.