Bringing our people back to work...Feedback or Feedforward?

Bringing our people back to work...Feedback or Feedforward?

23 Jun 16:00 by John Neal



We have been working hard to develop the plan that will steer our businesses back to market.  We have listened to the advice from government and adopted a commonsense approach regarding how we physically prepare the office or shop floor to be safely populated again.  

Evidence that we, as leaders, have been busy during lockdown reviewing our business models and making the necessary modifications and digital transformations ensuring we maintain and develop our competitive edge in a new commercial landscape.  

As leaders we have had to adapt, we have learnt new skills that will serve us well going forward, I mean let’s go back to the first zoom meeting we had 14 weeks ago and fast forward to now as we have mastered the art of staying connected virtually.  

The government’s CORONA virus job retention scheme has saved many thousands of livelihoods and prevented businesses from collapsing. The government has stepped in to pay up to 80% of the furloughed employee’s wage and in some cases the employer has made up the difference.  

Any non-autonomous system or process will always be vulnerable as we cannot remove the ‘unscrupulous’  human element that will sadly look to exploit it for personal gain. We have unfortunately seen this with allegedly up to 30% of businesses flouting the government's guidelines and encouraging their staff to continue working whilst receiving the furloughing payment.

I have spoken to many furloughed friends and ex-colleagues who have received very little communication from their employer during the lockdown.  I see this as missed opportunities to stay connected, reaching out to employees to offer support and maintain engagement levels.  

We need to rely more than ever on returning employees to support our re-emergence plan, as we know it’s going to be a tough start as we strive to build revenue maturity at the same time as the government begins to wind up its job retention scheme.  

Let us look at the potential impact of furloughing on some, and I mean some not all our people then.  People have had to make the associated financial adjustment to accommodate 20% reduction in their salaries, but they have done this in the knowledge that their jobs have been saved.  They have been at home with their families, enjoying the fantastic weather and endless BBQs spending quality time with their children taking on the task of home tutor, and unless their role can continue to work from home they will have to make the big shift back to the office. 

Emerging from the psychological safety of their homes whilst their children return to school will certainly have an impact on general health and well-being until the transition is made and the risks are identified and managed to acceptable and practicable levels.  Is there a risk however that some staff could have become disassociated with the concept of working for a living and have gotten used to being paid to BBQ in the sunshine?  As business leaders and HR professionals we must take a proactive view here and identify what that impact could look like.  

If we simply expect our people just to return to work and pick up where they left off and be as motivated and engaged as before (or not) we could be making a mistake.   Motivating our staff extrinsically and regularly is the way to motivate them internally and help to make the change more efficiently.  Let us think about our tools to use here with one of the key ones being employee feedback.  

There’s that word ‘feedback’, we hear that, and we all know how important it is to find a way of saying thank you to our teams.  We all possess the skills required to provide constructive feedback but how many of us think about feedforward?  Feedback looks back at past performance or issues, good or bad, whereas feedforward considers the past but focuses on the now and positive suggestions to move things forward.  If we want our people to return to work effectively, we must find ways to motivate and support them. 

By providing a timely combination of empathetic feedback and feedforward, we will take giant leaps forward in showing them the way, so that they can go the way. 

After all isn’t that what leadership is all about?


The author, John Neal is Head of Learning and Development with Maytrix Group Ltd and is passionate about positive behaviour in the workspace.  If you would like further insight or support, please contact us at info@maytrixgroup.com 


Form ID:3466