As Economy Re-opens, Staff May be Competitive Advantage

With communities beginning to plan for reopening of the economy, AEC firms that retained key staff throughout the pandemic crisis likely will have a competitive advantage in the recovery.

Despite the government’s effort to provide interim relief through the Payroll Protection Program, many hard-hit AEC firms made the difficult decision to lay off staff early in the process. Yet other firms were better prepared, largely due to advanced disaster and scenario planning. While few could have predicted the pandemic, these firms were able to pivot relatively quickly and focus their efforts on managing financial challenges, helping clients with their changing needs, and maintaining strong employee relationships. It is through these efforts that they built—and earned–a tremendous amount of trust, goodwill and commitment. This loyalty will translate into a resilient culture of teamwork with a focus on succeeding in the new norm.

Firms having to recall staff may face added stages of recovery. While staff will be returning to a familiar setting, there may be reinstatement-related questions and additional education and training around new policies and procedures adopted during the response to the pandemic. In addition, there may be staff, who as a result of the layoff, feel less committed to the firm and its leaders.

If your firm experienced layoffs, now is the time to act to position your firm for economic recovery. If you haven’t done so already, reach out and stay connected with furloughed employees. Let them know they are valued and that you are in the process of planning for their return as the recovery takes place. Transparent communication will be especially important now. Prepare special re-boarding programs and materials that will make returning employees feel welcome and able to quickly assimilate to a likely changed work environment. Focus on operational modifications, client and project status changes, and other transformations to the new business as usual.

While firms who remained at full staff will have a decided advantage in the economic recovery, it’s not too late to plan for the return of valued staff. Most of all, make note of lessons learned during the crisis and start formalizing your own disaster planning to be better prepared for a variety of scenarios for the future.

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