Back in March a word came about that not many of us had encountered before, Furlough. In this article our Managing Director, Wayne Brophy, shares the challenges Cast UK faced during lockdown and how we bough furloughed staff back in the right way.

Many business owners – myself included – were forced to pretty much put their business on hold back in March. But with the ‘new normal’ now in place, and things picking up again, furloughed staff are returning. Whilst this has obviously come with it’s challenges, I wouldn’t change how we’ve handled it at Cast UK.

Why? Let me explain how to bring back employees in the right way…

Consistent communication

A big part of our successful pandemic response has been down to how we initially reacted. On the very first day of lockdown, we told staff what was happening so that they could understand and begin to accept the situation. We immediately reassured them that no one would be made redundant. This was a big call to make at such early doors (especially considering the furlough scheme hadn’t even been announced back then), but it gave our team confidence.

Clear communication has been something we continued when we furloughed all members of our team (apart from the directors) in April. We kept them up to date with where we were as a business, and were completely honest about any challenges we faced and how we had planned to respond to them.

This constant assurance has made people feel more at ease. Whilst I know the pandemic has naturally brought about varying forms of anxiety, stress and depression, we’ve been able to make it much less of an emotional rollercoaster for our team simply by letting them know what’s going on.

When bringing back furloughed staff, it’s essential to continue this open line of clear communication. By ensuring your own team members feel confident in the process and your business’ management team, their return to work can be a much smoother journey.

Keeping them in the loop

The fact that furloughed staff were able to stay connected to the business supported communication immensely. We maintained our great culture with virtual quizzes, bake offs and bingo, as well as relaxed chats where we could share our ‘war stories’ from lockdown. And we’ve all found real value in it too – it’s brought us closer together and helped to maintain a strong sense of teamwork.

On top of this, we ensured employees could keep their skills sharp and stay abreast of the goings-on in our sector. Whether through training and webinars from the RDLC (a networking group for recruiters) or the learning management system we implemented last year (where rich content is curated specifically for us), they had the opportunity to keep their professional brains active and stay on top of industry trends.

It’s very much been a matter of striking the right balance. Some businesses have almost forgotten about staff, whereas others have offered extremely prescribed training. However, we trusted our people to do the right thing.

And this has extended to us bringing back employees too. After an initial two-week settling-in period back in the office, we are planning to be more flexible with homeworking. Through cloud software and technology set up many years ago, there’s no issue with staff working remotely. We simply make sure to have regular catch-ups to help them maintain focus at home. Like us, you may also find that being flexible with the working location of staff actually improves performance.

Having a clear plan in place

I’ve found that having a plan has been key throughout the pandemic. When it came to determining what returning furloughed staff would do when back in the workplace, this was no different.

We’ve been slowly bringing back the team since May, ensuring they have retained work, and therefore a clear job to do. For those final returning employees who came back at the beginning of August, it’s been a slightly different story. Unlike others, they didn’t have confirmed, committed business from our clients to come back to – but we still had a plan. These team members undertook additional training around our new product sets, along with attracting new business and building client relationships.

It sounds like a small thing, but I believe setting firm intentions has really set us apart from other leaders. Some business owners panicked when the pandemic was declared, and that’s been reflected in their disjointed response. It put them in procrastination mode, causing stress amongst their team when decisions weren’t taken in a timely manner.

A clear, concise plan is so important. It doesn’t have to be 100% accurate – naturally, things change – but a strategy you can communicate to staff is always appreciated.

My greatest tip for bringing back furloughed staff

Striving to be a better leader, then – through communication, transparency and strategic thinking – is my number one piece of advice for bringing people back from furlough. When your team needs you, when times are difficult, step up to the plate. Be there for your people, and be the best leader you can be.

One member of our team who’s welcomed our approach has been Aimée Gleave, Principle Consultant. It’s feedback like this that shows us that we dealt with the situation in the right way:

“Cast UK was very good at communicating to people on furlough, keeping us involved, and reassuring us that it was a temporary measure and they were committed to bringing us back. Lots of candidates I have spoken to have maybe not had the same experience – they have been left in the dark and are registering for new roles because they’re unsure whether they have a job to go back to after furlough.”

Aimée Gleave, Principle Consultant

So, what are your tips for bringing back furloughed staff successfully? I’d be really interested to know. Have you learnt any other lessons during this time too? The pandemic has presented challenges for us all, and as insight has proven to be everything, we should all be sharing it.

Cast UK are a specialist recruitment consultancy. We are passionate about building symbiotic relationships with our clients and have been going “the extra mile” since 2005, attracting & securing the right talent, right when you need it. If you would like to discuss your recruitment requirements please call us on 0333 121 3345 or email hello@castuk.com