Business Owner’s Discipline in a Post-Pandemic World

If you’re a business owner, you’ve heard us talk about the importance of employee retention in today’s post-pandemic environment. With the labor shortage and more employees thinking about work/life balance as we come out of the lockdown, we emphasized steps to keep your current employees happy.

That remains the case, and it’s still much easier (and cheaper) to keep a valuable current employee than to let them get away. However, the business owner can’t cede control of the business culture, norms, policies, and processes to the individuals to make everybody “happy”.

The best way to illustrate this is with a cautionary tale of The ABC Store. Business owner Bob has just navigated through the pandemic and is inviting vaccinated employees back to work in the office to help restore some sense of normalcy. Some employees choose to remain unvaccinated and work remotely, but don’t end up being as productive as they should. Others come to Bob with their concerns and resentment after having to pick up the slack, and as a result, Bob had to take disciplinary action and let go of two long-time employees. Adding to Bob’s stress, several other staff members came to him questioning their future with The ABC Store. 

While all of this is happening, Bob is reporting record sales numbers. Demand for his products is sky-high as a result of the pandemic. Bob is still having difficulty hiring qualified workers and learning how to retain the incredible talent he already has in place. Other work tasks and processes languished as Bob struggled to be everywhere at one time. He finally decided to reach out for help to re-establish policies that provided clarity for everyone from the top down.

Some employees adjusted to working remotely and might want to keep it going. We have seen some business owners “let things slide” and allow the company culture to define itself, particularly regarding employees’ work ethic and dedication to the organization. Just because you want your employees to be happy doesn’t mean the business owner should lose sight of the discipline required to keep employees aligned with the culture and values of the business.

This topic was triggered by a recent review in our peer board meetings of a Harvard Business Review white paper called “Making Silos Work For Your Organization”. Silos, also known as verticals, are part of businesses of all sizes. While corporations often speak of “breaking down the silos”, many elements of verticals help the organization run smoothly. Vertical structures have helped companies grow and thrive for a long time.

Individual departments need to collaborate on almost all business functions. Without a disciplined leader (AKA Business Owner) involved in the business, a company culture that was once harmonious pre-pandemic can become something much different if people are just left to themselves.

Just because we are “too busy” or afraid of losing employees that are difficult to replace, the business owner can’t allow themselves to become complacent and undisciplined. For example, if evolving to a “hybrid” remote/in-office work environment is the business owner’s conscious decision and is best for the business, it should be defined, structured, and implemented. However, if the business owner becomes undisciplined, the employees’ desires can shape the work environment. 

All politics aside, if some employees choose to be unvaccinated, there should be a defined process and policy for testing, masks, social distancing, etc. They shouldn’t just be left to make their own policy like, “I’m not vaccinated, so I’m going to keep working from home”.

If more employees are working remotely, they still need the structure of things like interdepartmental meetings, one-to-one feedback, annual reviews, ongoing performance evaluations, etc.

Businesses, like most people, need structure and discipline to achieve continuous success and growth. Don’t let today’s challenges of the supply chain, the labor shortage, and increased demand for your products and services leave you and your employees undisciplined and unmotivated — reach out today if you’re in a similar situation.