A roundup of our ‘Navigating the Now and Next’ event – Thursday 25 February

The fifth in the series of PM+M’s ‘Navigating the Now and Next’ events took place earlier today, aimed at helping businesses manage the ongoing challenges of the present and understand what support is available as we look forwards.

Today’s session, hosted by PM+M’s Neil Welsh and The Landmark, welcomed panellists John Chesworth (Harrison Drury Solicitors), Wayne Wild (Darwen Town Deal), Lesley Burrows (The Regenda Group), Paul Nicholls (Barclays) and Jonathan Cunningham (PM+M) to guide people-focused discussions around the collaborative approach both employers and employees have taken to successfully navigate the past twelve months. Panellists also discussed the positive steps businesses have taken during the pandemic, increasing innovation and diversifying, with a hope this will continue into the future.

A recurring theme of the event was that business leaders were astounded by how well their employees had adapted to the changes experienced during this time. John Chesworth (Harrison Drury Solicitors) gave an insight into his business at the start of the pandemic when employees were instructed to work from home, even though, technically and logistically, this was set up ‘within a weekend’. As a result, the burden on his team of adapting to different surroundings with no social contact was a worry for management. However, John found that his team reacted very well and March 2020, unpredictably, was their best month on record. This was also echoed by Lesley Burrows (The Regenda Group), who was happy to report her business ‘outperformed on every level’ and it is all to the testament of the employees and the management’s focus on caring, autonomy and accountability.

The significance of Preston and Darwen’s Town Deal bids and their prospective economic impact was covered by John and Wayne Wild (Darwen Town Deal), with their commercial backgrounds playing a vital role in adding energy and vision into a public sector setting. The regeneration message was endorsed by Lesley and the impact this can have on people. Both towns await news on whether their funding applications have been successful.

An event-wide notion was that people will never forget how they were treated during the pandemic by their employer. An example being allowing employees to work flexibly, due to having small children at home for example, rather than expecting the same level of productivity across the board. Delegates and speakers alike agreed that it was paramount for business leaders across all industries to understand each employee’s individual needs, as a common phrase heard during the pandemic is ‘we are all in the same boat’, when in fact everyone’s circumstances are different. Lesley detailed how her business has promoted the ‘pattern and rhythm’ way of flexible working, with the onus on the employee to take accountability for their working day, which was received very well by her team.

It was stressed by all delegates of the importance of rewarding employees for ‘standing by their business’ during the pandemic, and it was noted that this doesn’t necessarily have to be monetary, just that some form of appreciation doesn’t go unnoticed. It was acknowledged that this could be particularly key when considering the recruitment market and thinking about how competitive this is likely to be in the near future – retaining team members will be very important and a small gesture can go a long way!

On the other hand, it was observed that businesses need to be wary of employees overworking, as working from home can cause difficulties maintaining a good work/life balance. This highlights the importance of ‘checking in’ on employees and ensuring there is a focus on mental wellbeing, as we know working from home can sometimes have a detrimental effect.

The event also shone a light on how businesses have innovated and diversified to adapt to the changing landscape, from automating processes and IT departments managing the move to working from home, to businesses changing their whole offering from dog shampoo to hand sanitiser and achieving five times more revenue.  This goes to show how, collaboratively, businesses have reacted to the rollercoaster of the previous twelve months, and it was agreed that it would be very positive if businesses continued with this outlook, continuing to diversify and increasing levels of innovation looking into the future. Paul commented on the role that banks play in the economy, noting that an estimated £1 in every £3 passes through Barclays in some way, whilst the bank’s processes and procedures are re-invented at pace to face and support the challenges of their customers.

Jonathan commented on how the country would look to balance the books from a tax and Budget angle, endorsing the message that tax reliefs, allowances and rates may change and not to miss out on today’s planning opportunities. With the Budget next week and the country still in lockdown it may well be that some of the larger-scale plans the government may have could be kicked down the road for now, but not indefinitely.

All in all, as with our previous ‘Navigating the Now and Next’ events, the theme of remaining positive and looking towards brighter days shone through in this event, with the main focus on people, and importance of the collaborative approach to working. The key takeaway being: we are all human!

Should you wish to discuss your own situation, or seek advice for your business, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Neil Welsh today who will happily point you in the right direction.

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