This is the second post of a 4-part blog series focused on what it takes to navigate out of this pandemic, and what it will take for retailers and restaurants to Emerge Stronger in a post-COVID-19 world. Click Here for the first post in the series.
Oxford dictionary defines ‘agility’ in two ways. The first is being able ‘to move quickly and easily’. The second is the ability ‘to think and understand quickly’. These two variations of the definition are inextricably linked when thinking about how to emerge from this crisis.
Cities and states across the country are all eager to relax social distancing regulations and get businesses back to normal as quickly as possible. Some have already started reopening, but most consumers aren’t comfortable going shopping or out to dinner quite yet. For businesses to respond to the government’s desire to relax the regulations while also balancing consumers’ anxieties, they’re going to need the agility to both move quickly and understand quickly.
This is a concept that was drilled into our heads as kids – “Safety First”. “Better Safe Than Sorry”. And “Never forget your ABCs: Always Be Careful”.
The ability for your business to navigate city and state requirements while ensuring the safety of consumers and employees will be key to emerging from this pandemic. These regulations will likely be reactionary in nature and are already proving to be inconsistent from region to region. For retail and restaurant leaders, this means not only understanding the restrictions and requirements, but also implementing plans to ensure your staff is executing properly.
This transition is going to be difficult if you’re a small retailer or restaurant located in only one state. But if you’re a larger company with locations that cross state borders, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Once you understand the requirements where your stores or restaurants are located, then you need to decide how your business responds.
Arguably, the most difficult part of planning for agility will be keeping up with restrictions as they change. To help its readers keep up, the New York Times has launched a state-by-state tracker of reopening and quarantine restrictions that they’re updating regularly. Within your organization, identify specific individuals to track some of the more complicated states (e.g. Pennsylvania) and/or some of the states where you have the most locations. Be sure those individuals are communicating regularly with your management team in-region to get a strong sense of employee and consumer response to the changing regulation. As dates and deadlines approach, consider daily stand-up meetings with a core team to ensure corporate and local teams have the most up-to-date information and decisions are made collaboratively.
Reopening is going to be a slow roll in many regions, and with each phase, restrictions will ease. Scenario planning can help leaders anticipate which scenario they may be faced with in the coming months. Take a look at your locations in regions most likely to open sooner rather than later and create a handful of scenarios to inform short and mid-term strategic planning. Then take those scenarios and build strategies around how to manage your business under those circumstances.
A key component to agility planning is the ability to quickly roll back decisions and revert to an older plan. If a second wave happens, your business will need to be agile enough to revert. The best way to do this is by clearly documenting your decision-making process.
How do you open? Do you?
In which scenarios do you feel comfortable opening? Would your employees feel comfortable coming back to work? What steps can you take to ensure the health and well-being of your workforce?
For many retailers and restaurants, the question of if/when you open is much larger and more complicated than a government guideline. Just because a state governor allows businesses to open back up doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right decision for your organization.
When you identify the scenarios in which you’re comfortable opening, there are a multitude of decisions to make…
• For the locations where PPE is required, do you supply that, or do you institute a BYO-PPE policy?
• If PPE is not required, do you make the decision to require it anyways to ease the concerns of employees and customers? Or is that overkill?
• Then how do you institute the capacity limitations required in some states?
• What about any additional cleaning measures? Are you going to require your locations to take specific measures or leave that up to your managers?
The last, but perhaps most important, piece of this puzzle is training. It doesn’t matter how much planning you do if the execution falls short. For each decision you’ve made, document how that affects each and every employee in your store or restaurant. From there, you can develop training plans to ensure they’re able to execute on your plans.
Agility planning is only one key element in Emerging Stronger post COVID-19. Next up, we’ll talk about the importance of Transparency and how to reassure both the public and your employee base that you’re putting their safety first in the reopening of your store or restaurant.