The largest, and most immediate, economic disrupter for The Bahamas and the world as a result of COVID-19 is the loss of employment for so many. Reports estimate that over 50 million jobs could be lost in the US alone.
With 64 percent of Bahamian gross domestic product (GDP) derived from the tourism and hospitality industry, and most jobs being either directly or indirectly linked to the industry, our unemployment numbers are nothing short of depressing. From the self-employed to hotel workers, restaurant employees, craft vendors and construction workers, Bahamians are struggling to make ends meet.
Every day for the past month, companies have been being forced to lay-off employees in the hope of achieving some form of financial stability to help survive the storm. While we are all optimistic that a turnaround will eventually come, for the short-term, people are out of work.
What is most difficult to manage is the fact that the slowdown in economic activity has also handicapped potential entrepreneurial endeavours. People are simply not in a position to pay for goods and services that are regarded as essential, much less those that are not. The economic burden placed on the public purse has become overwhelming, and is certainly not sustainable. We need solutions.
Throughout the world, employers are concerned about losing great employees who they simply cannot pay for extended periods of time during the downturn. In survival mode, leaders are making tough decisions in boardrooms across the globe.
This week, we offer five possible scenarios that you might wish to explore as you seek to keep your best employees engaged and your business viable.
Reduced hours. In scenario one, you limit the operational hours of your business or have your staff work reduced hours on rotation. This allows you to provide the goods and services you provide (as long as you are permitted to do so by the government), while also allowing your employees to receive some form of income.
Vacation leave. In some work environments, employees have accrued large amounts of vacation leave. This might be the perfect opportunity to have employees take the vacation leave they have earned, so that when business activity resumes they do not have large sums of time still owed to them.
Vacation leave without pay. If the options are lay-offs or extended vacations without pay, most employees will opt for the latter. Some employees could live with knowing that, following the pandemic, they have a job to return to. It might be heart-warming to the employee to know that National Insurance payments are still being made on their behalf.
Renegotiate the terms of the contract. Rehiring employees as consultants with commission-based deliverables might be an option employers can consider. What this pandemic has taught us all is that the need for a traditional workspace, church sanctuary or conference hall is no longer necessary. Remotely working consultants, who are paid based on what they deliver, might be the saving grace for many employers.
Reduction of benefits. This is certainly the time to look into cutting the excess. Losing commissions, bonuses, lunch vouchers or any other workplace benefit might be welcomed by many during this time of great sacrifice. It will signal to the employee that you are making efforts to keep them engaged. What employees need most during these times of great uncertainty is some assurance that their jobs, livelihood and careers are secure.
• NB: Ian R Ferguson is a talent management and organisational development consultant, having completed graduate studies with regional and international universities. He has served organsations, both locally and globally, providing relevant solutions to their business growth and development issues. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.