In the grand scheme of Earth’s lifespan, it seems that in the blink of an eye, a health scare has thrust many business practices under the spotlight. The order of operations as we’ve known it for some time may very well be shifting once again, but there are positives in this, and the right mindset is all you need to not just weather the storm, but actually embrace it. While the world slows its pace, the opportunity to work smarter becomes clearer than ever.
How have you treated health and safety up until now?
Your previous way of working, no matter what industry you were in, was likely something you were most comfortable with. Sure, there might have been one or two little frustrations, but those were probably the things you could tolerate and didn’t stop you from producing the quality of product or service your customers grew to expect from you. The pressure of introducing remote work capability, and operational health and safety measures, are all asking one thing from business owners around the world: how can we evolve, and help our staff keep food on the table?
Be brutally honest
In uncertain times, there’s a divided approach to marketing and advertising. Some believe that business as usual seems almost insensitive to what staff, customers, and suppliers are going through. Others believe that a slight adjustment can actually help maintain a positive attitude, and motivate people to make more constructive decisions.
Here at OVS Solutions, we believe in balance. We can’t change what’s happening around us, but we can change how we respond to it. We want to let you in on what we’ve learned over our many years, so you can use it to benefit even through economic uncertainty.
One aspect, in particular, is the absolute truth. It takes courage to be brutally honest, at any time, about the state of your business, but it’s necessary, so you can make the right decisions at every turn. The business truth you need to know includes how often deviations occur even when things were running as normal. You need to know about the scale and impact across those deviations and attribute reasons to them so you can do more than solve surface-deep symptoms.
Leadership in Africa is regularly challenged by issues like corruption and evasion of accountability. At times, managing accountability in a way that maintains a healthy corporate culture can be a challenge, but the important thing is to always communicate openly, and place emphasis on finding solutions that last, over finding out who is ‘to blame’. Accountability becomes an easier pill to swallow when people can feel safe that they’re not going to be hung up to dry, but rather be provided with support and training on how to prevent issues from recurring.
Of course, corruption is a different ball game entirely. Incidents happening repeatedly, invoking no change within the organization’s operation or disciplinary measures, can be referred through other channels which we’ll talk about later this year. It’s where the value of incident management can play a substantial role in the progress of business in Africa.
Once you’re comfortable that the truth is in front of you, be it numbers, names, places, assets, or anything else specific to your business, you’re in a healthy position to review your situation. As an example, your information might show that several people in your receiving areas have been injured at different times during work on site. That information presents an opportunity to find out why.
If you expand upon that, any deeper incident insights may tell you that a four-ton truck regularly delivers five tons worth of material. Going one step further may even tell you which logistics team authorises that decision, and why. In this scenario, the optimum health and safety opportunity aren’t necessarily having a first aid team present at your receiving area: it would be to revisit logistics and health and safety guidelines for delivering and receiving materials, either enforcing that load limits of trucks be respected, or requesting for vehicles with a higher load capacity to be brought in to replace the previous vehicles.
Examples of health and safety opportunities
Consider these health and safety adaptations, and make the most of the slower business pace to get your systems ready for a strong comeback:
Communicate more often
With various initiatives being implemented by many countries around the world, communication has become the foundation of progress in any form. People feel assured by regular, honest, and sincere communication so consider using the tools and systems at your disposal to reach out to staff, suppliers, customers and partners. A stable and consistent voice can show all of your stakeholders that you’re aware of the business and its evolving environment.
Adapt resource plans
With remote work being encouraged, and some of your sites being immovable, there are other ways you can adapt to comply with social distancing activities. Alternate your production lines to limit the number of machines running in one facility at a time, and thus the number of people operating in moderate proximity to each other. Limit and alternate shifts, and if you do have movable assets and equipment, space them out, even just 50cm more between each machine can help reduce interpersonal hygiene risk.
Other physical resources you can introduce into your operation include sanitation materials, such as wipes, sanitisers, uniform adjustments (haz-chem suits are being adopted in some businesses, while others are distributing masks for staff), and increasing the frequency of cleaning activities.
Digital resources, like the software solutions you invest in, can also be adapted. Most providers offer tiers and plans, which you can scale. Review your subscriptions to take advantage of this. Now is probably the best time to invest in learning about software solutions, and trying them out to see if more flexible products can replace 2-3 older systems. Your cash flows and your cost management plans could benefit from this kind of activity, and if you need support on this, we’re here to help you.
Take advantage of subsidies
Many countries offer grants, subsidies, and funding for private businesses. Consider researching local business support systems, incubator webinars, and online competitions to win investment. Polishing your pitch and updating your achievements while your operation has slowed down can be beneficial in positioning you for a solid comeback.
Implement internal education
Two of Africa’s greatest challenges are education and employment. The knock-on effects of both are always positive, and the slower pace of business is a perfect time to capitalise on educating and upskilling your staff. Quick, simple online learning courses and assessments can give you feedback on how your staff respond to and take advantage of learning opportunities.
We just happen to have a way to implement this kind of initiative, so if you’re curious enough and want to make the most of your time next week, click here to schedule a chat with one of our team members.
Be clear on your priorities
It’s never easy, facing a situation that nobody has been through before. There’s no reference guide or textbook for managing the exact situation, but there are similarities to other obstacles we have overcome. As and when you identify the opportunities in front of you, we encourage you to block out time to really assess the effort required, and the impact of using these.
To invite discussion from your team, and inspire action, you need to be decisive, and it all stems from having true sight into your business operation. You need to have all the information at your fingertips to understand and define a way forward.