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Peter Bigelow

The pandemic created a unique environment for finding talented employees.

Looking back about a year ago, the challenge that kept you awake at night was people. More precisely, where and how to find people to hire – people with talent, a work ethic and interest in a long-term career manufacturing electronics. 2020, of course, has brought a slew of new concerns, and made us adaptable to what is described as the "new normal." But surprise! Right up there with how many face masks, hand sanitizer and Plexiglas partitions are available in the stockroom, staffing remains the major concern for business leaders.

The focus on people certainly has taken some twists and turns through this year. During the first six months, many were focused on how to retain the workforce they had. To be sure, potential health issues, social distancing, work-from-home protocols and other necessary obstacles displaced new talent acquisition, and jolting headlines on unemployment claims, especially in the hospitality and retail sectors, forced business leaders to consider when the next shoe would drop and the order board would dry up. Thankfully – or maybe luckily – most manufacturing, and especially electronics manufacturing, has remained surprisingly “normal,” and customers, employees and suppliers have recalibrated as necessary.

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Peter Bigelow

As communication shifts online, time management becomes a group effort.

Time management, the operative word being management, is never easy to master. Scores of books and lectures elaborate on how to stop the interruptions, focus on the important, and liberate one’s ability to get things done. Even so, the challenge has become even more elusive over the past year.

Until recently, time management focused on how to reduce interruptions from various activities and events, such as unwanted phone calls, perpetual cubicle chats, and the length and focus of conference room meetings. Historically, those were leading contributors to inefficiency and wasted time. That was then; this is now.

Communication has become email-centric. Phone tag is no longer the corporate sport. A typical workday commences by sorting the email inbox, vetting the important ones, and then doing the same in the spam folder filled with six zillion missives, many from finance ministers of countries no one has ever heard of. Face-to-face interaction, however, has remained tied to the corporate conference room, where at any time different combinations of coworkers, customers and suppliers meet to solve some problem or communicate about new or changing opportunities.

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Peter Bigelow

Just as Covid-19 jolted supply chains, it also disrupted how we communicate.

Maintaining effective, open, timely communication can be one of the biggest challenges facing employees at every level. The executive team sets the vision, strategy and tactical goals. Managers and supervisors are tasked with communicating and converting that message into understandable, reasonable, attainable and ultimately successful initiatives and efforts. Employees, in turn, communicate their issues, problems and ideas to accomplish back to the higher-ups, who refine the goals, so the organization moves forward profitably, satisfying customers.

On normal days, good communications can be daunting and complex. And the past several months have been anything but normal.

In-person communication offers the advantage of body language to accentuate the spoken word. The parties involved can literally see eye-to-eye. A speaker can scan a room to see how their message is received and recalibrate as needed. Workers can lean back from their desk or stand over a cubicle wall to ask a colleague a question and receive a quick response. A team can huddle on demand to communicate a problem and brainstorm a solution. How does that work when you and your staff are forced to communicate virtually?

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Peter Bigelow

We must retain our new agility even after the pandemic ends.  

Nothing makes you flexible like a crisis. Yet, as rough as it can be for a person to quickly shift gears, it is significantly more daunting for a corporation to do so.

The entirety of my working career, the mantra of any good business consultant or culture guru has been be flexible and embrace change. Whether an organization is implementing a TQM (total quality management) plan or struggling with financial survival because “plan A” no longer works, embracing flexibility and rapid change is never easy – and often unsuccessful. The larger the organization, the harder it can be. Embracing change and becoming flexible often only occurs when no other option remains, or in short, extinction awaits.

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Peter Bigelow

It’s time to work with your employees toward reopening our doors to the world.  

As the second half of this most extraordinary year unfolds, I keep thinking of all the things I had planned, hoped or expected to accomplish during the first half that now are on the overly long “to do” list. As we try to get back in the proverbial saddle and focus on what we can do within the confines of various local and national government pandemic restrictions and reopening timelines, my priorities are reengaging with employees, customers, suppliers and industry events.

Each industry and company has issues to work through, whether it is bringing back furloughed or terminated staff, or just figuring out whether and how to integrate work-from-home into a long-term employment scenario. In all cases, employee reentry must be dealt with quickly to rebuild the sense of corporate community and possibly build an even greater sense of team.

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Peter Bigelow

Working from home brings many Covid epiphanies.

As I reluctantly get used to social distancing, wearing face masks in public and continually washing my hands, many “aha!” moments have occurred. These have been about the new realities of dealing with the global disruption from Covid-19, as well as the changes we will most likely live with once we’ve survived the pandemic, or at least the first round of it. In no particular order, they include:

Zoom, Zoom, ZOOM! I am not tech savvy or social media conscious, so it should be no surprise that three months ago I had never heard of Zoom. I know about it now! I spend a good portion of each day, including weekends, on a Zoom “call.” At first it was family trying to connect from the various places they were hunkered down. But then I began receiving requests from customers and suppliers to schedule a Zoom meeting to discuss one or another thing. Zoom enables those working remotely to participate with the few still working out of their office or factory. Zoom is user-friendly, and unlike WebEx, easier for those working at home to manage.

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