Small businesses were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. During the first two months of the pandemic alone, the number of active business owners fell by 3.3 million, or 22%, the largest drop on record, affecting all demographic groups and types of businesses. Whether it was local mandates calling for temporary closures, plummeting customer demand, social distancing restrictions, or fears about health, the COVID impact on small businesses was severe.
Over time, some businesses have been able to bounce back, but others are still struggling. In a survey earlier this year, 37% of small businesses said they had to scale back or close when the Omicron wave of the pandemic was underway. Today, many are dealing with ongoing challenges around shrinking profit margins, inflation, and supply chain issues, among others.
Compounding these challenges is the recent upheaval in the nation’s workforce. Burnout from the pandemic and mass resignations are contributing to high employee turnover across industries. And just when some businesses got comfortable with working remotely, they’ve had to adjust all over again as employees return to the workplace.
Now that the worst of the pandemic seems to be in the rearview mirror, successfully navigating a post-COVID world is vital. Here’s a look at some of the best practices your small business can use to not only deal with any continuing fluctuations but to thrive in this new era.
Invest in the right tools and technologies
If there’s one thing small businesses had to learn quickly these past couple of years, it’s the value of systems they can rely on. Manual, outdated business systems make it much harder to adapt to change and uncertainty — of which there was plenty during the pandemic. Time-consuming, repetitive tasks and clunky tools that don’t integrate or share data can derail a business that’s trying hard to stay competitive, let alone hang on to good employees.
Technology solutions that offer a one-stop-shop for small businesses are a must-have these days. A cloud-based system with a single shared database, mobile user interface (UI) enhancements, and the ability to combine tools into one single platform makes managing business and people processes much smoother and less tedious. The best software-as-a-service (SAAS) system saves time and resources and streamlines time-consuming processes so your employees have more capacity for the high-value work of the business.
Have legal guidance at the ready
Even under normal circumstances, employment rules, regulations, and legislation can change quickly and often. The pandemic put this practice into overdrive as new laws and policies at the local, state, and federal levels seemed to crop up overnight — and just kept coming. For resource-strapped small businesses, staying on top of all the changes was yet another Herculean task they somehow had to manage, and usually without legal expertise on staff.
Investing in a cost-effective legal guidance solution is key to maintaining business compliance and handling workplace issues appropriately to avoid the fines, lawsuits, and other fallout that can result from law violations. A scalable legal guidance solution supplements your existing HR resources by providing legal advice, help with drafting documents, and other essential services when you need it, ensuring you’re managing your workplace and workforce responsibly — no matter what’s happening around you.
Stay committed to your employees
Small businesses that lost or had to let employees go during the pandemic understood the harsh realities of functioning without a dedicated, experienced team — or at least with a greatly reduced one. Good employees matter and even minor employee turnover can impact both the bottom line and the morale of others.
Your employees are the heart and soul of your business, and making them feel appreciated goes a long way toward keeping them happy and committed to the job. Making sure your employees are paid on time, have access to proper benefits, and are supported throughout the entire employee lifecycle — from when they’re first hired to when they move on or retire — are some of the best and most practical ways to show that you value your workers and care about their well-being.
Seek out a people management partner
Small businesses are used to doing things on their own. But during the pandemic, staying on top of common business and people management processes got exponentially harder. Employees came and went, existing processes and systems failed to meet new demands, and simply staying afloat — however possible — became the number one priority.
You don’t have to do it alone anymore. With the right people management partner, you can get help with the critical tasks that keep your workplace and workforce operating as expected, including payroll, benefits, time tracking, hiring and onboarding, taxes, and business compliance. Your partner can help you integrate, optimize, and manage these processes with the best technology solutions so you can focus on growing your business.
Getting back to business growth
Getting through the pandemic has been a rollercoaster ride — from trying to retain good employees to navigating new rules and laws to figuring out which systems and solutions could ease the disruption and instability of a particularly difficult time. With a return to some semblance of normal, your small business post-pandemic has a chance to make necessary improvements and adopt new tools today so you can forge ahead and embrace the future.
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