According to BBC news, approximately 3 million British workers are currently being furloughed. Other sources suggest it could eventually be as many as 9 million!
Whereas ‘furlough’ was a mostly unknown term before COVID-19 – indeed it has never previously been used in UK employment law – it has now become one of the buzzwords of the crisis.
A furloughed worker is defined as someone who remains employed but is not undertaking any work for their organisation, with the government paying up to 80% of their wages.
You could see the scheme simply as a lifeline from the government, intended to prevent job losses. But I challenge you to reframe that interpretation: furlough is your latest and possibly your main source of competitive advantage. Please do not waste it!
How can that be? The UK government has made it clear that furloughed workers cannot work when on furlough. But, crucially, they can still carry out training and volunteering.
At Impact, forty years of working as a creative change agency in partnership with some of the world’s leading brands has taught us that:
- With training and volunteering comes great learning, engagement and motivation
- With great learning, engagement and motivation comes great innovation and development
- With great innovation and development comes strategic competitive advantage
Research on leadership development published by Bersin & Associates in 2011[i] showed that there are four levels of maturity in leadership development. These levels move from unstructured level one leadership development, through to level four, where ‘development aligns perfectly with organisational priorities and becomes a strategic lever for competitive advantage’.
And, so it is with furlough. Ideally, furloughed time should be utilised for essential training and development that could unlock potential futures for your business. With expert direction, guidance and facilitation, strategically aligned learning time could enable you to innovate and ensure that your people are capable, engaged and motivated – forming the launch pad for the next chapter of your business.
The smart organisations right now are those that are ensuring that their people are on strategically aligned training. Such training ensures that their people are ready, willing and able, not for business as usual, but for what their organisation will need to look like when they re-emerge. Anyone thinking that business will return to how it was before the crisis is not thinking! The post COVID-19 landscape is likely to require organisations that have different mindsets, different capabilities and different skills. Strategic organisational learning is essential, and level four thinking is the smart way.
In our experience, the learning design and methodology needs to be specific and appropriate to your organisation’s culture and needs. This requires strategic leadership and expert guidance. You would be well-advised to work with a partner who can advise and guide you through this.
In this most extraordinary of times, it’s true that your biggest potential source of competitive advantage is possibly an unexpected one. Use it wisely – it’s highly likely that the winners on re-emergence will be the ones that do.
Andy Dickson is a senior consultant at Impact. You can connect with him here.
Impact are a global creative change agency supporting organisations across all sectors to learn, change and thrive. In forty years, Impact have won over 100 major international awards for their work. In partnership with their clients, they design and deliver solutions that achieve transformation, behavioural change and sustainable results. Impact’s mobile-first application, airÔ, delivers powerful, tailored learning that is strategically aligned to your business priorities, straight to the palm of your employees’ hands.
In the current situation, Impact is offering free solution mapping sessions to advise you on possible learning strategies, as well as free demonstrations of our learning application air.
[i] Laci Loew and Staci Sherman Garr, High-Impact Leadership Development for the 21st Century, Bersin & Associates, October 2011.