July 2020: Our Brave New World- How to keep employees engaged while planning for uncertainty

Most businesses have moved beyond the initial shock of the COVID-19 pandemic and are adjusting to a new reality. Now, organizations need to remain flexible and devise strategies to keep their workforce engaged while planning for uncertainty. With the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, businesses are faced with repetitive attempts at forecasting and budgeting. Projections need to anticipate multiple scenarios to pivot quickly. Another challenge is managing employee burn out, morale, and feelings of being disconnected.

Warren Whitney’s team recently facilitated Peer Group Roundtables addressing these critical topics with HR Leaders and CFO/Controllers. These constructive roundtables produced guidance beneficial for all businesses. Below are guiding strategies that set out to:

  • Establish organizational culture that supports employees during times of crisis
  • Bypass employee burnout to reach long-term engagement
  • Assist with budgeting for unpredictable revenue streams and expenses
  • Provide finance and accounting guidance




Many employees are feeling isolated and burned out. They may miss the personal aspect that the working environment offers. Here are ways to connect and demonstrate your commitment to your workforce. These gestures can make your team feel valued, safe, and part of their work-life community.

Show your appreciation. Employees value time off.  Consider giving them a self-care day that doesn’t deduct from their PTO bank. Also, be flexible with work schedules due to child care limitations. Being understanding of their situation will go a long way. Additional ideas to show you value your employees are:

  • Sending gift baskets for special occasions (or no occasion at all)
  • Giving spot awards to standout employees
  • Providing “superhero bags” that have PPE and other goodies

Connect with your employees. Make concerted efforts to have a one-on-one with team members. During these check-ins, acknowledge the challenges and give them the chance to discuss their problems. Other ways to build comradery are:  1) Have team members share their lessons learned, 2) Organize virtual happy hours, and 3) Offer safe community service volunteering opportunities.      

Host outside meetings. Hold get togethers outside in large open areas; consider informal picnics with boxed lunches. Hold similar meetings for new hires.


Regular and highly connective communication will break feelings of isolation and disconnection. There is no such thing as over-communicating. Below are ways to reach and engage with your team.

Leverage internal communications tools. Use the intranet or internal technology tools to keep teams informed by posting:

  • Your updated safety handbook that includes the company policy on infectious disease and COVID.
  • A message from the CEO or President that covers the FAQs.
  • Facts & supportive data points to keep employees informed.

** Consider tools for departments to easily share ideas (i.e., VOXER, SLACK, or TEAMS).

Use video to deliver messages. Create videos from the CEO & Senior Leadership, delivering an authentic & relatable message. Acknowledge employee concerns about returning to work. The videos can be short, low-tech, and even recorded on an iPhone.

Organize video calls. Show your support by facilitated video calls with the HR team or the CEO with the key supervisors. During these meetings, ask for input and allow time for Q&A.



Budgeting is especially challenging now, with the uncertainty of many variables being so high. Flexibility will be a crucial component of your business’s success because long term unknowns are hard to predict. Frequently assess risks and update your forecasts to make sure they reflect changes. Equally important is regularly reviewing the dashboards with your management team. Make sure your dashboards include Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) like: Line of Credit usage, Cash on hand, Payroll, Staff headcount, Inventory, and Accounts Receivable.

Revise your budget. Consider zero-based budgeting; build each line item from the ground up. Know that your budget is going to be lean, with little buffer for course corrections. Plan for:

– Lower margins and decrease projected revenue.

– Increased cleaning and technology (for remote work) costs.

– Cash flow: Review your cash forecast weekly with 2 to 3 scenarios.

Expense Management. Look at the budget line by line to cut costs and minimize discretionary spending. Review contracts and determine which ones can be re-negotiated and which will not happen. Consider refinancing debt to cut interest costs and evaluate office space if teleworking is effective.

Scenario planning. Decrease your risks by anticipating potential strategic pivots. Understand your key drivers, which are different for every industry, and focus on them when running the scenarios.

If you have any questions or seek further clarification on these items, please call us at 804.282.9566. Warren Whitney is available to evaluate your readiness for today’s new operating environment. Our fractional assistance and project work can help you think through decisions and execute strategies. We can put together cash flow projections, manage HR issues, adapt technology and processes, and devise a strategic plan. We Make Potential Happen.