While most businesses will be accustomed to dealing with uncertainty, few will have been prepared for the complex challenges presented by a global pandemic. Your company’s survival has undoubtedly taken priority to date, but it’s now a critical time to consider the future and how you can plan for a robust recovery – and therefore the long-term success of your business.
The coronavirus crisis has infiltrated life on all levels, with businesses, communities and individuals all being affected. Most businesses now have a continuity plan in place or have ceased trading altogether, meaning it’s time to look ahead and plan for a robust recovery.
The world is still very much in the grip of COVID-19, and many businesses are having to take an agile approach, by both responding to the situation as it unravels and adjusting their working practices so they can still deliver for clients and act in the best interests of their people.
In times of crisis, good companies will look to quickly action three basic things:
- Have visible leadership
- Be proactive with decision-making, so as to protect staff and get continuity plans in place
- Communicate frequently and clearly.
However, this is just the starting block. Survival throughout a crisis is only part of the challenge – there is also a need to plan for growth and recovery to truly have a chance of winning the race.
Each to their own
Over time, some organisations will revert to former processes and ways of working in the post-pandemic world. They will relish and prosper in regaining some sense of normality, consigning the provisional changes they needed in order to survive to the past. They will express their thanks to their people for helping the business to continue, and will move on.
On the other hand, high-performing businesses will take a different approach. They will do three critical things that will enable them to bounce back with a renewed speed and vigour.
Any successful business will use a crisis scenario as a means of learning, adapting, growing and evolving in order to move forward, rather than reverting to former ways of working. They will appraise what did and didn’t work well and, most importantly, decide which new practices should be retained and applied more broadly.
For example, before the pandemic, the chances of rapidly getting a new supplier of ventilators through the NHS’ exacting procurement and testing processes would have been highly unlikely, if not impossible. However, now this has been proven to be very much possible, you might hope that their COVID-19 procurement process would become the norm.
It’s often the case that people are able to think more creatively when faced with a crisis. Have you considered where you could apply a new way of thinking elsewhere in the business to stimulate change and drive better performance?
It could be helpful to hold aloft symbols of change to showcase the positives that have emerged from such a testing time. Find things that you’re doing differently – no matter how small – and share with others, starting with the people in your business. In the wake of a crisis, there are always real-life stories that are testament to the spirit of your business – so find them, celebrate them and use them to inspire others.
The COVID-19 crisis will affect your strategy and the way your brand is perceived for the foreseeable future, so now’s the time to invest for growth. Be prepared to change your approach, review your investment funds, or perhaps even completely pivot your business to survive.
If you discover that your overall strategy is not fit for purpose, use this as an opportunity to work with your people to define a new path, by capturing a clear vision for the future and building the journey you will go on to meet your goals together. Once your strategy is redefined, review your learning and development strategy too to ensure that it will allow for the growth of skills required to make you future-fit.
A crisis can reveal the true DNA of your business – but are they the same characteristics that will enable your growth and prosperity moving forwards? Making sure your culture is clear at every stage of your employee journey is certainly something worth investing in.
For example, Bacardi have spent years focusing on ensuring their employee experience reflects their DNA. ‘Fearless, Founders and Family’ are not just words, but they underpin how they work as colleagues and how they do business. In a crisis, this becomes apparent of its own accord, whether it’s changing production lines to make hand sanitiser or launching a new product to raise money for charity. For Bacardi, It happens because its people are empowered to truly activate the brand spirit in both the best and worst circumstances.
Take the time to reflect on your work culture – is it likely to drive customer loyalty and growth or does it need to be redefined to allow you to meet your goals?
It’s easier to find opportunities for continuous improvement once your strategy and vision are defined, your people understand how their role is helping you succeed, and your culture is evident in every step of your employee journey.
Talk with your people and find out what the blockers are – and then create the forum and process for them to problem-solve. Give a reminder about what your overall purpose is to help you drive productivity, effectiveness and problem-solving. Create moments and platforms for innovation for the whole team, not just the innovation function. Work in a transparent, interactive way to invite others to collaborate, connect and contribute – thus drawing on your entire talent pool, especially in times of crisis.
Remember that this is new territory for everyone, and that before the current global crisis broke out, very few leaders will have experienced managing a business during such unprecedented times. This is a critical time to reinforce who you are and what you represent. Many businesses will need to rebuild trust and re-engage people who they have furloughed during this period. Liberating, empowering and firing the imagination of your talent pool has never been more important, and this is not something we can be thrifty with.
It’s time to seize the moment and switch up our thinking. To bounce back quickly and with renewed vigour, we need to be enterprising – and we need to give our businesses the human touch again.