Businesses, communities and individuals have already been impacted dramatically as a result of the global Covid-19 pandemic. Now that most businesses have put their continuity plans in place or closed down completely, it is time to look to the future and plan for recovery.
We are still in the middle of the crisis, and most businesses are somewhere between reacting to the situation as it unfolds and adapting their working practices so they can still deliver for customers clients and do the right thing by their people.
When a crisis hits, good companies do three things fast;
- Their leaders step forward and are visible,
- They make decisions quickly to protect their people and get continuity plans in place; and
- They communicate clearly and regularly.
But this is the basics.
Surviving through this is only part of the challenge. We now need to start to plan for growth and recovery.
The “New” Normal
There will be a few organisations that will click back to old processes and ways of working when this is all over. They will thrive on having some normality back and will put the interim changes they needed to make to survive and continue behind them. They will thank people for the things they did to help the business continue, and they will move on.
High-performing businesses will think differently. They will do three critical things which will enable them to bounce back faster and stronger than before.
Grow and Inspire
Successful businesses will look for ways to learn and adapt from the experience and will use it as a catalyst for growth and evolution. They won’t just revert to the old ways of working but will look at what they can learn from the changes they made. They will evaluate what worked, what didn’t and most importantly will decide which new practices they keep and could apply more broadly. I am sure if you told the NHS they could get a new supplier of ventilators through their rigorous procurement and testing processes in a matter of days and weeks before Covid-19, they would have said it was highly unlikely, if not impossible. Now they know it’s possible you would hope their Covid-19 procurement process becomes the norm.
In crisis mode people are able to think outside the box. You need to become creative problem solvers to be able to react to the changing situation. Work out where you can apply this new way of thinking elsewhere in the business to drive change and better performance.
Create symbols of change which demonstrate the positive things that can emerge from this period. Find things big and small that you are doing differently and tell the world… well, the people in your business at the very least. This links directly to recognition. Following a crisis there are always tales that bring to life the spirit of your business. Find them, celebrate them proudly and use them to inspire others.
Engage and Thrive
Now is the time to invest for growth.
This crisis will impact your strategy and the way your brand is perceived for the foreseeable future. You might need to change your approach, or you may not have the funds for investment that you thought you would, or you could have had to completely pivot your business to survive.
Take the time to review your strategy, identify whether it is still fit for purpose. If it is not, work with your people to set a new path. Paint a clear vision for the future and build the journey you will go on to achieve your goals together. When you have defined your strategy, review your learning and development strategy to ensure that it will build the skills you need to make you future fit.
A crisis is an opportunity to see the true DNA of your business. Make sure they are the same characteristics that will enable your growth and prosperity and invest in making sure your culture is evident at every stage of your employee journey. Bacardi have spent years focused on their culture, making sure their employee experience reflects their DNA Fearless, Founders and Family are not just words but direct how they work as colleagues and how they do business. In a crisis you see this come to the fore spontaneously, whether that’s changing production lines to make hand sanitizer or launching a new product to raise money for charity. This happens because their people are empowered to truly bring the Bacardi spirit to life in the best and worst of times.
The right culture will drive customer loyalty and growth, so take this moment of reflection to think about your culture. Does it need to be redefined to enable you to achieve your goals?
Involve and challenge
When your strategy and vision is defined, your people are clear on their role in helping you succeed and your culture is hard-wired into every step of your employee journey, it will be easier to find opportunities for continuous improvement.
Listen to your people to find out what is getting in their way and create the forum and mechanism for them to solve the problems. Remind people what your purpose is to help you drive productivity, effectiveness and problem solving. Create moments and platforms for innovation for your entire team, not solely the innovation function. Work out loud to enable others to collaborate, connect and contribute so that you can leverage your entire talent pool, particulary in moments of crisis.
Navigating a business through such difficult times is not something most leaders will have experienced. This is new territory. Looking for the opportunities to reinforce who you are and what you stand for will be critical. The challenge is not to be underestimated especially when many businesses will also need to rebuild trust and re-engage people who they have furloughed during this period. Unleashing, empowering and inspiring your talent though this experience will be key. This is not something we can cost cut our way out of.
We need to think differently. We need to be ambitious. We need to put the human back into business.