The world is grappling with a crisis it has not seen before. And to steer the mass of humanity through this crisis, even the leadership has to reinvent itself. From being empathetic to communicating clearly to putting the greater good ahead of all other concerns, leaders have a responsibility to keep calm and try to maintain business as usual as much as possible while managing employee experience in such testing times.
In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Minakshi Arora, CHRO, Trident Group shares what are the key things a leader needs to focus on during this crisis and the need to take bold decisions.
What are the key things for a leader to focus on while in a crisis?
Personally I believe it is very important for a leader to demonstrate optimism and hope in any crisis. Like in the case of COVID-19, the number of infected cases is rising, people are losing their jobs and there is a lot of negativity in the environment. People are losing their motivation as a result and hence it becomes important for leaders in organizations to talk about future plans, how will we make the best of the current situation.
We might not be able to resort to current practices and methodologies so a leader needs to help people develop adaptation techniques to the new way of doing things.
There is also the need for leaders to take bold decisions during this time and make sure if plan A does not work, provide an alternate plan B.
What is the importance of adhering to the company values during an emergency?
The values are basically like the blood in the organization. When people are in the same grid or zone, then they are able to perform at the same drive which is required for success. For instance, as an organization, we are into a textile product-majorly into bed and bath linen. So when the pandemic hit India badly, the Chairman brainstormed with the entire leadership team as to how do we make sure we are able to contribute to the nation. So our entire team started working on how from the same product, we can provide medical PPEs to the government. We talked to the government and obtained approvals in the duration of the lockdown itself. What made it happen at the end of the day was that the entire organization followed the same value system. And we could pivot in two weeks even when we are not into medical industry-right from on the person on ground who would be stitching those to the CEO, we made sure everyone is in alignment and that could happen only because of shared values.
What steps do leaders need to take to maintaining business as usual as much as possible while maintaining the employee experience?
The pandemic has spared no industry when we talk about the economic impact. In fact, even the essential services were not prepared for that kind of an inventory or raw materials.
Hence when leaders take tough decisions to maintain business continuity, they have to make sure they are talking their hearts out to people to make them understand why those decisions are being taken.
Their teams should be aware of all decisions being taken, they should be told the truth always. Because a two-way dialogue leads to organizational betterment, improved participation, and increased confidence in each other, especially in tough times. In this direction, for instance, we are doing regular town hall sessions every day, where the leadership team speaks to about 2,000 people in the organization. In addition, we are regularly recognizing our frontline warriors, who are leading this change on the ground as the pressure on them is high on account of the government’s expectations.
As an industry, what are some of the challenges you are facing on account of the lockdown?
We are an export-oriented unit as our major sales come from the US and Europe primarily. And both are impacted hugely on account of COVID-19. Hence there has been a huge impact on our sales. Even domestic sales have been hit on account of the lockdown. So yes there will be a business impact for the next couple of months but at the end of the day, it is about keeping people healthy and making sure they are not affected.
What has been your moment of truth during this crisis? What are some of the hard decisions Trident has taken to maintain business continuity?
We don’t mind taking hard decisions when it comes to business but from an employee perspective, we have been very considerate. We were one of the early ones to disburse the monthly salary of our employees in fact 15 days earlier. The same will be done this month.
People should be recognized and rewarded to make them understand they are contributing to the nation.
Of course, one of the difficult decisions was to stop our certain plants, especially the profit-making ones. But that was required to make sure that our employees stay home and are safe. At the end of the day, the safety of our employees has also been something we have always prioritized. However, we are aware that the return to the normal scenario would take two to three quarters but we are expecting a significant ramping up of production post lockdown.