The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way the world lives and works. What started out as a global health crisis has rapidly snowballed into an economic crisis. As the pandemic continues to rage across the world with no real insight into when things would completely settle down, organizations must focus on practical actions to keep people safe, healthy, connected, and foster resilience among their employees.
As per the latest research, ‘Human Resilience: What your people need now’ shows that employees look to their organizations for empathy, flexibility, and confidence while navigating difficult times. Here are the top four actions that organizations need to take to address them now and prepare for what is next:
- Be compassionate and flexible, and practice responsible leadership: Through weeks of extended lockdowns and social distancing, most people have been working in unfamiliar conditions. They have been experiencing newer pressures as they balance work and responsibilities at home with significantly diminished external support systems.
As people settle into the new ways of working, leading with compassion should be the biggest organizational priority. It is important that leaders be coached on stakeholder inclusion, emotion and intuition, mission and purpose and technology and innovation.
People need flexibility to work differently in these extraordinary times. For instance, as a number of people work from home and manage family responsibilities, they may not be able to put in uninterrupted consecutive hours of work. Managers must adapt work rules for more flexibility, based on emotional intelligence and employees’ individual needs. They need to help people focus on crucial work and eliminate unnecessary tasks.
- Rally the troops and develop an action plan: As much as employees appreciate the compassion, companies also need to demonstrate that they have a plan to manage the crisis.
Listening to people is the first step towards developing an action plan – collect feedback from across all echelons and units of the organization.
Agility is key as is the ability to quickly respond to unanticipated and difficult scenarios. A leadership team that looks ahead proactively and responds rather than reacts goes a long way in helping people during volatile times.
Remember that like all adversities, this too shall pass! Hence, leaders need to go beyond the present and think of future goals and requirements. Reserve some time every day to do the groundwork needed to get the organization and workforce future-ready for the post-COVID world.
- Promote digital ways of working and collaborating: The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to have a long-term impact on how people work and participate in society. Organizations must adjust their workplaces and make technology investments that enable their employees to work remotely through digital collaboration tools. They need to accelerate human + machine collaboration and support people as they transition to digital ways of working.
Collapse hierarchy, wherever possible, and work in a cross-functional and agile team environment with a focus on problem-solving– this can yield surprisingly good results. Teams must focus on what will best help the company and its clients navigate the current situation and prepare for the future.
- Communicate responsibly: Employees look to their leaders for transparent and clear communication about decisions that impact them and the organization’s plan to get through these volatile times. Consistent and regular communication is key - a communication vacuum could lead to ambiguity and cause anxiety among employees. Be genuine and communicate the larger story with employees. Share insights that matter rather than just meaningless data points and predictions.
Companies must put together effective communication governance and a set of guiding principles if they don’t already have this in place. Robust communication governance is critical not just for the current state of affairs catalyzed by the global pandemic, but for any situation – even if it is business as usual scenario.
Leaders must also leverage every communication channel to reinforce the organization’s larger mission and values as a shared purpose is essential to give people a sense of belonging. As a remote working and social distancing continue to be the norm, people need a sense of connection to keep doing meaningful work.
Every organization’s workforce, culture, and resources are different, and one approach does not always fit all. However, a guiding set of tested principles and recommendations helps each organization tailor its unique response. Leadership in our current reality calls for shared principles and actions: ones that prioritize people and recognize their needs.