Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Justice of America once said, “The measure of a country’s greatness is the ability to retain compassion in time of crisis”. The thought holds equally true for organizations today, given the ongoing global crisis.
The hallmark of any big crisis is that it creates uncertainty in more ways than one can imagine. Businesses across industries experience unimaginable disruptions, while many come to a standstill. During such times, it’s the culture of an organization, as well as it’s people who are instrumental in business recovery post the crisis. Ensuring the safety of the people remain number one priority, staying focused on sustainability and business continuity with a leadership that’s optimistic and positive. Therefore, it becomes pivotal to adopt measures that keep the employees engaged, motivated and productive.
Establish a special management team for monitoring and managing the crisis
Any issue or a crisis requires a Special Management Team, to break through the clutter and get things going in a record turnaround time. Therefore, it is imperative to establish a dedicated, innovative and agile team, to monitor the scenario real-time and develop solutions along the way. That means, various scenarios need to kept ready and the team must know when to shift from plan A to B to C.
Technology to ensure productivity and business continuity
The biggest takeaway for organizations in this crisis has been to invest in the right technology and resources, to ensure effective communication, collaboration and productivity. Collaboration platforms, applications and internal portals that work across devices, seamlessly create work-life flow for employees to be productive not just professionally, but also personally. Additionally, technology helps accelerate and expand access to critical systems and resources for crisis prevention and response, making it a vital component for crisis management.
Communicate from the heart: Be personal, compassionate, transparent & consistent
In the current crisis, employees aren’t just handling ‘work from home’ but also ‘work for home’ managing household chores and families. Hence it is important to demonstrate compassionate empathy, by being flexible in timelines and choosing meeting timeframes sensitively. Leaders need to interact with their immediate teams regularly, and communicate positive and motivating messages, through cheerful emails, virtual ‘beyond work’ meetings or online team huddles. Consistent positive engagement will leave them with an experience of being seen and being heard in the organization despite limited or no facetime. Leaders need to communicate through their actions and words that ‘we are in it together’.
Organizational leaders must frequently and transparently communicate about the current state of the business and what to expect next. Most importantly, recognise employees for going above and beyond their call of duty. Gestures like the CEO personally calling and congratulating employees for their great work, makes them feel valued and fosters a sense of belonging.
Ensure physical and mental wellbeing
When one is working from home for a long time, an 8-hour work day easily becomes a 12-hour work day. That leads to both physical and mental exhaustion. Here’s where organizations can play a far more empathetic role by emphasising on the health and mental wellbeing of employees and their families. They can partner with external health and fitness specialists, provide online counselling to battle stress and anxiety and access to virtual meditation and mindfulness sessions. Additionally, content around quick stretching tips, basic exercises to keep one active, modules for learning new skills and online extracurricular activities; help a great deal. Further, fun activities like competitions and community work can go a long way in ensuring emotional wellbeing. In fact, at IPM India we frequently share tips, short videos, articles and practical guidance on how to manage physical, mental & emotional health and social wellbeing.
As Judy Smith, the famous American crisis manager, and founder, president, and CEO of the crisis management firm Smith & Company said, "There's always an opportunity with crisis. Just as it forces an individual to look inside himself, it forces a company to re-examine its policies and practices." We should look at crises as an opportunity for learning through feedback and analysis to improve our preparation for the next crisis.