Annual Review: Organizations & COVID-19
We’ve crossed the one year mark since countries around the world began enforcing lockdowns in some form or the other; one year of living with restrictions and work taking a 180 degree turn. For organizations that survived and thrived, there’s never been a better year to show employees that they value more than just profits and balance sheets. Even for organizations that didn’t survive, it was an opportunity to depart with grace. Let's evaluate how companies fared in the last year than now? We evaluated our employees individually but how did your organization do in 2020; especially with regards to your employees?
The Communication score
As the world crashed and burnt, businesses bled capital and uncertainty led organizations to enter a state of hyper risk aversion. Government decisions to enforce lockdowns with limited visibility into the future led many to declare bankruptcy, chop pay and funnel funds into safety measures. Yet before all this happened, what did your organization tell employees when they first heard of COVID? How often did the company communicate and with what level of transparency? Were employees treated as adults and on the same playing field or did organizations choose to stay opaque sharing only what served the business? More importantly, when in the year did you stop receiving ‘we are in this together’ messages? Did they ever start? If the organization didn’t/don’t have a date or plan to reopen, did you receive a date for a date? Or did they avoid accountability?
Like any other relationship, the key here too is open, two-way communication; and like any other relationship, it isn’t always easy. We have examples of where organizations did well in this regard. Dan Prince, the often in news, CEO of Gravity Payments exemplified transparency even if he did enjoy taking pot-shots at organizations that didn’t. Think about it: on a scale of 1-10, where would your organization lie? What will you do in 2021 to take it a notch higher?
The attitude score
Along with the what, comes the how. Organizations may have done an effective job of communicating with clarity and communicating often, yet there is more to it. In 2020, more than any other year, I appreciated the importance of being human; of acknowledging that man is not machine. Yet, given the pressure of time, impatience and all things pandemic, I have to confess I haven’t been the best communicator. At times, I have been curt when empathy was needed. Organizations have been similar.
On a scale of 1-10, how humble was your organization. Did communication come across as aloof and arrogant or from a place of empathy and understanding? Did it ever communicate impatience? If it did, how do you intend to fix the relationship? What tone would future communications take on?
The care scale
Be it for essential workers or from those now working from home, what accommodations did your organization provide? How much flexibility did they demonstrate and did they ever dismiss requests as trivial, frivolous or coming from a place of privilege. At any point, did organizations directly or indirectly expect employees to be thankful they still had a job?
Never before had an organization the opportunity to show they cared. 2020 gave companies the chance to translate lip service into action. All the values put up on walls finally had a chance to come alive. So, on a scale of 1-10, how well did your organization end up caring for the employees?
When you scored organizational performance across these three parameters, where did they land? Much like the outcome of a yearly appraisal that determines the increment an employee gets or whether they get put on a coaching plan, organizations need similar treatment. If employees are expected to be understanding of the challenges an organization went through during a pandemic, is it unfair to expect the same from organizations? As we enter yet another year of dealing with the pandemic and its after-effects, the window of opportunity to create an organization that cares still exists. Let’s make the most of it.