During the early days of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), leaders needed to think on two tracks simultaneously: How do I protect my workers and how do I keep my business alive?
The best leaders acted quickly on both fronts and spent much of their time caring for their teams and doing triage on the business.
As the days and weeks rolled by, new systems were developed and new strategies were put in place. New ways of doing business were uncovered which led to innovation. Some were successful and some continue to evolve.
While it may be some time before things completely settle down, it would be way too easy to fall back into the same patterns as teams come back to work. Leadership is always important. Right now, it’s at a premium. What leaders do now can set the company culture for years to come.
Nurture Employee Relationships
If you’ve managing employees now, you’ve probably had this experience. You ask them how they’re doing and instead of getting a perfunctory OK, you find yourself in a long conversation with both of you sharing more details about how you’ve been impacted personally. You learned about their families and their friends and maybe even some of their personal habits. During uncertain times, humans crave this sharing experience. For bosses and employees, it’s led to a more level playing field. You’ve both been dealing with similar emotions and concerns.
In the old school style of management, there was a clear separation between the boss and the employees. Today, nurturing that relationship can help develop a bond that pays dividends. Research shows consistently that that bond is one of the key motivating factors for employees. 70% of employees see this relationship as an extremely or very important factor when deciding whether to stay or leave a job.
During the pandemic, leaders showed how much they cared about their teams. That needs to continue. Whether it’s making sure employees are managing a healthy work-life environment, taking care of themselves, or talking about the things that keep them up at night, the more connected leaders are with their team members, the more productive and engaged employees will be,
These personal connections need to be maintained.
Develop the Plan Forward
If you haven’t already pivoted, do it now. It’s time to look to the future.
- What have we learned about our customers that needs to change?
- What have we learned about our business that needs to change?
- What have we learned about our employees that needs to change?
The plans you put in place now – and the path you create – will play a big role in the company culture and operations post-pandemic.
Implement What’s Working
In evaluating the future of your business, leaders should take a critical look at the way they’ve been forced to operate. Implement what’s working before simply returning to the way it’s always been.
For example, some businesses are finding that having employees work remotely is going just fine. While there are benefits to having people work under the same roof, there are also costs. If you’re renting office space, it may save you significant money if you can reduce your floor space and let some employees continue to work from home.
Many businesses sent salespeople to work from home during the pandemic. 60% of businesses reported that remote sales models were just as effective or more effective than the traditional methods. Is there an advantage to letting people continue to work remotely?
Set the Course
As a leader, you have a unique opportunity right now to remake your company culture. You can choose to embrace, engage, and empower your employees or you can revert back to the past.
If history is any guide, it’s what you do now that will set the course for your company’s future. When there’s a crisis, research shows it can shift the playing field for businesses. A study by business consulting firm Bain & Company showed that during uncertain times, such as an economic downturn or event, companies can make significant gains or realize significant losses. During the last recession, for example, 20% of the companies that were in the bottom quartile in their industries moved to the top quartile. More than 20% of the companies that were deemed market leaders in the top quartile of financial performance moved to the bottom.
Many of the top performers and low performers switched places because of the actions they took.
Making the changes to your company culture shouldn’t wait for after the pandemic fades. Another study, published in the Harvard Business Review, reported that two-thirds of the companies that made major gains after a recessionary event did so while the crisis was going on. When the crisis ebbed, 70% were able to sustain their gains. The companies that lost ground during this time weren’t so successful. Only 3 in 10 were ever able to regain its market share.