Following the UK’s departure from European Union, we were desperate to change the narrative away from Brexit, however COVID-19 was an event few saw coming.
Producing panic on the FTSE and confining entire cities to their homes, the travel sector is on its knees and as we have seen from China – we are at the start of the journey. Welcome to the ‘new normal.’
As we start adjusting to mass quarantines, widescale business interruption, panic buying in the supermarkets, how should business leaders respond, can this change be managed positively?
The answer to that is yes. COVID- 19’s impact for businesses can be managed like any other significant change programme – despite this coming on a much-accelerated timeline.
Build a Crisis Response Team
Appointing a Crisis Response Team to create an action plan will be a crucial driver for success in the coming months. The group should have representation from across the core business functions to add experience, executive buy-in and adoption. The Crisis Response Team should then coordinate with regional teams to launch a change network and implement decisions in their markets – each will be different.
Stay aware of changing official advice
In countries all over Europe different limitations are being enforced. A business needs to be aware of the changing environment in each of its markets. Action taken by the business must be reasonable and reflect the country restrictions.
Keeping your teams engaged
At times of significant business interruption, mental health and wellbeing of colleagues can be overlooked. Individuals are being bombarded by negative and emotive news. It is important that our teams feel included in information flows, some may feel completely overwhelmed and worry for their job security. Managers should keep regular contact with their teams and interact through video conferencing, check-ins and other two-way forms of communication.
Prioritize issues and work on immediate solutions
If the immediate concern is to ensure teams can continue to work remotely, the organisation must ensure IT and data risks have been fully explored as well as confirming that there is sufficient bandwidth to meet the peaks in demand. Where it is business critical for colleagues to be in office environments a business must be resilient in protecting the health and wellbeing of employees. Methods such as limiting employees contact with suppliers and third parties should be put in place as soon as possible.
Review the Lessons Learnt for the future
Right now we are at the centre of a rapidly changing environment, with the global economy responding to the changing market conditions. It will pay dividends if your teams can pause for a moment to reflect on how changes in working patterns have been implemented and how this could be refined and improved across teams and markets.
Lead by example
Business leaders must act honestly and with integrity considering the impact on individuals as well as the business as a whole. Difficult decisions may need to be taken, and we are seeing organisations announce tough coping mechanisms. Even in the most difficult circumstances it is important to act with emotional intelligence and humility.
Lewis Gilbey Change and Transformation Project Manager