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How Leaders Can Secure Future Business and Persevere for The Next Crisis

It's been almost 20 years since 9/11 and more than a year into the COVID pandemic. If there is any lesson to learn, it's that now is the time to be continually and consistently prepared. Many leaders believe it's not a matter of if another crisis will occur but when it will occur.

In this present situation, how can leaders effectively rebuild employee confidence and cultivate resilience simultaneously? Here we take our lead from global leaders using crisis management best practices focusing on four key areas.

Reshape the Customer Experience

The pandemic has brought about change for both consumers and businesses, large and small. To remain agile in uncertain times, the use of data analytics and third-party consultants can help shape and optimize your customer's journey. Here's a list of questions to suggest ideas and initiate communication at all levels of your business.

  • What new channels can you use to better serve your current customers?

  • In what ways can your customer service and delivery of goods and/or services adapt to the current crisis?

  • Do you communicate authenticity and empathy to your customers?

  • What business intelligence or data can be used to elicit critical insights?

  • Are your business's daily operations agile enough to meet the new challenges a disruption brings to optimal customer service?

  • What consumer behavior and shopping patterns have shifted?

You don't have to look very far to see businesses pivoting to new ways of service.  Restaurants and retail shops offer curbside pickup for online and phone orders. Online shopping has also increased and expanded for those establishments that can accommodate this change in consumer patterns.  A good example of weathering the crisis comes from Warby-Parker. Not only does Warby Parker have retail locations across the US, but an online presence for eyeglass wear where customers can pick 5 frames and try them at home for free. Customers also can fax or email an eyeglass prescription from their doctors. If you own an iPhone, they also offer virtual try-ons with the download of their app. Some other examples of businesses meeting consumer demand include fitness professionals offering online workouts. Restaurants like Panera and Subway sell fresh groceries to their customers as well as sandwiches. Airlines converted consumer flights to cargo flights to meet the massive increase in delivery services.

Create a Stronger Culture

Without a sense of purpose, a company cannot create a healthy culture. A weak culture leaves businesses vulnerable to disruptions, crisis, and ethical issues. In turn, it lessens the positivity of a company's brand and damages collaborative efforts and team dynamics.  It results in a loss of employee engagement, innovation, and speed to market. According to Forbes, before the pandemic, only 33 percent of employees drew meaning from their company's purpose.

With a vital purpose and culture, companies can quickly pivot when priorities change and align decision-making, accordingly, allowing them to endure downturns in the market or other catastrophes. Here are a few questions to help you evaluate the state of your organizational culture.

  • How can using cultural purpose and values inspire innovation and expedite speed to market?

  • Are there opportunities to showcase company cultural values through positive brand interactions among consumers and employees?

  • What leadership messages need elaboration or updating to include core company values and purpose?

  • Which company values need revising to include effective decision-making at all levels?

  • What is needed to engage managers and leaders to guide culture-driven performance from their employees?

Demonstrate Leadership Compassion

According to a Deloitte 2019 global report, 80 percent of organizations rated leadership as a high priority, yet only 41 percent were ready to meet leadership requirements. Many organizations noted that they struggle to find and develop leaders prepared for the global workplace, all of this coming well before the pandemic hit.

Yet, a McKinsey report indicates that organizations have stepped up in this COVID-19 crisis, with 78 percent of employees indicating that their organization has responded to the crisis appropriately. Another 78 percent of employees also noted that they have the information needed to plan and adapt.

If your organization is among the 78 percent whose employees believe they are going in the right direction, congratulations.  But now is the time to build on that hard-earned trust through direct action.

  • Leaders' focus should be on how they can make a positive difference. Practice empathy and awareness by allowing employees to speak through town halls and surveys. Be transparent about the situation and the hardships involved for everyone.

  • Develop the ability to create and communicate the organizations' purpose to internal and external stakeholders.

  • Demonstrate confidence to lead in complex and uncertain situations. Convey that the organization has the strength to find its way through the current situation and create a sustainable future path.

  • Create plans that encompass changes beyond the pandemic crisis and communicate these open-ended changes to employees.

  • Ensure that employees understand there is no definitive deadline to the end of the current crisis and that leadership support is never-ending.

Reengage Employees

COVID-19 disrupted every aspect of life. Employees had to work remotely while managers juggled the need for flexible childcare schedules and healthcare priorities.

To further establish trust and build relationships within the context of your organization's purpose, prioritize employees and acknowledge their efforts. Rethink internal workflows that both engage and support teams and motivate employee performance. Other key takeaways to consider when revamping workplace strategies:

  • How can we measure remote worker performance to pursue long-term strategies?

  • Are there strategies used during the crisis that can be built upon long term?

  • How should performance be measured during a crisis?

  • Is the internal structure of the company and its roles meeting the needs of the business? What about in the future?

  • What plans exist to integrate diversity inclusion for future talent acquisition opportunities?

Leadership evaluation used to focus on individual performance. But the crisis has motivated C-suite teams to work in sync with one another. Changing demographics has also changed financial outcomes to include not just profit but purpose. Besides leadership performance, the current environment and customer expectations demand transparency. By refocusing rather than reacting, leaders can take this opportunity to reengage employees, demonstrate leadership empathy, and reinvent the customer experience instilling a more robust, more resilient workplace culture.