The Covid-19 pandemic has been an event of unprecedented proportion, for the world. Some have equated it to the second world war in terms of its impact on the planet. While the human cost and business losses are still being calculated, the psychological effect on people is beyond compare. Humans are social beings, and hence have found it extremely difficult to adjust to paradigm shifts like WFH and social distancing.
On the work front as well, some dramatic changes took place. Instances such as job cuts, reduced salaries, reduced privacy – became commonplace. In this immensely fluid situation, the CEOs broadly responded in two ways: Short term and Long term.
As part of the short-term response, leaders were more concerned about profitability, thus cut jobs, increased surveillance, and started micromanaging teams. Initially, this approach did yield short term profitability but eventually led to unease, heartburn, and diminishing morale. Work quality and output, both took a beating, as part of such knee-jerk reactions, where even the employees continued to struggle with the non-existent work-home balance.
On the other hand, some leaders chose the tough path and patiently planned a long-term approach. They delved into practices such as mentoring teams, understanding their personal life requirements, encouraged safety first, and gave enough time to their employees to cope with the ‘new ways of working’. As a result, WFH was encouraged, and at the same time, leadership teams recognized the increased need for human connection, even though it was warranted by the pandemic. This empathetic approach paid rich dividends, which led improved service deliverables, enhanced client satisfaction, and a better than before, happier workforce.
We at Concept PR chose long-term, over any short-sighted and immediate options. During the initial lockdown, we kickstarted a monthly virtual Townhall, where our CEO addressed all team members and discussed various measures that the company planned and began implementing. We also reached out to all those who needed financial assistance or were supporting covid patients, who required hospitalization. In addition, Friday@5 is a monthly fun-filled initiative, encouraging everybody to participate for a fun-filled evening, and ensuring we don’t miss out on any fun even in a WFH scenario.
As the pandemic continued to ebb and life somehow returned to a semblance of normalcy, I believe the new ways of managing talent are here to stay. I see some fascinating times ahead for astute CEOs.
For example, a McKinsey paper that I recently read shared some interesting pointers for CEOs to succeed in the future. The trends that I foresee our CEOs to action in the near future (including the McKinsey pointers), are:
- Think bigger and faster: Simply put, the pandemic put a pause to the archaic ways of doing business. Once leaders accepted the new reality, they took bold steps to focus on increasing their businesses. Work from home was an excellent factor for this new direction, as it opened up time that the workforce spent travelling to the office premises. As a result, targets previously assumed challenging, are now within reach (and practically so)
- Better utilization of time: The travel bans and work from home have opened up CEOs’ time for clients. This time is now spent on strategic planning and improving operational issues. However, there is a flip side to it. Some CEOs have pointed out that the time they spent travelling was used for retrospection. The real challenge for CEOs is to utilize this time productively and constructively
- How am I being seen: In these difficult times, CEOs need to be inspirational and not dictatorial. When the workforce sees the human side of their leader, it helps them connect at a better level. At the same time, the employees can see the leaders facing the same difficulties and overcoming them
- Families at the centre of planning: Families have become an essential consideration for the workforce. WFH has allowed a balance between work and life. People are now used to having family members around while working. This trend will continue, and the CEOs will have to factor the importance of families in their plans
- Hybrid workplaces to stay: Even when the pandemic is over, we will have a hybrid model at the workplace. Leaders need to factor enough and more flexibility of this mode, when planning. All research and findings point to the fact that WFH was successful, and productivity did not suffer. A hybrid model combining the best of both worlds is the way forward!
I believe these are few of the interesting trends that we will witness in the future, and the fact that today CEOs need to navigate by being more involved and engaged with their people.
All in all, the future augurs well … with strong shoulders, let’s march on and do the good work that we do!
Executive Director – Concept PR