Post-COVID: What Companies Will Do When the Reset Button is Pushed (Part 2)

22 May 2020 James Sullivan

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In part one of our blog on adjusting to a post-coronavirus world, we discussed the importance of rebuilding your foundations – rebuilding internal teams and retaining talent once the job market kicks back into gear. Now, in part two, we’ll take it a step further. How can you bounce back from the crisis and position yourself to scale up, fast? Along the way, we’ll touch on everything from formalising your remote working proposition to reacquainting yourself with a customer base that may have changed dramatically over the past few months.


Scaling up quickly

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Having started to rebuild your workforce and taken steps to retain your best people, it’s time to scale up at pace to ensure you bounce back from the lockdown stronger than your rivals.

Firstly, organisations need to decide when and how to return to the office. Nine in ten have encouraged or required employees to work from home due to coronavirus. And we can assume that going forward, a significant chunk of the workforce will continue to do so at least some of the time – in fact, 78% of Australian office workers believe working remotely is likely to become the new normal

Reopening the office will, therefore, be a huge step for companies and workforces alike. Naturally, many organisations will be eager to get their teams back together in-person. Some employees will be desperate to get back to normality after weeks or months of isolation.

Others, however, will be keen to continue working remotely. During the crisis, we’ve spoken with candidates who’ve taken up permanent jobs based out of offices in locations where they wouldn’t normally work. They’ve accepted because they can work remotely for now – and they have openly told us that as soon as the office reopens, they have no desire to face a 60 or 90-minute commute. They’ll simply resign and find a new job if they are no longer able to work from home.

As well as this, organisations will need to establish what “scaling up” actually looks like. Targets will need to be reevaluated to make them realistic in the new business climate – setting yourself up to fail will only damage morale down the line. Motivation and a high-performance culture will be key to driving the business forward.

Furthermore, you must be mindful that a permanent shift toward regular remote working could have a negative impact on company culture. After all, it can be harder to reinforce positive messages, run team-building exercises, and generally help people feel engaged and “bought in” when they’re not in the office.


Action points:


1.    Formalise your approach to remote working

As remote working transitions from a “coping strategy” to a long-term reality, companies need to make it as smooth and effective as possible.

Set a clear policy on who can work from home, and how often they can do it. Ideally, everyone who wants to, should be able to work remotely at least some of the time, but there may be points when core team members are required in the office. Companies will also need to address whether they allow some new staff to stay 100% remote – or risk losing them to rivals
once the job market kicks back into gear.

 Hold all-company meetings once a week to reinforce key messages, provide updates on performance and operations, and generally remind everyone that they’re part of a broader team than the people they communicate with day-in, day-out. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have any specific news to share; use the weekly meeting slot to do something fun instead that allows all workers, remote or in the office, to get involved.

Finally, take steps to limit the need for constant emails – which can quickly become unmanageable – by utilising communication tools to keep all relevant parties informed on delivery of specific tasks. Some of our favourites include:

  • Video messaging: Loom and Standups enable asynchronous video messaging in workplaces, allowing your team to record a message, then send it to colleagues to watch on their own time.   

  • Video notes: Chorus, Otter.ai, Fireflies.ai and Grain make it easy to find valuable information from your video calls by making them searchable, shareable, and transcribable.

  • Messaging: Threads, Yac and /talk open up a world of personal, asynchronous communication for remote teams.

2.    Protect your leadership team

Now more than ever, businesses need strong leaders. You simply can’t afford to lose talented, savvy decision-makers in such a challenging and uncertain period. Don’t blindly assume that times of crisis will automatically build loyalty among your top talent; during the so-called Great Recession of 2007-09, one in eight “high potentials” surveyed by Harvard Business Review said they were actively looking for new jobs.

Work hard to create a tight-knit, engaged leadership team and involve them in all high-level decisions. It’s vital that they feel like the most important people within the organisation, and that they are committed to – and personally accountable for – driving the business forward. And don’t just incentivise by performance; reward loyalty and longevity (perhaps through awarding more annual leave, granting stock options, or supporting them in pursuing passion projects).


3.    Reacquaint yourself with your customers

Pre-Covid-19, you probably had a pretty decent idea of who your “average customer” was. But the pandemic has dramatically changed our behaviours – and in many cases, those changes will be permanent.

To give an extremely specific example, 33% of Chinese consumers changed food brands during the crisis. A fifth of them plan to stick with their new choices going forward. In other words: forget what you (thought you) knew about your customers. Go out and grab fresh insights to inform future strategy. 

Gathering those insights will be about more than just conducting market research. You’ll need to speak to your longest-standing and highest-spending customers to understand how their goals and priorities have changed. Accept that you’ll make mistakes in predicting demand and keep an open mind, adapting with agility as the situation evolves.

4.    Demonstrate social responsibility

Businesses simply cannot afford to be on the “wrong side of history” when it comes to the pandemic. Organisations that have invested in corporate social responsibility (CSR) – by donating to charity, contributing to public health initiatives, and going above and beyond to support their workforce, contractors and suppliers – will be in a position to capitalise once lockdown ends.

 However, be wary of crossing the line between “highlighting your CSR efforts” and “using the crisis for self-promotion”. Any goodwill you generated through good deeds will be undone immediately if your motivations are seen as cynical. 

Customers are most likely to view your CSR programme as authentic – and, importantly, non-cynical – if its focus is clear and ties into your company vision. Google, for instance, concentrates much of its approach on sustainability and reducing its carbon emissions, even going so far as bringing in goats to mow the lawns at its Mountain View HQ. Don’t spread yourself too thin, or try to be all things to all people: pick a niche that directly relates to your company values, and
concentrate your CSR actions within this area.

5.    Motivate your workforce

For all the benefits it provides, remote working has historically produced teams that are less motivated than their office-based peers – particularly when they have no choice about where they work.

However, this isn’t just about motivating home-workers. Your whole workforce will emerge, blinking, from lockdown, wondering what happens next and whether or not they have a part to play.

But what actually motivates employees? According to a survey of 200,000 people, the biggest motivators are:

1. Camaraderie and peer motivation (20%)

2. Intrinsic desire to do a good job (17%)

3. Feeling encouraged and recognised (13%)

4. Having a real impact (10%)

5. Growing professionally (8%)

In short, your team want to feel involved, valued, and surrounded by like-minded people. And they want to feel like they’re moving forward rather than treading water.

As such, one of your earliest priorities should be to create fresh development plans for each and every person within the business. Give them measurable goals that clearly tie into your overarching company objectives. That way, they can see the value that they offer, and how their work feeds into the success of the whole organisation.

 

The importance of engaging the right recruitment partner

As we’ve demonstrated throughout this article, talent acquisition is going to be central to your ability to bounce back and scale up post-lockdown. But with every company fighting it out to hire the best people, the phrase “war for talent” has arguably never been more apt. Speed will be key; you can’t afford to let your competitors steal a lead. Team up with the right recruiter – one with a deep understanding of your industry and a substantial pool of engaged talent – to give yourself the edge over your rivals.

 

TheDriveGroup can help you scale up your team in the post-lockdown world.

Get in touch today to find out how we can support you:

James Sullivan - Director

jsullivan@thedrivegroup.com.au // 02 8076 4661