Over the last few months, we’ve heard dozens of stories and learnt of multiple ways that businesses have dealt with the pandemic – the different approaches and the different results. But now that we are eight months in and on the cusp of achieving a ‘new normal’, the focus needs to turn to post-pandemic plans (or at least, post-2020).
Has this year just been a strange anomaly, an unfortunate detour? Or can the processes and practices implemented out of necessity be retained to deliver long term benefits?
Sarah Stockwell (HR Director, ANZ at McPherson’s), guest speaker at our latest disruption circle event, gave interesting insights into how an ASX listed company approached their pandemic response. Unlike many other organisations, they continued to focus on the big picture (growth and delivery), and only changed their expectations on how they would get there.
While this approach allowed them to maintain a steady share price throughout the worst months of the pandemic, the outcomes also provided long term benefits. Not only did they discover processes that were better than their original ones, but the approach is not pandemic specific. It is easily transferrable to any future interruption for any business.
Three steps to approaching future change events
COVID brought on a number of challenging situations for businesses – financial insecurity, staff losses, remote working environments, and increased concern on employee physical and mental health (to name a few). Suddenly, everyone needed a lot more support to do the same things as they always did. If organisations wanted to maintain performance, delivery, and reputation, offering that support was essential.
While COVID is an extreme example (and a rare event when organisations had to deal with multiple challenges all at once), there will be future events that no doubt require similar action. As we face more uncertainty (post-pandemic ‘normal’, national economic instability, changing work environments), organisations need to be even better prepared for disruption.
Here are three steps, adapted from McPherson’s successful pandemic response, that businesses can follow = to ensure they can effectively survive major change events:
Focus on those affected
Business performance and the ability to deliver on promises and expectations is a major concern for organisations in a crisis situation. But focusing instead on those who are most affected by changes (usually, employees and customers) can help you retain some sort of performance normalcy in the long run. If things have changed for your people, the way you operate and deliver needs to pivot as well – or results will quickly drop.
At McPherson’s, this meant offering employees extra support through WFH packages, regular pulse survey and unlimited access to EAP. They also set up two key response teams – one led by HR, the other by sales and marketing – allowing them to respond and think differently to how they manage the human impact of change.
Remember and reinforce company values, and drive change through leadership. Leaders need to be fully involved with their teams and put a strong focus on collaboration and communication. Remember your key values and what you’re trying to achieve, then make moves to support that. This could mean redeploying staff, cutting down meetings or projects to the bare minimum, or attaching purpose to everything you do (rather than doing things because “that’s what has always been done”.)
Remain focused on goals
Stay focused on the business plan you had. It may need to be readjusted – whether that’s expectations, timelines, or the proposed path. But a change in circumstance doesn’t always call for a complete change of (business) plan. Offer the support that’s needed and change the details if necessary – but you can change the journey without changing the destination.
Finding purpose in disruption
By following these steps, McPherson’s not only reached their goals amid a pandemic but was able to focus on what was most important by reducing the bureaucracy of the workplace. This led to increased and unforeseen benefits, including:
- The freedom to try new things, and find new paths to their goals
- Happier employees, more connected teams, and better communication skills
- More adaptability and flexibility as a business
By sticking to their goal but being willing to change some of their processes and protocols, they were able to achieve the same result. They also ended up with better outcomes for employees, and better long terms benefits for the entire organisation.
While the pandemic has challenged nearly all Australian businesses and we all wish it had never happened, something good can still come out of it. Without COVID, we wouldn’t have been forced to focus more on communication, wellbeing and support. And we wouldn’t have realised these things go hand in hand with performance.
By being flexible and embracing change as an alternative path to the same goal (rather than a roadblock to overcome), you can achieve organisational growth and agility, regardless of the disruption you face.
At Choice Career Services, we support organisations manage the human impact of change. From pandemic-sized disruptions to restructures unique to your business. Talk to a specialist for customised, compassionate solutions at no-obligation. Get in touch with an expert.