We are living in a time of great uncertainty. Regardless of your stance on COVID-19 and how you interpret the underlying stats, the fact is there has been a fundamental shift in human behaviour around the globe that business leaders ignore at their peril.
People, be it rationally or irrationally are responding to the unfolding events in a way that is difficult for business and government to predict. And this increasing uncertainty breeds volatility. So while it can’t be determined if we as individuals will feel the physical effects of COVID-19, one thing is for certain, we are all impacted by the social and economical knock-on effects.
The extreme volatility seen in global markets (and supermarkets!!) is a very tangible illustration of just how shaky everyone is feeling. But unlike the GFC, this goes beyond people just feeling financially vulnerable. If you subscribe to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the persistent uncertainty has eroded people’s need to feel a basic level of comfort around their physiological and safety needs, leading to a state of panic. This is not just a ‘hit to consumer confidence’. No one went out and stocked up on toilet paper when the GFC hit!
In every crisis, there is an opportunity
But it is often hard to see, that’s why in times of uncertainty, people are looking for leadership. This is a time for our leaders to lead from the front, to acknowledge what they are thinking about and how they plan to respond.
At a very basic level, that includes a response and a plan in place around good corporate governance. As leaders, we have a duty of care to our employees, so we need to be enacting policies that not only acknowledge that but aim to protect your people as best we can as employers. Examples of that are putting in place restrictions around travel, good hygiene and social distancing, including working from home.
This is the first wave of response for leaders. What can we practically do and control to demonstrate we are doing something. It’s policy related – easy to communicate and relatively easy to implement.
But now we are entering the next wave which is unchartered territory. What is the plan when 75% of your workforce is required to work from home?
The logistics are one thing – can we supply laptops to 8000 people? Can our IT systems cope with the remote load? Is it even possible for people to do their work from home?
For a CEO, these are the hard questions you will need to address. And even if you don’t have an answer, your people will be looking for reassurance from their senior leaders.
Focus is already shifting
The focus is already shifting quickly from compliance – what do we need to do, to what is the right thing to do?
And one of the first things you need to do is provide reassurance, support and a sense of community. But you need to also be able to do it quickly, in a cost-effective way and at scale.
So if all of a sudden you have 2000 people needing to work from home, how do you give them guidance, support and a sense of belonging in an unfamiliar environment?
Which brings me back to Maslow’s third level of human needs: social belonging. The need for interpersonal relationships and a sense of belonging motivates behaviour. It’s also thought that if we can restore a sense of social belonging for people, this may help people overcome what they perceive as a deficiency to their physiological and security needs. Hopefully, people might stop buying toilet paper in excess as well.
Providing a forum in which your people can connect with their peers to talk about how they are feeling, how they are working and what they need help with is a small step to reinstating a sense of belonging in a new world of ‘remote’.
This is not mentoring as many senior leaders typically view mentoring. Hierarchical relationships for a select special few seen as the future leaders of the organisation. This is mentoring for the masses. This is about making mentoring more accessible and more relevant for more people.
At a time when the majority are feeling more isolated, more uncertain and more vulnerable, having a response in place which provides a support network for all your people will need to be considered in your conversations around what infrastructure do we need to have in place to ensure our people remain productive in this, while temporary, inevitable world of remote work.
Learn how a Mentorloop Mentoring or Remote-focussed Program can keep your people connected and expand their at-work social network beyond their team, today.