Originally published on Linked In on 9 April 2020
For so many businesses, hibernation is not an option. Hibernation runs a great risk, including the risk that a business will lose its competitive advantage — which for most is an aligned, agile and engaged workforce.
Listening to Australian and state government announcements over the past weeks has incited a rollercoaster of emotions with me as I process the incredible disruption happening to all businesses Australia-wide, including my own.
I whole-heartedly agree we must all do our part to flatten the curve and save lives. I don’t question that. I do worry about Australian business—the backbone of our economy and personally, my livelihood.
For me, a recent low point was thinking about the concept of businesses going into hibernation. This goes against all my beliefs about business preparation for survival, recovery and future success.
This low was was quickly followed by a high point with the news of the Job Keeper funding providing some financial breathing space to companies and an opportunity for businesses to retain their employees.
Every business is now reacting to the changes being forced upon them and they will soon settle into a ‘new normal’.
The new normal
Keeping employees engaged is a key to coming out of our pandemic situation with a business that can once again thrive. Another key is recognising that one of the certainties we have now is that for most, our way of doing business willnever be the same again.
We have already seen examples of businesses adapting and providing their products and services in new and creative ways.
This has shown us exactly what is possible when we are faced with seemingly impossible challenges.
For many organisations, decisions are being made without all the information being available. They are using what they know right now; reacting quickly and implementing changes in short timeframes.
What we are seeing is that the success of these quick decisions and changes is dependent on the organisation’s culture.
Decision making and the successful transition of employees through adversity and times of disruption is made easier when organisations have a defined and well-understood culture.
The impact of culture
Culture is unique to every organisation and at these times it can be the make or break of transition.
Leaders of companies that have a strong sense of purpose, a clear vision and values that that drive the right behaviours are finding that making decisions and taking action is easier when they are supported by the clarity of the business culture.
Organisations neglecting people and culture are finding our current operating environment dire.
As we emerge from the reaction phase of the Covid-19 response and changes being forced upon us, culture becomes the defining factor for what happens next; entering the preparation for recovery.
This is the time you need your employees, you need their understanding of your business, your ways of working, your customers, your challenges and roadblocks, and you need their ideas and ability to problem solve.
It's been broken, now focus on fixing it
Businesses now have an opportunity to break down the barriers to innovation and flexibility, to ensure they can prepare for a post-pandemic work environment.
All of the previously perceived objections and limitations to working from home are now obsolete. From my experience, those organisations that have objected most strongly to flexible work and the opportunities it brings are workplaces are struggling. Those with cultures of poor communication, a lack of trust and a need to micromanage are lacking the team collateral to evolve at this time
But not all is lost, if businesses look to focus on culture now.
During working hours, employees have competing priorities in a home environment including home schooling, perhaps access to technology, carer responsibilities and health concerns. If employees feel undervalued, it is very easy for them to disengage with work and the company they work for.
If they feel valued, they can support a business through this time and beyond,
Culture and leadership are essential for creating an environment that provides employees with clarity of expectations through appropriate communication, a sense of community and care that connects them with their team and broader work community.
Respond to change effectively
Now is the time to assess your culture, understand its strengths and limitations and redesign it to support your immediate and future business needs.
Research show us that 70% of change implementations fail, primarily because the organisation culture does not support change.
Now, more than ever, culture matters.
Your employees need to feel valued and continue to contribute, not in their traditional job roles, but according to their capabilities and capacity to innovate, problem solve and redesign the way they work.
So, hibernation is not an option.
Now is the time to focus on culture, on maintaining it or creating it. It’s time to rethink, reimagine, redesign and focus on what’s possible.
What will you do today to honestly assess you culture?
How will you take steps to improve your culture for the sake of your business, and for the sake of our economy?