The Covid-19 pandemic has fanned our desire to judge those around us, as well as people we shall never meet. Threats to our health have legitimised in real life the rabid censure that we know from social media.
Why is that girl breathing all over pears in the fruit aisle? Who does that runner think he is, hurtling across the road ahead of me? Shop owners are plain greedy, letting so many people through that door like that. As for the government…
So far, much of the Covid-19 frustration has been directed at passers-by and, naturally, anyone unlucky enough to appear in the media. Over time science will show how far the blame is justified: our worries may prove to be too great or too little; our judgments, too kind or too harsh.
Judgment of companies will be ruthless
One thing is certain, however: society will judge companies for actions they have taken during this pandemic. Many people are redoubling their calls for ‘sustainable’ or ‘better’ business as they witness how one person’s choices can affect the fortunes, indeed lives, of others.
Employees, customers, shareholders, and members of the public will act upon their views of a company. Brand reputations and executive careers will stand or fall on how well an organisation is seen to ‘do the right thing’ during this crisis.
10 ways businesses can do the right thing
Our initial research illuminates one broad question that will decide a company’s future: How well did you treat people during this pandemic? Businesses that emerge from the disruption of Covid-19 with credibility and prospects intact will satisfy various demands.
1. Take actions you can defend – senior teams have to be visible, make their plans clear and help people to understand what is being done to overcome disruption, and why.
2. Enable productive work – line managers who enable their team members to be productive will make clear how everyone’s contribution matters.
3. Show commitment to wellbeing – people will work better and feel more positive when managers show genuine concern for their wellbeing.
4. Cope with new pressures – managers who lead well under new pressures (without any bravado) will inspire confidence and calm the anxieties of others.
5. Protect health – businesses that are judged favourably will support employees, customers, and other stakeholders to safeguard physical and mental health.
6. Encourage belonging – in our unsettled times, the best companies will take pains to encourage all members to experience a sense of belonging.
7. Allow flexibility – reasonable accommodations for novel situations will help people to balance commitments, remain well and uphold performance.
8. Respond quickly, with imagination – decisive, thoughtful action in responding to new stakeholder demands will show how the company takes its commitments seriously.
9. Protect financial interests – to secure financial viability a company will find ways to manage cost and enhance revenue – without sacrificing people.
10. Look after the community – sincere, possibly voluntary contributions to society – e.g., health services and suppliers – will prove the character of the most capable organisations.
What does this mean for you?
Do take our anonymous survey Leadership Responses to the Covid-19 Pandemic to see how businesses measure up against the standard by which they will be judged – we shall send you the results when available.