Building resilient, responsible, sustainable businesses in a post-Covid world
From an article by Seth Finegan, UK CEO at Informed Solutions
Those of us involved in the technology and transformation business know more than most that the world changes all the time. But some changes make us re-evaluate what’s important, what we do and why we do it. The coronavirus pandemic is producing this type of seismic change.
In lockdown, our company, like others, was faced with the multiple simultaneous challenges of reassuring our people and clients; transitioning to a fully remote working model and assessing an uncertain economic outlook.
My own family began its journey through the realities of Covid-19 as well at this time, as our son began two unsettling weeks of suffering from an unrelenting fever and chest problems associated with the virus.
As both a parent and the CEO of our UK business, I needed to stay calm, focus on making the best possible decisions and reassure those around me at home and at work. The weeks since then have been filled with many activities, working hard to see that our people are well and settle into new and unfamiliar working patterns, our clients are looked after and supported, our business remains resilient and, on the home front, ensuring that our boy is getting the care and attention that he needs.
It has also been a time to reflect on how these personal and professional challenges are being replicated across much of the world and on the ongoing impact this will have into the future. How will this reshape our economy and society in the future and what does that mean for any business that emerges from the tunnel of lockdown?
The impacts are many and complex but I believe we can already see four broad themes emerging:
An increased concern with safety, health and wellbeing.
A greater reliance on family and community relationships.
Sustainable growth for the right reasons.
Ever greater scrutiny of leadership.
These shifts in our thinking will change our behaviours; how we consume, how we invest, what we want from our government, and how (and where) we want to work. How will businesses respond to this and what will a good, sustainable business look like in a post-covid marketplace? Of course we cannot be sure but there are clues in these emerging themes:
Acting with Purpose.
Successful businesses are driven by a purpose to contribute to the wellbeing of society and the economy. Authentic purpose is a practical intent that shapes how a business engages with customers, staff and communities, and it materially influences how it prioritises investment, generates income, and gives back in terms of creating social value.
Focusing on People.
Truly focusing on your people means listening to them and giving them a voice in the direction and operation of the company. It starts with recruiting for the right person, not just for their existing skills, and it continues with being open with them, consulting on key strategic issues and inviting them to collaborate with the leadership of the company as it sets the course ahead. Above all it means investing in the wellbeing and development of your people, not just in their technical skills but also supporting their personal development, such as building personal resilience and communications skills so that they can do more fulfilling work.
Putting Values into Action.
The companies that remain the most resilient and cohesive during a crisis are those where culture and shared values bind people together. For example, encouraging innovative suggestions and rewarding collaboration and team working helps develop mutual respect and trust. This means turning leadership narrative into practical plans, coaching and action, and assessing performance means looking at how well you support your colleagues as much as on how well you meet your own targets or objectives. Building trust within and across a company in this way changes its DNA and it flows through to better engagement and collaborative problem solving (including with clients) which results in strengthened, more resilient relationships in the face of seismic change and crisis.
Leading with Vision.
The world has changed and so must our leaders. Leaders need a renewed focus on people, purpose and values. Every decision that leaders make must also help organisations and people recover and become more innovative, collaborative, resilient and adaptable. This means having leaders with vision and wisdom, leaders who are engaged enough with their staff to build trust and collaboration across the business, ready to manage risks and make the most of new opportunities together.
I am grateful that our son came through his illness and I am also optimistic that the fundamentals of our economy are sound enough to come through this challenge. Those of us that have hands-on experience of running a business, know that the economic recovery is not going to be easy or swift, as some have suggested. However, for all the anxiety and too often tragic news that Covid-19 is bringing us, this is also an opportunity to refresh, renew and reset our notions of what great leadership and responsible, sustainable business looks like.
The best companies will understand and seize this opportunity, and will be driven by having a worthwhile purpose and valuing the wellbeing of people, beyond just making a profit for their shareholders.
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From an article by Seth Finegan, UK CEO at Informe, 10/06/2020