Leadership challenges generated by Covid-19 pandemic

By Guillermo Fernández de Jáuregui.

To all companies the key priority has been the safety and well-being of their employees during the Covid-19 crisis. But now a long-haul approach has to be based on two crucial ideas:

  • Companies must consider the full breadth of their employees’ needs as people. Besides safety, it’s also important to address the want for truth, stability, authentic connections, self-esteem, growth, and meaning in the context of the crisis.
  • This crisis should be considered in three phases: the shelter-in-place phase, the re-opening phase, and the post Covid-19 phase.

Human Needs in the Shelter-in-Place Phase

During this first phase, companies have sought to ensure their workers’ physical safety and security. We all have taken actions to protect team-members by allowing them to work from home, even to stay at home without working and receiving their salaries; for those “essential” workers measures have been implemented to sanitize work areas as well as to minimize the risk of infection.

We have all been experiencing a tough time trying to cope with this situation, doing our best effort to effectively communicating with our employees; as an example in ONILOG we establish a weekly video conference simultaneously between all of our business units and myself to provide a direct information to all about the situation and to be able to answer their concerns immediately. We also had constant communication with our clients working together to implement all the needed procedures in the “essential” processes or operations in order to be able to continue production during this phase, while helping to minimize the negative effect in the “non-essential processes” which had to close its production since two-months ago.

Human Needs in the Re-Opening Phase

  • Now we are planning how to re-open our “non-essential” businesses, doing so we all must consider the broad spectrum of our employees’; needs, beyond just creating a physically safe workplace. Which may be:
  • Defining the conditions that will ensure a safe reopening of their operations, from in-home services to offices and production areas.
  • Bringing back as many people as possible. Evaluate who should return earlier considering topics like, do they have the necessary space and infrastructure in their home to work productively? Do they suffer from mental health issues that may be aggravated by social isolation?
  • Ensuring ongoing, honest communication with employees, in a way that is truthful, humane, and caring. Conveying that the world is changing, encouraging the organization to “reset” vs. just “restart,” and highlighting that some things are not changing such as the company’s core focus and values.
  • Paying special attention to the ongoing communication with “vulnerable” employees.
  • Celebrating inspiring news. Good news helps workers’ mental health, which is likely compromised right now.
  • Highlighting how the company’s activities contribute to the common good and are making a difference in people’s lives. Defining how the company is able to continue to support the local community.

A deeper understanding of workers’ needs, even individuals, beyond just safety will make for a better re-opening phase.

Human Needs in the Post-Covid-19 Phase

Although we do not yet know when this phase will start, we should start our preparation to it. Definitively is going to be a challenge due to the uncertainty of how deep is going to be impacted the economy world-wide; as an alternative to just plan to downside our companies we should consider options to reinvent ourselves looking to create services or solutions that are not yet available but will position ourselves to thrive under the “New Normality”.

To do so, we will need to nurture our relationship with our collaborators and consider their opinions and knowledge in our planning process; a leadership more open, collaborative, inclusive, human-focused is going to be needed from now on.

Based in article “Lead Your Team Into a Post-Pandemic World” by Hubert Joly published by Harvard Business Review on May 8, 2020 Guillermo Fernandez

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