Leaders around the world are realizing that many of the “temporary” changes they put in place this year will need to continue, likely for the long term. They see that running a successful company in this new world is going to take some different approaches.
But leaders are rising to this challenge, and we’re seeing some incredible creativity and innovation in how companies do business. If we get this right, the changes we’re putting in place will have lasting, positive effects on the workforce.
Here are four important messages to embody as the COVID-19 crisis continues:
1. Live your values.
Start with what you know.
Most companies have an established set of values, and the last thing you want to do is waver on those. They’re your foundation, your guiding principles. The core of what drives your company should stay solid, even in a pandemic that has changed everything.
Remember your values in everything you do. Challenge yourself and your team to recommit to them, model them for one another and make sure everyone understands how important those values continue to be.
2. Show your humanity.
Now is not the time for stuffy corporate talk. We need to move away from the overly massaged, jargon-filled messaging that many leaders used to rely on. Today’s environment calls for a human approach, in which leaders are real people.
Employees and customers respond to honesty. Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know everything. Take accountability for your missteps. Listen and be real. This is how we should have been behaving all along, when you think about it, but it has taken a global crisis to make us realize how important it is.
3. Put your people first.
We all know how much stress everyone has been under, and the best employers are doing everything they can to make things easier for people. Take the time to really listen to your people to understand what they’re going through.
Create policies that allow them to manage in the new reality, providing as much flexibility as possible. This means allowing employees to take time when they need it, making room for them to tend to their expanded responsibilities in childcare or elder care. And don’t forget self-care: Encourage your people to take time to take care of themselves, exercise, relax and connect with loved ones.
In July, one company’s new policy announcement caught my attention. Incoming Siemens CEO Roland Busch announced to employees around the world that from then on they would be measured not by the time they spent at work but by the outcomes of their work.
This shouldn’t be a radical concept, but it is. Companies have long expected people to be at their desks—physically present and visible—for a set number of hours in the day. Even companies with progressive work-from-home policies still wanted to make sure every employee put in the proscribed amount of time.
This doesn’t produce results. Siemens’s new policy demonstrates that they trust their people to do good work in whatever time it takes. In the new world, when working from home could well become the norm for millions of workers, we need to adopt policies of trust like this one.
4. Prioritize flexibility
People’s feelings and comfort levels vary widely and are evolving at different rates. New policies must be flexible and adaptable. It’s going to take careful thought and an open mind to get it right.
None of this is easy, but remember that these new ways of working and treating people are truly for the better.