corporate lesson

Corporate Lessons From COVID-19 | Aparna Sharma | Senior HR Professional & Certified Corporate Director I Editor’s Collection

corporate lessonOur lives can change very quickly. The current crisis situation is the best evidence of this fact!

We are only in Phase One of a pandemic that has changed the rhythm of daily life like no other recent event. As we take time to think first of the health of our families, friends and communities, we are already learning lessons that will help us to navigate the urgent trials we face today as well as the fundamentally important challenges awaiting us once the worst of the pandemic passes.

There are huge efforts being made across the world to contain COVID-19. We are in the midst of a 21 day lockdown in India. It’s a dynamic situation every day. Even once we overcome the immediate crisis & crawl back to business as usual, it will leave a long tail of implications for businesses to manage. Crises of any form are rarely isolated and contained – they tend to unfold in unpredictable peaks and troughs – and that’s why COVID-19 should
focus the minds of business leaders across the globe.

Managing crisis is a fact of business life. It’s not a matter of whether a crisis will hit, but when – and whether a business survives intact is directly related to how well it is prepared. The COVID-19 outbreak presents specific potential business challenges around people and commercial operations. On an operational level, restrictions on employee movement creates immediate challenges, but the impact of the fear factor on the workforce (and potentially on the reputation of the business if it’s directly affected) is equally relevant. In both cases, timely and effective communication – with both internal and external stakeholders – is absolutely critical.

So what should business leaders be considering in light of COVID-19?

1. Resilience –

Its not just a catchphrase; it’s a necessity, and it’s having its moment. Every single Board of Directors needs learn from this global challenge and invest more time and thought in exploring where its business faces other risks.

Resilience in the face of fast-changing attitudes and actions on the part of a company’s workforce also present questions of fundamental importance. And we also know that political change can come overnight and test our models. The simple question that is haunting most business leaders is: Is your business resilient in the face of massive change? We are experiencing in real time how hard it can be when the answer is “NO”.

2. Acknowledge Interdependent Globalized world –

It should go without saying that we are all connected and interdependent; the virus proves just how true that is. But in an era when powerful political leaders call for walls and barriers and play to people who can be swayed in that direction, this difficult episode teaches us the importance of collaborative solutions.

Credit should be given to French President Emmanuel Macron for convening a virtual G7 Summit and to the tireless workers at the World Health Organization (WHO) for providing valid and valuable information, enabling testing and supporting health systems that need it most. In short, we need each other, and crises often remind us of that. This one certainly is doing exactly that. It is a folly to suffer the negative consequences of our connectedness without maximizing the benefits. Business has a strong interest in advocating for open societies, effective public governance and the rules-based international system that has
come under attack in recent years.

3. Put your Crisis and Business Continuity Plans to test –

Most businesses will have crisis/incident and business continuity plans (BCP) – and if you don’t have one, now is the time to put one in place. Regularly stress testing these is essential. COVID-19 has already revealed flaws in some plans. So, one needs to learn from it & plug it back into the plan & make every effort to make it fool proof.

4. Create a strong, Cross-functional Response Team –

A crisis like COVID-19 can have an impact on every part of the business. The response demands high-level sponsorship and cross-functional working. A core team must be formed overseen by the CEO (usually drawn from HR, Legal and Communications), to provide the framework and strategic guidance, supported by an extended team to address the specific actions needed to get through the crisis. However, this may vary from organisation to organisation.

5. Focus on Data –

Reliable data underpins both crisis planning and response. PwC's 2019 Global Crisis Survey establishes that three-quarters of those in a better place post-crisis strongly recognise the importance of establishing facts accurately during the crisis. It’s essential that the crisis plan outlines how information will flow and that everyone has confidence in its veracity. Strong data also reinforces a central element of crisis planning – exploring different scenarios and
how they could affect the business in the short, medium and long term.

6. Keep your people and working environment safe –

The ongoing situation with COVID-19 means that employees, or the potentially impacted communities they work in, will be looking to their organisation for a response, guidance and regular communications. Review travel rules, HR policies, first aid plans and create safe ways to exercise the arrangements. The working environment should also be considered so that one can continue to provide a safe place for employees and visitors to work as intended or in the current situation provide the option to Work from Home (WFH).

To my mind, the response window for a crisis is typically measured in months, while recovery is measured in years. But a crisis doesn’t necessarily mean disaster. An incident managed well allows one to develop one’s immune system, enabling one to take on riskier opportunities, with the confidence that future threats will be spotted and addressed quickly. That’s the key to sustainable competitive advantage

2 thoughts on “Corporate Lessons From COVID-19 | Aparna Sharma | Senior HR Professional & Certified Corporate Director I Editor’s Collection

  1. All points including specialist HR recommendation have been brought out explicitly keeping the recent developments in view of the situation arising out of the crisis due to COVID 19. Let’s review.
    The Janta Curfew:Thanking the Brave
    On 22 March 2020, it took COVID 19 to bring our country together after a gap of almost two decades. The feeling was of one large extended family. The clapping and the utensil sound was soothing and will reverberate for a long time in my ears. Some elderly were seen chanting prayers. Small children participated whole heartedly to thank doctors, health practitioners, forces and personnel involved in extrication of citizens from foreign countries and all involved, who well aware of the risk to their lives have taken on the present challenge head on and are committed tirelessly.

    The Psychological Mobilization
    The paradox is, that only wars, battles, raids and Abhimanyus get our country together. Memories are short lived and lessons quickly forgotten. To my understanding, the closest physical mobilization of complete Indian population for a single cause, equivalent as of 22 March 2020 took place was during Kargil operations in 1999, when soldiers were cheered all the way from plains to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The letters written by people from all walks of life were pouring into Zanskar and Saichen in bags, providing the much needed motivation to soldiers to do their bit. In present day scenario, these letters have been replaced by social media.

    The Fear Factor
    This time, we all have come together as a country under the shadow of fear. The fear of unknown, the fear of getting infected with COVID-19, surprisingly enough, in which there are high chances of survival. All infected patients are not dying and their number is quite high, more than 90 percent are surviving at present by all conservative accounts. This may rise exponentially if the infection spreading to masses is contained. The time is fast running out.

    The Magnitude of COVID Challenge
    While comparing India with other countries in terms of its area, population and population density, one realizes the magnitude of the challenges which we will have to deal with during our fight with COVID viz the area of Italy is approximately 301,338 km² almost equivalent to the state of Maharashtra having a population of approximately 6 crores with population density of 206 persons per sq Km. Maharashtra has a population of approximately 11 Crores with population density of 307 persons per sq Km. I am in no way relating the rate of spreading of the infection in Italy with Maharashtra. However, world-over after China, Italy leads the COVID charts and in India, it is the state of Maharashtra.

    Looking Ahead
    The way ahead is to remain vigilant without succumbing to rumors, believing only in scientific methods of treatment and taking precautions as advised. Let us pledge to continue with the self-imposed curfew or practice social distancing till the situation is brought under control and not to crowd our societies, colonies and Local Kirana Shops.

    Essential Services and Operations
    Special government initiatives are required to keep the Logistic Supply Chain moving, specially the movement of medical supplies to remote areas of India where rail Head is not available /constructed. Air dropping of essential commodities and medical supplies can also be resorted to prevent total disruption of Logistic train which is now happening. It will be in interest of all if BS VI implementation is delayed by one year to cater for COVID pandemic. Irrespective of their BS classification, we may need more vehicles to be pushed into the supply chain after this pause is over.

    Care, Compassion and Survival
    We expect our government to take care of its citizens by providing seamless supply of medical aid, masks, sanitizers, adequate rations to people under Below Poverty Line who are dependent only on daily wages, catalyzing Public Distribution System, provision of safe drinking water and ensure scientific disposal of infected deceased. For the treatment of COVID patients, all private hospitals may be advised by the government to treat them for free. Initiatives are also required for voluntary contributions and if need arises for forced deductions from salaried class and distribution. EMIs collection can be delayed by four to six months. We need to get into the survival mode. Survival scales are required to come up and duly published. Private companies depending upon their margins, may be forced to adopt village and contribute towards the medical aid. The call is urgent and could turn out to be life saving for many.

    The national character is at stake. Contribution in all forms is required from all stakeholders. Presently, it is by social distancing. It will be incorrect to sit back and wait for vaccine only to cure COVID, though I wish it happens soon. Meanwhile, we need to get out of our trench, our comfort zones and fire all gun blazing to retrieve the situation back to normalcy.

    “Grave security concerns can arise as a result of demographic trends, chronic poverty, economic inequality, environmental degradation, pandemic diseases, organized crime, repressive governance and other developments no state can control alone”
    Ban Ki-moon

Comments are closed.