A company delivering on its promise of equal opportunity and empathy is easier said than done. But none is this type of brand mission all the more tested in times of crisis. At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic will without a doubt bring the global economy on its knees—and with no clear end in sight—many local organizations face uncertainty over what could happen in the next weeks, months or year ahead. But it’s also during these unprecedented times when business leaders and entrepreneurs can use this as an opportunity to show strength and leadership with a humane approach.
Jo Ann Asetre, managing director of talent development and transition company Lee Hecht Harrison (LHH) Philippines, believes that there are specific steps companies can take to approach the COVID-19 crisis with clear communication as one of the most important moves any leader should do.
“Employers are particularly vulnerable to panic and misinformation that can accompany a public health crisis,” she says. “Fortunately, they are also uniquely positioned to be an antidote to that panic and misinformation. Working people spend at least as much time, if not more, with their employers and co-workers. That means many people will be looking to their organizational leaders for information and support as events unfold.”
With 20 years experience in management consulting, human resource management and strategic planning as well as a track record of implementing sensitive workforce transformation interventions across Asia, Asetre delves into and outlines concrete measures of what businesses can do in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Build a team
“One is you have to have a team. There has to be a designated team, a designated point person who will coordinate communications, responses with all stakeholders, with leaders, employees, clients, and of course with the market as well. There has to be strong executive team leadership during this crisis. A team composed of members from different departments is a good idea to ensure faster execution.”
Identify your source
“As a company, you have to agree on where you will get the most reliable source of information about the virus. Who are our sources of information? Is it the World Health Organization? Is the Department of Health? We need to filter fake news that we may hear or see online.”
“Very early on, review the company policies in place. For example, your work-from-home policy, overtime policy, benefits policy. Even if nothing has happened yet, be proactive, especially the leaders in terms of reviewing policies that would impact the business. It is impossible to predict the extent to which your business is going to be impacted by COVID-19 but you’ll want to act quickly and decisively on the issues you face today and to prepare for the potential for further disruption headed your way.”
“Business owners and leaders must show genuine and effective empathy. These are unprecedented times and we all have never been in this kind of a situation. Leadership therefore should think outside of the box. We need to take care of our people because we need their full support as things normalize.”
Show support and empathy
“You have to communicate assurance of a safe workplace with proactive strategies like circulating information on how employees can protect themselves and providing hand-sanitizing supplies. During this unprecedented case, business owners and leaders must show genuine and effective empathy. These are unprecedented times and we all have never been in this kind of a situation. Leadership therefore should think outside of the box. We need to take care of our people because we need their full support as things normalize. As LHH often says during transition, ‘Take care of the stayers because they will be the one that you will work with as you move to the future.’”
“There has to be protocols also on what tools will be used if ever employees will have to work from home. We have to make it available for them already.”
“It is impossible to predict the extent to which your business is going to be impacted by COVID-19 but you’ll want to act quickly and decisively on the issues you face today and to prepare for the potential for further disruption headed your way.”
“Sometimes anxiety or stress comes from the leaders. Employees can be anxious so the leaders have to be equipped on how to handle anxiety. The leaders have to demonstrate that they’re resilient, that they can manage their stress. It has to come from them. If we aren’t able to do it correctly, even if we mean well and even if the information is correct, it sometimes has an effect on the person or on your employee. So you have to demonstrate how you handle these kinds of stressors especially during these kinds of crisis.”
Have all information on hand
“Be prepared with all the information of all your employees. Of course we are conscious about privacy but just be ready if and when you do have to let your employees work from home—you know where they’ll come from or where they’re traveling to.”
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