Our Founder and CEO Bill Walsh shares his insights on the framework he’s used to work through crises:
These are extraordinary times. As leaders face the challenges imposed by the rapidly evolving situation surrounding the COVID-19 crisis, it is difficult to know where to start placing your focus and energy. This lack of clarity on where to begin can leave leaders and organizations paralyzed with indecision. Since a framework can always provide some clarity and a potential way forward, I would suggest looking to the work of the famous American psychologist, Abraham Harold Maslow and his hierarchy of needs.
To apply this to an organizational context, it means we must first take care of the most basic needs of our people. Then, and only then, can we begin to climb the pyramid. During a crisis like the COVID-19 outbreak, we are in danger of the basic needs of our employees not being met, and this can have a domino effect on their motivation, engagement and productivity.
Therefore, an organizational framework might look as follows:
1. Make sure basic needs are met. Stage one needs are not often the focus of an organization, but when they are not met, anxiety surfaces among employees, making it difficult for them to focus on much else. If an employee is not able to make it home during work travel (this was quite prevalent following 9/11), it is important that the organization ensure they have food, water, clothing and shelter. If they are home and need to juggle work with childcare, they may require flexible hours to address education, groceries, healthcare, etc. to feel their basic physiological needs are being met.
2. Make sure employees feel safe and secure. It is important for employees to know that they will not be asked to put their health at risk by commuting or travelling, and to make it clear that the organization is prioritizing their welfare. Whenever possible, reassuring people that they are not at risk of losing their job is critical to help people to move on to the following stages.
3. Get Connected. There is little danger of over-communicating at times like these. In addition to your employees, it is critical to include all stakeholders (customers, suppliers, partners, investors and vendors). Keeping connected with employees is more important now than ever. Company communications are necessary, but manager phone calls and video conferences allow for employees to voice concerns and have an active dialog. Additionally, it is important to encourage employees to interact more frequently with peers, friends and family members as uncertain times combined with isolation can escalate stress. Some employees will need more communication and reassurance than others.
4. Adjust to the new circumstances. It is now time to quickly adjust the organization to reflect the new reality.
Prepare to do more with less.
- Understand what “good” looks like for all key roles
- Make sure each person is performing at a high level in their position
- Take this opportunity to develop people for their current role or another important role where they have the best chance for success
- When hiring, focus on quality over quantity as each hire matters
- For Sales: Replace the practice of over-hiring for “coverage” with a plan to hire only those that best fit the role. This will deliver planned revenue at greater margin
Create a strategy for the crisis and shift resources
- Determine which teams need greater focus and more dedicated resources
- Understand who in the organization can perform the high-demand roles and shift accordingly
- If restructuring is required, make critical decisions with data and without bias
5. Prepare for the future. The best organizations take advantage of uncertain times to create and implement strategies that will make them far stronger following the crisis. They also take advantage of the opportunity to upgrade talent at every position as low stock prices “unlock” top talent from competitors. Remember to put in place ways to keep your best people (incentives, career development and planning) as other companies will also look to take advantage.
If leaders take the right steps now to ensure employees’ needs are met and they feel safe and connected, they will help their organizations meet the current challenges and position the organization for great success when the crisis is over. And it will, at some point, be over.
I’m sure the way we work and live will forever be changed by this crisis. But, if we take care of ourselves and each other, meet the current challenges head on, and take time to plan for the future, we will all get through this difficult time and exit even stronger.
Bill Walsh is Founder, President & CEO of Aptology, Inc.