Most organisations are currently faced with new and difficult pressures, challenges and decisions resulting from the Covid-19 outbreak.
The responses to these pressures could have a dramatic and long-lasting impact upon your organisations culture, impacting its ability to endure and/or recover quickly. Many organisations have stories about that event in their past that is still seen as having been a poorly handled situation.
Organisation culture is heavily dependent upon trust, evidenced in concepts such as psychological safety, a key component of engagement. Environments where perceived threats exist trigger physiological, emotional and cognitive responses associated with personal security. Existing in this state can significantly damage your organisations culture and will likely require much effort to rebuild!
Your staff are looking to you now, more than ever, for messages and actions which demonstrate that you value them, appreciate their individual situation and that their welfare is an organisation priority.
Using the Coronavirus as an excuse to do otherwise will see your reputation and culture plummet. This is a price you cannot afford. It will cost you at every step of your responses and efforts to rebuild.
I have seen the lingering impacts of much simpler crises handled in ways that left staff feeling as though they were expendable or less important than the bottom line, once there was some pressure.
Policy on the fly will be necessary but be very cautious that the implementation shows a real interest in understanding each person’s unique context.
One of the most published and admired responses to a crisis was that of South West Airlines when faced with all airlines being grounded post-9/11. That firm’s commitment to its people is now legendary and the rewards have continued since. Arguably, this is a more complex situation, but any research on culture, engagement and performance supports, wholly the leadership approach of SWA.
There are, of course, numerous other examples cited in business publications. These may make for valuable reading in our current situation.
A message I often reinforce with my clients is what I call Garry’s rule #1: “demonstrate genuine care for your people, at an individual level.”
Your people will have more commitment to the success of your company than you estimate. They will identify creative options to support you, your organisation and their peers.
Involve them. Value them.