I left municipal government many years ago to join the private sector and at the time, I was both excited and scared. I had no experience of how a business worked. I was put in a management role and promised I would receive the support I needed to ensure success. I had heard this before, however this time I was hoping the support would come through.

I think back to that experience and count my blessings on how fortunate I was. I was never more engaged and more committed to a business succeeding than I was during the seven years I spent with this company. While thinking about this, I decided to call the Company’s past President. I had not spoken with him for over 25 years; however, I felt a need to sincerely thank him for his leadership, his vision, and the support he demonstrated every day towards his employees. My motivation to make the call was simply to bring forward – 25 years later – some of the praise, encouragement, and recognition he so often gave to us. He was silent and was gracious during the call, but I could tell he was moved.

The leadership lessons I learned from him remain with me today and, I am convinced they can be effective in the post-covid “New Normal” period that we are entering.

Think about how much could be accomplished if each employee always contributed their absolute best?

Many of us are struggling to find the time to effectively engage with employees, vendors, customers, and stakeholders. The harsh reality is that businesses focus on short-term results and are constantly under pressure from the public markets, shareholders, boards, and private investors to deliver on the next quarter targets. Making things worse is the stress of Covid on everyone’s personal and work lives.

This leaves us asking the question: what can leaders do both during and after the pandemic to support employees, increase their ongoing engagement and improve the organization’s culture? To address these questions, we need to better understand how Covid might impact businesses.

How will the Covid pandemic impact businesses?

Predictions are rarely accurate and often focus on the most negative aspects of what could happen. Those who like to predict the future often start off by stating that “if things continue at this rate; this is what is going to happen”. In the 1930s the world’s best-known economists predicted that the world would be going through a negative population growth for many decades leading to a collapse of the world economies. WWII broke out in 1939, the baby boom hit in the 1940s, and during the 1950s, the world enjoyed one of the strongest periods of economic growth it had ever seen. So much for predictions! However, while the Covid pandemic is going to impact businesses, people are very resourceful, and history shows that they always find ways to ultimately make things better.

While no one can accurately predict the ultimate impact of Covid, society and businesses are realizing that:

  1. Historians will undoubtedly document 2020 and 2021 as one of the major pivoting points in the 21st century.
  2. The post Covid “New Normal” is still evolving, and it will take resourcefulness and motivation to rebuild many businesses.
  3. Businesses have struggled for the past 16 months with employee engagement issues and trying to nurture a healthy business culture while employees work remotely.
  4. More now than ever before, leaders globally are openly discussing the challenges their businesses are now facing with the “New Normal”. Many are beginning to share best practices and new approaches to better respond to the impact created by the Covid 19 crisis. This openness should hopefully lead to a much faster recovery.
  5. Business leaders are realizing the growing importance and need to improve and change the way they connect with employees and other stakeholders. Many businesses are beginning to ask about different ways and better communication methods in the “New Normal”. Connecting with our employees has never been more critical.
  6. Culture is the heart of any organization and businesses with strong and aligned cultures have enjoyed better results through Covid. The importance of a healthy workplace culture is reflected in stronger financial results, lower staff turnover, higher motivation and satisfaction, and improved customer service and quality. Businesses are also recognizing that when leaders do not actively contribute to the culture of a business, the culture continues to develop (good or bad) on its own.

Where to start?

Improving businesses often start with crafting and adopting a compelling mission/vision statement.

Stakeholders expect the leadership team to know where you plan on taking your business. Just like taking a vacation and before leaving your home, most of us know what our destination is. Similarly, businesses and organizations need to know their destination. In addition, if employees cannot explain the business vision in their own words, then they really do not know where the company is heading.

Engaged employees understand the big picture and how their contribution makes a noticeable difference.

Each employee must feel they are playing an important role in contributing and achieving the business vision. With this level of commitment, employees are likely to go beyond their personal needs and be motivated when working every day.

A Simple Plan

Considering the changes forced upon us by the pandemic, many businesses are beginning to rethink their existing plans. Others are now realizing for the first time they need to have a simple, actionable plan that can help their business navigate through this changing world.

In both situations, business planning approaches of the past 20 years are being viewed as lacking flexibility, too static and an overly time-consuming task.

To prevent getting discouraged or bogged down in the complexity of building a business plan, try:

  1. Building a simple business plan that incorporates points mentioned in this blog. Identify and include other building blocks for future initiatives and improvements… this will show you are being comprehensive while focusing on timelier and more pressing issues.
  2. If you are not comfortable building this type of plan, get a group of motivated employees involved in the process. You might be pleasantly surprised by what they develop.
  3. Don’t let the process be overwhelming. Begin with small steps. A simple plan is much better than no plan at all.
  4. Start with what you can support in the short term and build from there, including new initiatives as you go along.
  5. If you need help, the Osborne Group has years of leadership experience working with businesses to develop effective plans. We would be happy to help your business through this process.

What can I start doing today?

Start the process with the same 3 simple actions my past President so skillfully used to build a healthy culture and strong employee engagement.

  1. Actively listen to your employees
  2. Recognize your employees for a job well done
  3. Praise your employees and do it often

As a bonus, you might also receive an unexpected thank you call 25 years from now.