Future business | What the C-suite needs to rethink in the age of COVID-19

What the C-suite needs to rethink in the age of COVID-19

By Peter Linas, Chief People Officer, Bullhorn

Now that the initial chaos of the coronavirus pandemic has subsided and businesses have begun to adapt, you can expect your team to be looking to the C-suite for guidance. What will the path back to normalcy look like? What will businesses prioritise? What parts of the old status quo can we discard, once and for all?

Here are some areas that the C-suite should consider as we move toward a post-pandemic world.

Diversity and inclusion

Societal factors have brought us to a moment of introspection. The Black Lives Matter movement has returned our attention to the work of civil rights, while the pandemic has further highlighted existing racial and gender inequalities. Companies must seize this moment to reconsider their diversity and inclusion strategies – it’s the right thing to do socially, of course, but also financially, as diverse organizations always out-perform non-diverse organizations.

Leaders must begin by acknowledging the role that unconscious bias plays in their organisation and communicate to the team about combating it. Set targets, not as a checkbox exercise but with the understanding that the organisation will be better for it. The C-suite should also encourage recruitment teams to bring in candidates from a range of backgrounds and consider creative ways to reach candidates that current hiring processes overlook.

The C-suite needs to remember that DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) efforts don’t stop at hiring: it’s essential to consider who has a seat at the table and who progresses up the ranks of the business. Be sure to make opportunities for promotion and development available to everybody to help cultivate talent internally.

Be open about mental health

In addition to the obvious threat to physical health, the pandemic also presents one of the biggest mental health crises in our lifetimes. Employees at every level have been faced with uncertainty and concern for the wellbeing of themselves and their loved ones, and it will likely take everyone some time to recover.

Companies that commit to acknowledging mental health will be at the forefront of their industries. They will have a more comfortable and engaged workforce, and they’ll have a better time attracting new talent.

Business leaders need to start talking about mental health and taking measures to support employees. Consider offering mental health days or free or discounted counselling. It’s also worth appointing a mental health officer within your company so everyone knows who they can turn to if they need to talk.

Encourage collaboration

In challenging times like these, we need everyone to be pulling in the same direction. Business leaders need to take steps to promote collaboration and create an environment where everybody feels comfortable bringing their ideas and experiences to the table.

A focus on collaboration also helps employees to feel more included and drives innovation. When making changes to the business, step out of the C-suite and include people from different levels of the company. This both produces fresh new ideas, as well as fostering the sense that we’re all in this together. More broadly, consider who you invite to meetings, involve in discussions and assign to projects – new participants bring new ideas.

Align communication with action – both internally and externally

In 2020, our words and actions are more visible than ever, and a mismatch between the two sticks out like a sore thumb. It’s not enough to post the right hashtags or a black square on Instagram and carry on business as usual. That’s not the foundation for real change.

Consider conducting anonymous surveys with your team to understand whether they believe they have been excluded or discriminated against. Give employees an outlet to give their honest take on the current state of DEI efforts at your company.

Support and empower your human workers

Without technology, businesses would have been destroyed by the lockdown and the pandemic. Automating laborious administrative tasks gives everyone in your team more time to focus on solving problems and building relationships with candidates and customers - the value driver of your business. During the chaos of the early lockdown period, these efforts went to rapidly adapting the business to distributed operations, but now they can return to focusing on growth.

Learning new technology can be challenging, especially when there is so much else on our plates. It’s important that the C-suite leads by example on adopting new technology and that they take the time to convey why new systems have been adopted in order to drum up internal support and excitement for the change. Employees are far more likely to invest the time to use the latest tools if they understand the time they will save, for instance.

Look to a gradual recovery

Businesses of all stripes took a hit during the lockdown, but as we begin to recover, they have a rare opportunity to make improvements in the ways that they operate. When we are all going about our business, we’re less inclined to consider change, and sometimes it takes crises to force us to reconsider our preconceptions. If the C-suite can seize this opportunity today, they can rebuild their businesses to be stronger, more inclusive, and more resilient than they were at the beginning of the year.

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