By: Wayne de Nobrega, CEO, Tracker South Africa
There’s nothing like a crisis to highlight true leadership. It’s when time spent implementing sound business practises pays dividends. Good leaders lay the foundations and prepare for these scenarios long before they happen.
Besides the more obvious aspects of running a good organisation, employees are the biggest asset. They live and project the culture and values of a company. Employees sell your product and your brand and can negatively or positively influence how an organisation is perceived, how change is implemented and whether you survive a crisis or not. Taking care of employees is critical.
Key areas need to be addressed to survive any crisis. Transparent and honest communication is top of the list. Silence and uncertainty scares people and feeds the rumour mills which furthers false perceptions about what is happening and how it impacts employees or the company. Rather over- communicate. Choose technology that enables you to reach all your employees effectively. During the Covid-19 pandemic we realised some employees had no email access at home, so we set up a Microsoft Kaizala Group for them to access company info and receive daily communications via their phones. No- one was left in the dark.
Building trust through transparency, honesty, integrity and empathy is also vital. This must start from the first day an employee joins an organisation. Honest communications may highlight vulnerabilities in an organisation, but this is not necessarily bad. This helps everyone to understand the challenges that need to be overcome, and it develops employee appreciation of the very difficult decisions leadership may need to make. This guides employees in understanding how they can play a role in difficult times. What you say, and how you say it, is crucial. Messaging must reflect that leadership appreciates any personal impacts on the employee. Regularly communicating new initiatives and plans to grow and strengthen the company keeps employees in the loop. It instils confidence in management and the future of the company and should be taking place before any crisis hits.
Invest in your employees to ensure they are fully equipped to appreciate and embrace their role in an organisation. Good leaders know how to empower employees on all levels and then trust them to get on with the job. When the fundamentals are in place, employees are more agile, responsible and accepting of change.
When a crisis hits, it challenges the status quo and provides opportunity for improvement. South Africa has a historical “command and control’ management style and prior to Covid-19, companies rarely considered a work-from-home scenario and certainly had limited intention of implementing this strategy in the future. The lockdown forced everyone to quickly adapt to working from home. Despite some challenges, this has improved the home-life/work-life balance for employees. Some organisational weaknesses may have been highlighted, but generally, productivity has improved.
With the right technology in place, a change in management style to more of an outcome based one, and learning to balance virtual and physical interaction, is a great opportunity to continue the work from home trend and take organisations to a new level.