Flexibility: Every Corporation’s Most Important Strength During The Pandemic
Roger David is the President/CEO of GSR Brands, the parent company of Gold Star Chili and Tom & Chee.
As we continue to navigate the ever-evolving saga of a global pandemic, at least one thing is clear: Moving forward with flexibility in mind is going to drive your company’s success forward and is essential to your business’s survival.
The new year has brought new hope for many, but lessons from 2020 shouldn’t fade into memory with the turn of the calendar. While new strains of the virus are cause for concern, Covid-19 vaccines are being rapidly distributed to millions. Likewise, new policies are being pushed to continue the economy’s rebound alongside more businesses being allowed to re-open in varying phases. Both actions are seemingly positive for employers, but we are not out of the woods yet by any means.
That’s why, moving forward, every organization’s ability to be flexible — both in how we manage daily operations and the employees who perform them — is key to continuing that progress. As businesses that have found ways to stay open in the wake of coronavirus have shown, the ideas of “business as usual” and the “usual way of doing things” have been put on pause, if not changed forever.
We all must adapt for our customers, clients and employees. Using the same vision and leadership skills that made your organization successful can be put to good use here.
Flexibility is no longer a novel concept.
Flexibility in the corporate and retail work world isn’t a novel concept. In fact, for many companies that have smartly adapted over the past year, it’s now standard practice and a standard expectation. Forbes has published articles on the topic of flexibility extensively since the Covid-19 pandemic began, including the ways essential industries allowed flexibility while maintaining low absenteeism, the ways work will be changed for the better and the potential risks associated with flexibility.
But what exactly does “being flexible” mean? The answer will vary for each business, but there are few universal trends to follow to stay ahead of the curve as we continue our long journey past Covid-19.
First, as discussed in my previous article, every business — regardless of industry or employee size — needs to develop a vaccine plan for employees. This plan should include whether you will require employees and customers to be vaccinated to enter the workplace, as well as how you will handle the fallout that could follow from your decision.
Taking a wait-and-see approach isn’t an option. Being flexible in this case could involve any number of actions, including allowing some employees to work remotely if possible; re-arranging workspaces or rotating employee schedules to allow for smaller staff on-site; and/or training to perform old functions in new ways.
You must think about your clients and customers, too. Retail spots might need to continue curbside pickup options, appointment shopping, virtual browsing and digital consultations for some time to come. Creativity is your friend; inaction and inability to plan are not.
Retain your talent to retain your culture and profitability.
Another part of flexibility is finding new ways (if necessary) to make sure you are retaining your best employees and providing solutions for all. An analysis by McKinsey found that women are nearly two times as likely as men to have their work impacted by Covid-19. According to the study, if no action is taken to counter this regression, global gross domestic product growth “could be $1 trillion lower in 2030 than it would be if women’s unemployment simply tracked that of men in each sector.”
Similarly, some analysts have said that remote work could further the racial divide. Seeing how diversity has long been reported to lead to economic growth, the pandemic, combined with nationwide civil unrest, has shown it is wise to become more flexible in terms of our companies’ makeup, too.
How can we combat this? The Harvard Business Review has offered some great steps: Track the data within your own organization, and assess the impact of regressive policies you might have in place; take action based on what you find; and look for opportunities to increase gender and racial diversity throughout your company’s ecosystem (both internally and with vendors, supply chains and distribution channels).
Remember, flexibility isn’t limited to just changing actions. We’re changing ideologies, too.
Learn from others to become a better leader yourself.
Every innovation usually follows a series of struggles and failures. However, observing and then improving upon others’ success is an excellent way to reduce growing pains. Google, for example, has delayed return-to-work plans and said it will eventually bring employees back to the office for a few days a week. Some might be tiring of virtual meetings and remote work, but others have thrived.
Covid-19 has highlighted the need for mental health support in the workplace; having options — whether that means offering virtual therapy or extending or letting employees share personal time off with others — in place can go a long way in addressing issues. This level of support has some feeling more robust connections to their employers and, in some instances, producing better work.
If you’re a restaurant or retail service, this could be the time to start your own delivery service or create an app to allow your customers to shop virtually. The health and safety training that was a “nice idea” should take priority now.
Proactive, progressive thinking like this leads to new career paths, innovation and positive outcomes. Those results beat sick, resentful, worn-out employees and potential litigation for failure to put in the necessary work to prevent a problem before it occurs.
Flexibility is the willingness to change or compromise. As the cliché goes, where there’s a will, there’s always a way — and being flexible in how we do business and manage employees is the greatest tool at our disposal to achieve it.
Originally Posted on Forbes.com