As the first weak signs of an end to COVID appear on the horizon – vaccination rates rising, businesses opening their doors, schools returning to in-person learning – it’s tempting for managers to dream again of a back to normal.
Growth and performance leader Eyal Gutentag says there’s just one problem: “normal” isn’t going to happen anytime soon.
With a long history of developing high-performing leadership teams for industry-leading companies like the NFL, Uber and ZipRecruiter, Eyal has experienced all manner of management challenges over the past decades. He knows ‘normal’ inside and out, but he cautions, “Forget the idea that once COVID is over you can go back to business as usual. If COVID has taught us anything, it has taught us that we need a new standard to move forward.
This new normal of business, he tells his managers, will involve more than just another type of regular employee training, updated internal policies or untapped revenue streams. It will start with a very simple driving force: attitude.
“Unfortunately, most managers will do nothing more than apply the traditional post-crisis strategies that their peers at other companies typically apply,” Eyal says. “They will focus on recovering lost revenue, rebuilding their operational structure, revising the organization chart and possibly accelerating digital solutions that save time and manpower. Of course you can do that. Mediocre companies certainly will. But I have another suggestion: let’s also change our approach to how we treat people. “
Its first post-COVID step is to recognize the powerful human side of the pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of people have died and many employees are afraid. Eyal advises managers that this is a time of compassion, especially when it comes to employees who fear returning to on-site positions.
“I tell my managers to do everything possible to make personal contact with as many of their employees as possible,” he says. “Determine their state of mind. What are their fears? Do they have a preference for working remotely or on site? Are they available in both cases? “
In other words, adopt an attitude of compassionate understanding. Seek feedback and act quickly and accordingly when change is needed. Recognize that the success of your business depends on your core values, but above all on your attitude.
Now is not the time for ultimatums. You can be more effective by offering attractive incentives that make it easier to return to work on site. What kind of incentives? Eyal suggests looking at things like extra snacks in the break room, occasional free lunches, more flexible hours, babysitting and more. Find out what makes people tick again and give them what works whenever you can, especially in times like these.
“And speaking of core values,” Eyal continues, “this is the perfect opportunity to revisit them. Reaffirm these values with your employees. Get their feedback. Discuss why these values set you apart from the competition. That alone can help them alleviate their fears, increase their loyalty, and improve the efficiency of your operations after COVID. “
But this is only the first step. Then you have to act. You can decide to accelerate the change. You may want to increase investment in technology to keep costs down. Or you can look at new sources of income.
“Whatever you do,” Eyal gutentag concluded: “Make sure your management decisions, actions and strategies stay true to the core values you have worked so hard to articulate. When they do, it’s easy to get employee buy-in and nothing can stop you.
“Not even another COVID.”