Bloomberg recently unveiled a calculator which analyzed that the world would take 7 years to recover from the pandemic. With a long way to go, how can businesses steadily recover and build resilience?
The good news is that leaders recognize which areas they have fallen short in. In a Leadership Monitor Survey conducted by Heidrick & Struggles in the final quarter of last year, every respondent—consisting of top management executives like directors, general managers, and CEOs from Southeast Asia—agreed that their company needs to reassess its purpose, organization, and culture. Tellingly, more than half of them admit that ‘a great deal’ or ‘a lot’ needs to be done. But acknowledgment is only the beginning. As leaders work towards rebuilding their organizations, it is now time to take action and progress from securing survival, to sustaining success.
A business landscape shaped by COVID-19
The global pandemic has had far-reaching consequences that span across both internal and external aspects of businesses. Although a part of the workforce has had to continue commuting to the office, others have also adopted remote work arrangements. The line between professional and personal life has blurred and this has unfortunately heightened anxiety among the working population. In Microsoft’s Work Trend Index, 31 percent of employees in Singapore cited the lack of separation as the top source of stress for them. As these new work models are likely to continue, there is a critical need for organizations to address the mental health of their teams to keep existing employees satisfied and motivated, while also attracting new talent.
Beyond addressing the needs of its internal teams, leaders also need to contend with the changing expectations of their external stakeholders. The COVID-19 outbreak has prompted consumers, shareholders, and wider communities to demand for more transparency and accountability. They now expect commitment and action to be taken on issues like social responsibility. So, to safeguard their future, organizations should embark on an internal reassessment of what they really stand for, to ensure genuine alignment of values with their stakeholders.
Fostering a positive culture throughout the company
Leaders already know that their company’s culture is integral to success. In our Route to the Top Report 2020, we saw that multiple top executives highlighted a focus on culture as a key priority for their organizations By fostering a thriving culture that is purpose driven and characterized by vitality and a growth mindset, business leaders are better positioned to achieve employee commitment and motivate them towards meeting business goals by encouraging and rewarding desired performance. More crucially, a strong culture built on a foundation of teamwork can make all the difference when facing a crisis—APAC executives who participated in the Leadership Monitor have shared that a sense of belonging and desire to stick together can enable a company to better weather the storms they encounter.
In pursuit of purpose
As individuals within and outside the organization become more socially aware, purpose and values play an essential role in cementing commitment and loyalty. Our research into the importance of purpose in the search for talent has found that employees in high-purpose companies rated their organizations higher across all factors than those in low-purpose companies. The differences in ratings were significant in areas related to engagement and productivity, like collaboration, resilience, and ownership. Hence, it is apparent that purpose must be incorporated throughout all levels to drive a business forward, by motivating and galvanizing every individual towards a common goal.
Furthermore, during times of uncertainty, a purpose that is well-understood and committed to will also provide much-needed confidence and direction. But of course, this is all contingent on taking concrete action, and authenticity is key.
Oftentimes, companies that have thrived during a crisis are those that are dedicated to creating a positive difference for all their stakeholders—making good on their promises, and taking the actions they say they will.
Real impact over one-off gestures
While undoubtedly still important, meeting financial goals cannot continue to be the sole aim of organizations When intangible aspects take on greater prominence, businesses definitely need to reassess and reorder their priorities for long term success. Instituting a purpose usually provides a clear direction for organizations to do the right thing and in recent times, doing the right thing increasingly entails addressing issues like environmental sustainability and diversity and inclusion. Interestingly, adequate management of these areas can also help to achieve business goals.
Companies with higher gender diversity rates enjoy benefits like positive employee morale and better retention. Coupled with access to varied backgrounds that offer unique perspectives, and worldviews, organizations often find themselves with improved decision-making capabilities, leading to better business outcomes. In addition to gender diversity, embracing sustainability in response to climate change must also be a focus as society demands greater accountability from corporations. Beyond one-off gestures, they need to give more thought to potential impacts every business decision has on the environment.
Light at the end of the tunnel
Finally emerging from an extraordinary year, many aspects of business operations will never be the same again. Most companies have now moved beyond the desperate fight for survival; and leaders must turn their attention towards critical factors to achieve future success. When the expectations and demands of stakeholders have changed, companies too must evolve, and redirect their efforts towards the issues that matter—by reflecting, reinforcing, and recalibrating their purpose, culture, and priorities.