Business leaders are in uncharted waters. In the wake of the rapidly evolving Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), governments are enforcing restrictions in ways we’ve never seen, employees are working from home, and pundits are unsure about what lies ahead. We’re all asking ourselves: How do we adapt? How do we lead? And, how do we support our teams in such extraordinary times?
Below are a few strategies I’ve started to initiate over the past few weeks to support, guide, and advise Genpact employees, clients, and C-suite leaders around the world. Overall, we are both proactively leading and listening in a responsible way:
Create communities and connections with technology
Over the next few months, it’s clear that virtual work will become the new normal for businesses around the world. As such, it’s critical for business leaders today to use existing remote-working technologies, from video conferencing platforms like Zoom to unified communication and collaboration platforms like Microsoft Teams, to uphold company culture.
These technologies, which are already used in the business community but are now playing an even more vital role, can be tremendously beneficial in helping employees communicate and feel connected – regardless of where they’re working. For instance, even though newsrooms are shutting down their studios, they’ve quickly moved to sharing coverage in innovative, remote ways, with anchors broadcasting stories and interviews live from their living rooms.
By finding ways to empower, instead of simply cope with, remote work, companies can more easily move beyond just virtual collaboration and ignite long-term virtual community building. At Genpact, we’ve learned these lessons firsthand over the past few years as we began offering permanent remote-working arrangements to some employees. We recognized early on that we would have to constantly reassess and upgrade our collaborative-working tools to meet the needs of employees and clients – which will become even more of a constant as we adapt to the road ahead.
Quickly moving to action in the new normal
When businesses are faced with uncertainty, it’s crucial to be smart and flexible. For CEOs in particular, adjusting to this reality requires agile thinking about how to best serve clients in the face of disruption. This may mean that companies should take a deeper look at the products and services they provide and be willing to make fundamental changes in real-time.
That said, however, uncertain times also mean thinking critically about the ways you interact with stakeholders. Business leaders forge and foster some of the best and deepest relationships in the most challenging times. Truthfully, there’s no rule book for conducting business during a pandemic and, as such, it’s incumbent on us to use existing domain expertise to anticipate a client’s needs as they emerge and pivot at a moment’s notice. By being flexible and proactive, we can effectively fill in these blanks – for clients and partners – and establish ourselves as an invaluable asset that can help deliver success, now and into the future.
Of course, for employees, being flexible is also essential. This means being prepared to wear multiple hats – leveraging stretch skills quickly to ensure long-term, meaningful value generation for the company as a whole. Frankly, it’s in times like these that issues of reskilling and retraining become all the more important.
By prioritizing continuous learning practices, business leaders will be adequately staffed for any scenario – if, for instance, someone on the team fell ill, a company could deploy substitute talent fast to minimize delays.
Keep a level head
While it can be difficult, leaders have to keep a level head during this COVID-19 climate. The reality is that we’re going to get through this. Once it’s over, we’ll have learned a lot. In the meantime, it’s essential that we, as business leaders, stay the course as much as possible, retaining ‘constants’ that help employees keep focused on both short- and long-term objectives. Whether it’s continuing daily check-ins virtually or holding regular all-hands town halls via Zoom, providing company-wide anchors to normalcy can help to ease concerns and rally teams behind shared goals.
We have an obligation to listen and lead through times of crisis. These are deeply human challenges. We all want to do the right thing as authentically as possible – and sometimes the information does not tell us how to do that. We have a responsibility to be smart and use technology strategically to anticipate and overcome hurdles.
I wholeheartedly believe we can still be there for each other and our clients, even if we’re not together physically. My hope is that, by considering these strategies, we can all more confidently chart a path forward in these challenging times.