5 Lessons Learned During the Crisis
As a major player in the freight forwarding industry, and having been through the SARS epidemic in China, I have learned and implemented some key lessons that are vital not only in navigating a pandemic, but doing so efficiently.
1. Preparedness. Businesses struggled and reacted to every new crisis or issue daily. No one had a comprehensive plan to navigate a health crisis, hurricane season, giant dust clouds, and even a locust invasion.
Having an effective and adaptable business contingency plan in place for your employees and operations provides the basis of a plan for future crises. The key word is flexible—one solution won't fit all, but forming plans to safeguard the health and safety of your employees is the first step to ensure your operations keep running effectively.
2. Adapt and accelerate new technologies and digitization. New technologies are drastically changing the way we work by improving productivity, repurposing our teams to higher-value tasks, and supporting the ability to provide a superior level of quality to customers.
This has never been more important than now when most of the world is working remotely. Service providers also have to liaise with customers about digitization efforts. We need to not only invest in new technologies and digitization, but also encourage our customers to implement them.
3. Flexible workplace. Employers have to create flexible and multitasking job positions, focused on critical business processes, to assure continuity in the midst of a global calamity, with an end-to-end perspective. Remote offices and online resources for employees are crucial. The workplace and the way we work won't be the same—it can't be—but employees can work remotely effectively and efficiently with an increase in engagement.
4. Leadership. Companies need to develop resourceful and change-agile mindsets in all team leaders to make decisions and deliver results under ambiguous circumstances.
Foster competencies and skill sets of current and future employees so they can give clarity, direction, and respect in a crisis, and are able to motivate and build trust with employees and teams spread over long distances. You have to connect and engage with employees and build a high morale to deliver results for customers and the business.
You need leaders who create other leaders and develop decision-making skills and business judgment at all levels within the organization. Leadership is one thing when your teams sit outside your office, but a completely different endeavor with large virtual teams who don't meet often.
Working at home at the start of the crisis was a novelty, but as it continues, keeping your teams engaged and motivated will be a key task for leaders.
5. Environment of authenticity. This is a two-pronged need. First, be authentic and transparent with your employees. Understand that they are adapting to a new normal as well, as an employee and in their personal life. They need your support to navigate this challenging time. It's not only the right thing to do, but will also boost productivity and encourage engagement and passion for your company. There is no truer advocate for your business than an employee who believes in the values you stand for.
Second, authenticity builds your brand into something influential and gives substance to your services and products. This is especially important with customers, and illustrates that your high values align with your high quality of business. A commitment to quality should be a no-brainer for any business, but during times of crisis, it establishes you as a reliable and trustworthy company that is there to navigate any challenges and difficulties together.