How can we turn threats into opportunities? Lessons from the pandemic.
In mid-March of 2020, we watched and listened, with stunned interest, as we tuned to our favorite, and sometimes least favorite, news channels to witness the spread of a pandemic that would change our lives and human history forever.
Some of us chose to ignore and disbelieve what we were seeing and hearing, while others panicked, stockpiled supplies and locked themselves into their homes. All the while companies struggled to make the best decisions for their employees, customers and businesses.
Six months later, when we thought we would be out of the woods from this pandemic, we found ourselves in a continued taffy pull of whether or not we should venture out and live life like we once did or stay huddled down in our safe bunkers in light of the threat that the virus would return with a vengeance this fall.
With businesses trying to reopen or, in some cases, thriving due to the demand of their product, the future for our workforce remains in the balance. All businesses have been affected by COVID. We watched our favorite restaurants and salons close for a few weeks, while others are shuttered permanently. The travel and tourism industry as well as big box department stores, among others, were all victims of the carnage.
Were some of these companies on the precipice of closing anyway, and is this the event that pushed them over the edge?
At Standish, our executive search and management firm, we have watched, listened and learned from so many of our clients and colleagues how their jobs have changed from riding out this moment to reinventing themselves and adapting to these changing times. Strategies set in late fall of 2019 or early spring of 2020 are now obsolete. The one common thread that we have realized from our conversations is how much people have enjoyed more time at home and less time “on the road.”
We have learned that we can be creative and productive working from home, at different hours of the day, while juggling other life demands. In a recent conversation with a colleague, he shared, “I have been in my office every day, I am not wearing a suit. However, my job is accomplished easily and efficiently in flip-flops and shorts, and my customers continue to be well-served. I have had less pressure than I have in the last 20 years combined.”
Another colleague who has embraced working from home said, “My husband and I had a difficult time juggling schedules and carving out a workspace. However, now that we have discovered a workable routine, we are more efficient, much happier and have saved a tremendous amount of money because we are not spending it on gas, car repairs, child care or non-essential activities. We have learned to get back to basics and enjoy more time as a family.”
Small- and mid-size organizations have been forced to find the most effective way to meet required and new hygiene and safety expectations, to protect their employees as well as their customers. Some of these organizations have had spikes in productivity, creating the challenge of hiring the additional effective leaders and employees.
A question to be raised is, “has the current leadership learned how to be more efficient and creative during this new phase in business, or should we be looking at re-organization?”
The opportunities for Standish to aid in navigating organization and staffing issues for our clients has been rewarding. We have affirmed our commitment to identify and manage apparent threats, and convert them to potential opportunities.
Kelley Small is an Advisor to Standish Executive Search, a New England-based firm that advises business owners, executives and boards who are positioning their companies for accelerated growth, change or succession.