Companies around the world are trying to come to terms with the impact the coronavirus (Covid-19) is having on both their people and their business. The situation continues to unfold and, although the risks are considerable, the crisis also reveals areas where companies can build resilience and reshape themselves for a post-crisis world.
EY has identified five priorities for global business leaders to consider – many based on perspectives and experiences from China and other countries in Asia, where Covid-19 first impacted.
Ensuring the safety and wellbeing of employees in the workplace is essential. People are looking to their employer, community and government leaders for guidance. Addressing their concerns in an open and transparent manner will go a long way to engaging them and reassuring business continuity.
One of the adjustments companies have to make is to initiate or expand flexible work arrangements and other policies that allow people to work remotely and safely. Depending on the sector, companies will want to reorganise teams and reallocate resources, and establish employee wellbeing programs and policies that support a safe working environment. Additionally, companies will want to produce regular communications that align with current government and health authorities’ policies to help employees remain engaged as they and the organisation navigate through the crisis.
Finding ways to reimagine a business-as-usual environment that minimises disruptions for the organisation requires a fine balance. Where telecommuting or flexible work arrangements aren’t possible and companies must have workers on-site or in direct contact with customers, it is important to provide infection protection measures.
Most businesses are likely to experience significant disruption to their business-as-usual operations and will face business underperformance throughout the duration of the Covid-19 crisis. At the start of this crisis, supply chain challenges were significant for companies with exposure to China. But now the crisis has spread to Europe and the U.S, many more companies are experiencing operational disruption, as well as significant shifts in consumer demands and behavior impacting sectors from consumer and retail, to manufacturing, life sciences to automotive.
Clear, transparent and timely communications are necessary when creating a platform to reshape the business and to secure ongoing support from customers, employees, suppliers, creditors, investors and regulatory authorities. It is important to maintain open lines of communication and to take a tailored communications approach for each stakeholder group.
Companies should monitor nation-wide government and organisational opportunities for support and how they may best serve the individual circumstances of their situation. It is important to note that government support may differ based on jurisdiction and sector. Companies will need to identify and understand each offer of support and determine which ones are best for their organisation.
Once companies have solidified strategies based on stress tests and communicated any new directions with relevant stakeholders, they will need to execute based on revised plans while monitoring what continues to be a fluid situation. Senior management should report any material deviation from the plan in a timely manner so that their companies can take additional action to avoid further negative impact.
Once the Covid-19 outbreak is controlled, companies will want to review and renew business continuity plans (BCP). They’ll want to assess how existing BCPs are working. If there are deficiencies, companies will want to identify root causes, whether it’s timeliness of action, lack of infrastructure, labor shortages, or external environment issues. Companies will then want to consider putting new internal guidelines in place based on lessons learned, as well as solid contingency plans to build resilience and better respond to future crises.
An extended version of this article first appeared on ey.com – read it here. You can also explore our latest insights and thinking to support you in leading through these volatile times, and reach out if you have any questions.