A visionary in his ideas, Paras Lohani is the Founder and CEO of B2B S As an entrepreneur, he believes that any business is like a Chinese Bamboo, that requires continuous nurturing with patience to reap the benefits. He has an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and innovation, he is constantly challenging himself and his team to do better, bring the change in the current industry trends, inspire others to bring advancements that sweep the business world and take humanity forward.
Among many lessons imparted by the current Coronavirus pandemic, the crisis has made organisations realise the need to walk the talk when it comes to their core values. Core values are the cornerstones of corporate culture and these can be put to extreme tests during a crisis. Organisations that can strongly anchor their core values in such challenging times are the ones that persevere and sustain in the long run.
Values that matter
A study by MIT SLOAN, which included analysis of 1.4 million employee-written reviews on Glassdoor, has sprung a pleasant surprise. The survey found a sharp spike in average culture and values ratings across companies during the peak of COVID-19 in the US in April-August 2020. Those five months also occupied the top five spots in terms of average culture and values ratings for the preceding five years.
It’s heart-warming how organisations are realising the need to act good, do good and uphold their values and culture even as they continue to brave the pandemic-related challenges.
The survey findings show that the companies which witnessed the biggest spike in ratings were the ones which excelled at communication, employee welfare, and agility. These are the values which contribute to making businesses more resilient. Organisations that fail to harbour their core values are more likely to fizzle out in the face of a crisis, as was witnessed with the outbreak of the Corona pandemic. According to the World Bank, globally 26% of small businesses were shut down by the peak of the pandemic in May 2020. In India, there were reports of over 10,000 companies closing due to the COVID-19 impact.
To avoid going under in the face of crises, organisations must have values engrained in their culture which make them resilient and resonate with their raison d’etre. Focus should be on ‘how to preserve the core and stimulating the progress.’ as famously quoted by Jim Collins in Built to Last. Here is a look at a some of the core values that businesses can consider anchoring and the effective ways to do it when the going gets tough.
Build harmony and emotional connect- like a family: In a LinkedIn blog by Sir Richard Branson titled ‘Why you should treat your company like family,’ he makes a pointed remark — “though many a Chairman will say he looks at his company like a family, but then acts in a way which makes you glad you’re not related.” The blog is a sharp commentary about the need for organisations to build emotional connect with their employees, be sensitive and respectful towards them in order to create a motivated team and achieve organisational harmony.
The pandemic, especially, requires businesses to become more empathetic and aware of the needs and wellbeing of the employees and their families. Smaller organisations that may not have big budgets for employee welfare schemes can think of solutions that can create a deeper impact. To cite an example, they can link employees to a dedicated medical practitioner who can guide them through their individual medical needs and provide customised advice which is difficult to get during the pandemic. Likely, employers will be able to find doctors within their own families who will be forthcoming to provide such service at a small fee or even free of cost. Companies can also consider providing support through initiatives like additional paid leaves,advance pays, reimbursement of medical expenses, enhancing medical insurance cover, facilitating vaccine and testing, providing mental health supportand counselling for their employees and families who are tested COVID positive or are recuperating from the illness.
Pursue growth and knowledge: For building resilient businesses, it’s equally important to build a resilient workforce. The pandemic has triggered tectonic shifts in employment landscape, leading to large-scale unemployment and widening of skill gaps. As outlined in the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report, almost 50% of all employees around the world will need reskilling by 2025. Businesses, therefore, must invest in largescale reskilling and upskilling of their employees to create a workforce that is future ready and equipped with new-age skills. With work-from-home and lockdowns still in force in many parts of the world, companies can look at professional development of their employees through digital certifications and upskilling programs which are now available in aplenty. Many companies like Microsoft, Infosys, TCS, Facebook, etc. are also offering free professional development programmes which smaller companies can sign up for.
Embrace and drive change: In June 2020, McKinsey published a survey report titled ‘Innovation in a crisis: Why it is more critical than ever,’ in which it found that the commitment for innovation and experimentation has declined across every industry as companies work though the COVID crisis and focus on addressing short-term issues. McKinsey researchers observed that “playing it safe” right now may be a short-sighted decision for organisations.
With the pandemic fundamentally changing the way businesses were conducted, smaller businesses particularly must focus on continued experimentation and innovation for developing new products and services of the future. Experiments can be small-scale to keep the costs down and the ones that become successful can be further develop into full-fledged business models. What is important is to keep experimenting constantly as there are high chances that new business models will evolve out of these focused efforts that have the high potential to become the mainstay in the future.
While traversing a crisis, organisations must strive to uphold core values that are aligned to their business goals, inspire employees, and spur their professional growth, besides epitomising hope for the nation and communities around them. These values must also clearly define the path to be followed during and beyond the crisis period.