Corporate Governance

5 steps to reboot business in the COVID-19 era

A man arranges furniture at a restaurant preparing to reopen as Chile's government allows outdoor servicing in restaurants after easing some lockdown measures put in place during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Santiago, Chile August 31, 2020. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado - RC27PI9JK9XW

“Reflect, Recommit, Re-engage, Rethink and Reboot.” Image: REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

Harry Kretchmer
Senior Writer, Formative Content
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Corporate Governance

This article is part of: Sustainable Development Impact Summit
  • Deloitte says companies need to rethink their strategies as they move towards the ‘recovery’ phase of COVID-19.
  • The five actions it recommends are: Reflect, Recommit, Re-engage, Rethink and Reboot.
  • Staff should be at the heart of these changes and their needs and voices valued.
  • The World Economic Forum is calling on leaders to adopt new sustainable approaches to business.

“Reflect, Recommit, Re-engage, Rethink and Reboot.”

While many businesses continue to grapple with the first ‘response’ phase of the COVID-19 crisis, working through these five actions can provide a roadmap through the second ‘recovery’ stage, and onwards to the third ‘thrive’ phase, according to the professional services network, Deloitte.

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At the core of these steps is the idea that it’s important for leaders to take time to pause and listen to voices from across their organizations, as part of a more ‘human-centred’ approach to workforce management.

This idea, that businesses need to learn to emerge stronger, is advocated by management consultants including McKinsey, which urges leaders to find moments to “stop, reflect, and think ahead”.

Deloitte’s recommendations reflect the ambition of the World Economic Forum’s own Sustainable Development Impact Summit and Great Reset initiative, encouraging leaders to think about creating more resilient societies and ecosystems – as well as businesses.

Fresh thinking is needed as organizations move from crisis response to recovery.
Fresh thinking is needed as organizations move from crisis response to recovery. Image: Deloitte

Pause and reflect

Of course, as businesses – like major retailers – make thousands of redundancies, it can be hard to find positives or a moment to pause. Even supermarkets which successfully adapted to lockdowns, pivoting to e-commerce, have found the costs of doing so have reduced the economic gains.

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However, management strategists say this is the time to step back and take stock of what has been learned, and achieved.

For example, the Harvard Business Review says people who have created rapid, innovative solutions during COVID-19 should take time to think about how they could become viable businesses – from Atlanta students delivering hospital meals, to Columbian engineers making ventilators from scratch.

Businesses need to continue using planning tools like McKinsey’s classic ‘three horizons’ framework despite the upheaval of COVID-19, says corporate sustainability consultant, Marco Albani, from albani.earth. This is because it is based on the principle that businesses that grow over long periods constantly rethink what they do – even in a time of crisis.

Deloitte’s advice

So what should businesses be thinking about? Deloitte says companies should embrace ideas like ‘purpose’ and ‘potential’, with the aim of creating a strong and resilient workplace culture. At the heart of its advice for the recovery phase are five actions:

1. Reflect

This is about pausing to consider what has worked during the crisis, what has been missed and hearing from different perspectives. For example, while the majority of staff in some organizations have been working from home, people have very different experiences of what has worked well – and the shortcomings.

2. Recommit

Companies need to increase their focus on workforce wellbeing and purpose. These include physical, psychological and financial concerns – both in the workplace and at home (two areas which have increasingly blurred together). During the current period of upheaval there is a likelihood of workforce burnout, unless steps are taken to actively address it, warns The King’s Fund, a health policy think tank.

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3. Re-engage

An ‘agile’ way of working has become the norm for many businesses – small teams or ‘scrums’ working hard on urgent problems was commonplace at the height of the crisis. Now to ignore this set-up “seems almost absurd”, reflects organizational consultant, Elizabeth Doty.

The task now is to make sure staff are comfortable with making this productive, but sometimes disruptive, way of working into the new normal.

4. Rethink work, workforces and workplaces

Can companies leverage the lessons of their COVID-19 crisis response and accelerate the future of work? That has been partly achieved already: the soaring stock market values of Big Tech companies reflects the speed of the pivot to virtual offices. “Changes that many of us predicted would happen over decades are instead taking place in the span of weeks,” says Anne-Marie Slaughter, President of the New America Foundation.

But Deloitte urges more fundamental rethinking, calling on organizations to “take risks”. These include reforming the physical structure of offices, questioning the idea of regular shifts and even reconsidering how career progression is judged.

Having a clear roadmap can make the journey out of the crisis easier.
Having a clear roadmap can make the journey out of the crisis easier. Image: Deloitte

5. Reboot – HR and People Operations Priorities

“The recovery process may not succeed if the HR function does not embrace a redefined role,” says Deloitte. This includes embracing the possibilities of ‘agile learning’ – helping staff learn how to use new tools quickly when required, for example, video conferencing.

As uncertainty continues and more people work remotely, HR will also have a crucial role in helping to “integrate the workforce’s need for individuality and belonging” with businesses’ needs for “security and invention”.

In other words – you need to work closely with staff and keep them on board if you are to get through a challenging time.

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Related topics:
Corporate GovernanceCOVID-19Davos Agenda
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