Three Ingredients for Post-Crisis Success

Published on Jul 18, 2020
Multinational Leaders Share Insights on COVID-19 and Business


How does COVID-19 differ from crises of the past—and what implications does that have for business? dss+ asked a panel of forward-thinking global executives how their companies are navigating these unique challenges and what it will take to emerge stronger than before.

Even though these leaders represented diverse geographies, business sizes and industries, three common themes emerged:

  1. The need to prioritize people's well-being
  2. A drive toward accelerated technology adoption
  3. The value of flexibility in creating new operational models

1. People's Well-Being Comes First
Given the uncertain environment and need to protect not just the business, but the people entrusted to their care, panelists all prioritized efforts around the welfare of their workforces. This aligns with a dss+ Operational Resilience Survey in which 97% of respondents expressed that keeping employees safe and productive was their primary concern.

Panelists agreed that their decisions weren't just about saving lives, but of protecting livelihoods as well. Simply shutting down to protect workers from the virus might slow infection, but it would likely create new crises. What's more, even with healthy reserves, companies need to generate revenues in order to stay afloat.

To find the right balance, each organization committed to keeping the lights on—asking those who could work remotely to stay in their homes and dividing front-line employees into contained groups or shifts to minimize the potential for virus transmission. Some provided housing on the factory premises or moved workers into nearby apartments to protect their families and reduce the need for public transport. All developed strategies to prevent and respond to infections. One organization, as part of its larger responsibility to the surrounding communities, took steps to ensure that they continued to provide essential services as well as a Covid-19 virus testing lab.

Communication and visibility were acknowledged as key to getting employees on board with the crisis plan. Visiting essential workers on site, recognizing that some people are struggling, and expressing gratitude for those who are away from their families—always with empathy and compassion—made it possible to move their organizations forward.

2. Technology Enables a Wide Range of Strategies
Roughly 75% of respondents to the dss+ Operational Resilience Survey are accelerating technological transformation to deal with the impact of COVID-19, and that priority was reflected by all of the panelists in this forum.

The biggest question being asked is where to concentrate efforts. It can be difficult to determine which solutions will not only aid performance over the short term, but will contribute to a better, more competitive company after the crisis ends.

Among our panel, a variety of technology investments are bearing fruit. For some, digitization and automation are reducing manpower needs, helping combat labor and skills shortages. Others are focused on digital infrastructure that supports effective work-from-home arrangements and allows teams to connect with customers. Finally, one panelist is quickly developing an AI solution to screen for those who should be tested for the coronavirus in areas where CT and MRI equipment are not readily available.

Responding to concerns that too much automation may leave front-line workers behind, panelists agreed that upskilling through technology training, cross-training and job rotations can keep the labor force current. After all, skills likely to be relevant six months from now will be different from what is valuable today. Everyone wins—the company benefits from having employees skilled in new technologies and employees are often passionate about gaining capability in technologies they've heard about.

3. Shifting Focus and Creating New Models
Flexibility has been a valuable characteristic throughout the pandemic, and is likely to remain vital moving forward. While some adapted more easily than others, companies around the world learned quickly they could operate relatively successfully through remote and virtual arrangements. Some were able to make fast strategic shifts, targeting new and different markets where the coronavirus was less prevalent to keep revenues coming in. Others found that recent culture shifts toward greater empowerment allowed employees to better support customers in the dynamic environment.

Many companies are also finding that this is an ideal time to revisit innovation pipelines and new product development. For some, cracks in the supply chain were laid bare by the pressures of the coronavirus, accelerating the need to reexamine supply chains and rethink the balance between global and local contracts.

Guidance in the Core Values
When asked what it would take to not just survive the crisis, but to emerge in a better place, the panelists universally acknowledged that the answer rests with staying true to the company's core values and culture.

Aspirations are important, they agreed, but not as important as caring for the people who make up the company, honoring commitments and prizing the value of innovative thinking. Staying true to the company's values allows employees to trust leaders and leaders to trust employees. As one panelist noted, values are what separates good companies from the ones that may not be here after the crisis resolves.