The pandemic has affected just about everyone on the planet in some way or another. Rarely has there been such an opportunity to study how peoples, countries, leaders and institutions have reacted to a particular issue and what organisations can learn even at this stage when the effects of the pandemic are far from over.
The first key learning to take is the power of messaging. Uncertainties about the pandemic including what it is and how to manage it have left governments and leaders struggling to put together a coherent narrative that peoples can believe in and most importantly, follow. This lack of coherence , locally as well as supra nationally, has been meat and drink for social media users to espouse counter arguments , often nonsense and to manipulate statistics to support their arguments. Organisation leaders to think very carefully about messages about vision, mission, targets, goals, expectations and targets both for the organisation and down to the individual and their targets. Employees, no matter where they work and at what level want to work for an organisation they can believe in and understand. The effects of the various recent scandals around charities and how they operate has, for example, had a huge impact on morale within those bodies.
Another key learning is around the whole area of fairness and is clearly linked to the messaging issues highlighted above. A clear narrative that is uniformly applied seems to resonate more with people than those where initiatives were more targeted, certainly regionally and also by age. Whether this is fair is a moot point but we are all in this together as part of the messaging can support a uniform approach. The whole concept of fairness is subjective but perception is reality and unless your whole society is based on individual rather than group dynamics , group sentiment is very powerful. Leaders in organisations need to think about fairness as a tool and this is being seen in areas such as employee support for mental illnesses, caring responsibilities, working from home and even redundancy packages. Leaders of large corporations, often based in many countries and many markets need to be wary of applying different standards to different groups of employees. Employees not affected tend to feel better about the employer when these programmes are in place and operating. Interestingly, employees who are seen to be not pulling their weight, not buying into what the employer want tend to be seen in a poor light by their colleagues and need to be managed appropriately.