Navigating a three-phase Covid Recovery

As we pass the peak of the crisis it is useful to consider what the future will look like for managers and organisations.

We perceive three critical phases to full recovery.

  1. Getting back to work
  2. Post Recovery Anomalies
  3. The New Normal

1. Getting back to work

It’s been quite a few weeks of disruption to employees and workplaces. Most have had to work from home. Many have had their work-hours (and pay) reduced. Some have been stood down temporarily and others have been laid-off.
One thing is certain, the workplace we return to will be very different to the one we left.
What are our learnings from the crisis? Have we found better ways of getting things done? If so how do we normalise them in the organisation.
On the other hand, what were appropriate behaviours and processes during the crisis may now have to be abandoned.
Getting these two areas right could define how an organisation survives and succeeds.
It is likely that more will have to be done with less. Roles will have to be revised (expanded) and responsibilities shared amongst fewer people.
Managers must spend the requisite time in genuine engagement to ensure there is clarity, buy-in and understanding of outcomes and performance.
Weaning people away from home must be done conscientiously. Professional and personal relationships were significantly altered leading into the lock-down with little notice and no choice. Organisations have an opportunity to return the favour in the transition back.
Customers too have had to adapt abruptly, with shifts in quality, quantity, service levels, communication channels and logistics. Once again, it’s time to re-engage and re-assure.
The new environment necessitates a rethink of our purpose, our people and our performance.

2. Post Recovery Anomalies

We must also be careful to discern between short-term spikes and sustainable models.
Good judgement will be required of decision-makers on what is a genuine opportunity and what is a passing fad.
After a few months of confinement, there will be anomalies in the initial phase of return. People will crave what was forbidden – but those early peaks may not last or be sustainable.
The idea of a cold beer at bar with friends or nice meal at a restaurant with family or colleagues seems irresistible. But let’s not forget the steady decline in patronage for both bars and restaurants leading into the crisis. Will Covid-19 reverse that trend permanently or will the early rush be a short-term novelty?
Supply and manufacturing shortages may well be short-term distractions rather than enduring opportunities. Hand-sanitisers which just weeks ago were in scant supply and selling at a premium may no longer be an in-demand item. Likewise, keyboards, computer screens and other work-from-home accessories.
As restrictions are eased there will be supply chain constraints in numerous areas. Organisations that can move fast and capitalise on them in the requisite time frames may see success, even though these endeavours may not be lasting.

3. The New Normal

What will the new normal look like? The ones that can interpret present indicators best, and act on them will be at an advantage.
Air traffic, for example, will normalise to be lower than pre-Covid in the near term, even accounting for the immediate spike in travel plans. Why else would Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffet sell down (at a significant loss) almost US$6.5 billion in Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, American Airlines and United Airlines?
Tourism will take a flow-on hit, and countries, markets and organisations relying on this sector must prepare for a correction.
Overseas students, cross-border work-forces and immigration will decline in the near-term leaving access to low-cost and skilled labour wanting.
There will be an increase in the gig-economy. As people out-live organisations and many are left without one to work for, we should see a more independent workforce.
Work-life balance has become a focus for many and coupled with the growth of the gig-economy, people are likely to work from home, work flexibly and possibly work less. This will impact demand for commercial and office infrastructure.

Next Steps

These are just generic examples. Organisations must question specifically how their environment has and will change in the new post-Covid normal.
Front-line staffs are often the key as they are at the forefront of the organisation and their intelligence can provide key indicators on the market and how the organisation is responding to it. Yet, they are quite often excluded from key decisions.
One practice that we have found to be quite effective is to create a “working bridge” between the board, senior executive team, front-line staff, customer/non-customer groups and independent consultants/experts.
This cross-functional team takes-in information from all levels of the company as well as the market and the environment to understand what lies ahead.
Meeting at least weekly this group can be instrumental in an organisation’s ability to re-align its purpose to maximise the opportunities that lie ahead.

As always if you need assistance with this feel free to reach out.