Covid-19 is fundamentally altering the business landscape across the world. The scale and scope of this seismic structural shift in how businesses function cannot be overstated. Even traditional industrial corporations are having to reassess how they stay on track without compromising on employee safety, or the speed and quality of operations.

During this challenging time, it is essential that leaders make a concerted effort to understand the long-term outcomes the pandemic is likely to have on their business. Adjusting for the short-term they need to ensure that the hit to their core business can be mitigated as much as possible. Executive education plays a critical role in informed top-down decision making that can help manage this change effectively.

These are the 3 critical change levers leaders must focus on to manage their organisations effectively during the pandemic and beyond:

Mitigating the impact to Human Capital

During a crisis shoring up finances is key, but it can mean difficult decisions like furloughing employees or even making them redundant. This shortcut to improving the balance sheet can have long-term consequences for talent acquisition and result in bad publicity in the near term.

Businesses across the globe from multi-billion football clubs like Liverpool FC to auto majors like Tesla have faced criticism for laying off staff or forcing them to return to work. Tesla, however, implemented strict safety protocols managing to both become fully operational and keep the Covid-19 infections count at zero.

It is crucial to keep employees motivated as they adjust to this dramatic change in how they work. Effective leadership ensures checks and balances that promote good mental health at work. A good leader engages their employees and drives employee wellbeing, helping them solve problems with empathy. A great leader is able to do so without affecting day-to-day operations and the bottom line.

Adapting to the technological tipping point

Covid-19 has changed the face of offices, often resulting in shutdowns where the bulk of the employee body is able to work from home. Many businesses have had digital transformation thrust upon them as an existential choice – adapt or collapse. This raises a number of challenges for leaders as they set about radically altering processes that have remained unchanged for decades.

Tech titans like Facebook and Google moved rapidly, announcing that their employees could work from home indefinitely. While introducing such sweeping changes may not be feasible across the wide spectrum of industries, it is important to understand the technological and personnel training considerations that leaders must successfully implement in a highly compressed time window.

Another challenge is that employees working from home cannot access the robust network security provided at their office. This opens the business up to cyber threats like never before and the potential for increased liability. These are just a few of the many urgent decisions leaders need to consider, along with the requisite investment at a time when additional expenses are a luxury few businesses have.

Safeguarding the bottom line

There are a limited number of businesses that have boomed during the pandemic. Businesses like Amazon, Netflix and a few others that were geared to serve the bulk of their customers at home in their leisure time have benefitted immensely from it. The increased time spent at home has resulted in a sharp uptick in both customers and revenue.

Not all businesses are as lucky. While many industries like tourism, hospitality and more have been decimated, others have made an intense push to look for other sources of revenue. Young businesses like BrewDog started manufacturing hand sanitiser during the pandemic. They used the crisis to generate new revenue and win accolades with a rapid strategy pivot.

It takes exceptional leadership to achieve this at a time of extreme pressure. Covid-19 is forcing leaders to confront unthinkable challenges. Leaders need to develop new skillsets to help guide their business through this crisis. The focus must be on innovative, disruptive solutions instead of easy measures like cost-cutting.

The Centre for Executive Education at ISB is offering a set of new programmes to help business leaders manage this tumultuous period better. Delivered virtually by world-renowned management experts who teach at top B-Schools around the world, these programmes pair their expertise with historic context to crisis management. Leaders from across organisational levels and specialisations stand to benefit immensely by attending a programme relevant to their area. We urge you to visit the programme page to know more about our current and upcoming courses.


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3 Critical Leadership Levers during a Crisis like COVID - 19