Updated: Apr 21, 2020
When the chips are down, the true colours of your organisation are laid bare for all to see. Are you happy with the way people see you and your brand right now?
We've all worked or visited those swanky corporate environments with the company values plastered across every available space. Sometimes it's not just confined to the wall, it might be on mugs, mouse mats (do people still do those?!) or little cards on every desk. What's interesting to me is if these values are role modelled through a crisis or if suddenly the corporate reaction flies in the face of what they normally subscribe to as important.
I've been paying really close attention to how this is manifesting itself on social media, by speaking to clients, to friends and just paying attention to the media.
My findings have been quite interesting. They say that in life you are drawn to the right people. I can safely say that everyone we partner with to design and deliver great learning is playing a blinder. All are faced with adversity and their values are still strong. Most have statements about colleagues/teamwork and customer focus - as you would expect. They may well have experienced bumps along the way but it is uncharted waters at the moment. I'm PROUD (one of our values there... might be a theme in this blog) that our clients are practicing what they preach. No matter the sector, it could be retail, airports, hospitality, services, NHS, local government, technology or leisure - all have stuck to what they believe and are putting their people at the front of their actions. Brilliant! Don't underestimate how COURAGEOUS (another one of ours) that is in the present situation.
I've seen some people that we'd love to work with doing great things too. Again, we must be drawn to the right type of business. Leaders of businesses working on their own in their warehouses, to keep the business afloat and ensuring business continuity - a shining example to us all and heroes in the eyes of their people.
There have also been some horror stories. Those organisations that will remain nameless, not because I'm being nice, but because they will be at the heart of our sales strategy when this is over because they are going to have a mountatin to climb.
I've seen organisations in hospitality who say their people are important and then lay them all off, with immediate effect, just hours before the Chancellor announced the ferloughed employee arrangements. They haven't back tracked and their roles remain redundant. There's no excuse for that. I know some other organisations who felt they had no choice but to do the same - and retracted it all as soon as support was available - truly putting their people first.
I've also witnessed an organisation who have used the crisis to remove anyone with less than two years service who they see as 'poor performers'. Their choice, but then decided to kick those employees in the teeth with an invitation to reconnect when the crisis has passed and business has improved. Cowards. Performance conversations and performance management could have addressed that. What about the people being forced into an office when they don't need to be? We took the decision to enforce home working the week before the government did. Lots of people could have done but decided they wouldn't do it until the very last minute - they are busy blogging about home working and how flexible they are right now. I was working for a client the week before it all happened - they were already introducing home working - a company that puts people safety first. It was a contact centre so a massive achievement and technical challenge too!
It doesn't stop at their people. Customers notice how they are treated too. I was CURIOUS (another one...) about how this would play out. I'm surprised and delighted at the role that financial institutions have played on a domestic level as the crisis deepens. I've been contacted by every credit card provider, my bank and the car finance people - all offering no quibble payment holidays or payment plans whilst things are tough. From a business point of view, our bank immediately granted an emergency overdraft as the invoices we had out for payment were inevitably delayed. The reassurance meant we can operate as normal at such a strange time. Business interruption and grants are another matter. I won't bore you with the details but we won't be getting the grant as far as I am aware because of the way our business rates are paid (don't ask!) and the interruption loans seem harder to get hold than unicorn poop.
How corporations are treating their customers will be remembered. Supermarkets are doing brilliantly - making sure the shelves are full and the people can buy what they need, when they need it. Lots of business landlords are giving discounts, rent reductions, payment flexibility to show they understand what's going on. Our office provider have shown their true colours so we've decided to move out at the end of our term and forge a relationship elsewhere. That's what every customer will do - they don't forget. There are lessons about how organisations are impacted by their leadership throughout history. Who remembers Ratners? If you're too young, google it - a great example of how treating customers with contempt destroys a brand in the longer term.
Whatever way you look at it, there is going to be a need for re-engagement, speedy inductions, leadership and management development and customer reputation repair when all this is over. Some of those organisations won't make it through - the ones that are supporting their people most likely will.
I can only speak on behalf of Acceler8 and know that we have had to make some tough decisions. We've made some decisions about our people too - and they weren't difficult at all. They will always come first because without them, we have nothing. We've kept on being PLAYFUL (last one!) by having regular catch ups, virtual pizza Tuesday and just having the same fun we'd have in the office. In short, we are sticking with our values, CURIOUS, COURAGEOUS, PROUD and PLAYFUL. They are our core and everything that underpins 'Be Happy. Be Human.'
If we shine a light on your organisation, what would we see? Would you proudly take the spotlight or hide in the shadows with shame? Either way, your people and customers will remember.
Footnote: this blog was written and scheduled 31st March 2020