The Crisis Leaders: de facto suffers zero business impact thanks to top management’s pragmatic approach
Subjects like Crisis Management, to counter global outbreaks such as COVID-19, is rarely taught in formal education. MBA subjects may superficially touch the topic, but it is hard to replicate the experience, repercussions, and mitigation techniques in a classroom.
However, the pandemic of 2020 prepared us all. It introduced us to a lifetime of experience and learning on how to respond to unprecedented times and look for opportunities amidst desperate situations.
A quick background
In March 2020, our lives turned upside down. Cannot blame the lockdown, we knew it was coming. The palpable culprit was the lethal virus- the coronavirus, carrying roots in China- which ended up changing the normal to the “new normal.”
As our company came to terms with the situation in March, the Indian government had projected bigger concerns- falling economy and an unprepared population of 1.3 billion people.
Before the announcement of the first phase of lockdown broke on television news channels, de facto Infotech, a Microsoft partner company in Mohali, India, had rapidly organized a crisis team to make arrangements to send all staff members on work from home until further notification.
Coronavirus pandemic caught the entire globe off guard. And, for once we were all united for the same cause, no relation to politics or religion.
“Believe it or not, a crisis is a surprise quiz, which hardly cares how sharp your mind is.”
– Sukhvinder Singh, CEO |de facto Infotech
The crisis leaders: Playing the cards right
Every organization in every industry encountered unforeseen roadblocks. Instead of focusing on increasing revenue and customer base, companies started regulating cost and managing team shortage. Situations turned chaotic for both employees and employers.
While most organizations were facing drastic alterations at the beginning of the pandemic, de facto did not lay off a single employee, no pay cuts were executed, more people were hired(remotely), and all customer deliverables were met on time.
Of course, employees and the support staff did a commendable job, yet the real heroes were the leadership team of de facto. Despite all the dilemma lurking around, de facto’s leaders laid out a plausible plan overnight.
“Change begins with implementation. Waiting for change to happen without implementing the plan will never bring the desired outcome. One cannot sit back and wait for things to settle down; now is the time to bring change and strive for continuous improvement.”
– Komal Kapoor, Chief Strategy Officer|de facto Infotech
How leaders enable the right balance between business continuity and humanity?
1. Start from Top: Personal ownership of a leader
Even though a lot of circumstances may lie outside the scope or capacity yet taking charge of the situation and unveiling counter strategy only comes from the torchbearer. And, when change is so rapid and dramatic, so should be the response.
In an emergency, one expects leaders to take quick and dynamics decisions using a scenario-based approach. Although the same issue caged the whole world, yet every employee’s situation was unique, and the diktat could not be uniform for all.
Our leaders defined and analysed a list of priorities which invited course corrections based on scenario change.
2.Delegation of responsibility: Creation of Core Response Team
More often, it is the HR that controls and coordinates an emergency in office. However, the pandemic was unique to everyone.
de facto’s leaders were quick to anticipate the uncertainty of this pandemic, and instead of holding one department responsible a Crisis Management Team was constructed and authorised in no time. The HR department was leading the team in alliance with the facility in charge, IT, marketing, and finance employees. And every team was dependent on each other for smooth execution of the lockdown instructions.
“Only the delegation-based approach expedites decision-making and drives swift actions. Right from handling escalations to making tough decisions, the right mix of people and teams can make it a reality, not just leaders.”
–Amardeep Agnihotri, Head HR and Administration | de facto Infotech
3.Go beyond employee policies: Role of Team HR
Believe it or not, but rigid policies and management frameworks are a failure in times of crisis. How much ever we contest that policies create the foundation, but no, not in every situation.
Also, not just employees, HR is equally accountable for business continuity. The right blend of employee management and business continuity falls on their shoulder. On the one hand, HR is ready to deal with employee difficulties but on the other hand, they need to ensure no employee takes leeway of the situation, endangering customer tasks.
A few quick and pragmatic approaches done within de facto Infotech reflects the required composition of an HR team:
- Staying abreast with employee’s needs, current locations, challenges, suggestions, mental health, and all such parameters.
- Timely and responsive decision-making is a must.
- The timelier employee arrangements are made, the better; ensures minimum impact on business.
- The trainees, new joiners or employees off-projects are immediately diverted to Learning Paths (employee development practice) to utilize their time better.
- If not desks and chairs, the assistance provided to every employee to switch to uninterrupted high-speed internet at home, for three months and sponsored by the company is a huge success factor.
The job of HR does not end here.
Based on our top management’s instructions, HR was on its toes, documenting the current state of affairs and framing workplace reopening strategies, simultaneously.
4.Leverage Technology: Crisis mode on
Often, leaders and senior officials shout from rooftops about technology and its many benefits when it comes to increasing revenue and reducing operating cost. But how many times do you hear technology as the saviour?
If not because of our management’s encouragement on using technology platforms for employees, remote working would have been a disaster.
The Crisis Management App on Microsoft Power Platform turned out to be a useful information tracking, sharing and communication channel. Microsoft Teams took away the limelight by offering continuous collaboration with internal staff as well as external stakeholders. To further make collaboration and external communication stronger, our workforce was actively leveraging LinkedIn and its limitless content. A lot of customers and prospects were comfortable and easily approachable on LinkedIn during the inception of the pandemic.
Virtual collaboration and remote working are two critical business aspects, that technology can solve flawlessly just as the e-retailers bringing necessities at the doorstep.
5.Listening and Motivating: Continuous communication
The work of a leader does not end with executing lockdown measures and allocating responsibility. The real work starts with fighting employee demotivation and anxiety.
Evidently, in times like these emotions and fear run high. Unless de facto’s top management and senior managers displayed care and empathy to their subordinates, it is hard to determine how many clients the company would have lost by now.
Here is what one can learn from de facto’s employee engagement model:
- Collate, intensify, and disseminate laughter dose and positive messages. Instil hope that this too shall pass.
- Encourage wellness programs like breakout sessions, social group, laughter therapy and yoga.
- Engage employees with brain-churning contests and exciting gifts.
- Train managers and leads to stay in continuous contact with team members. The more accessible and approachable the management team, the more receptive is the employee.
- Take decisions confidentially yet in alliance to employees’ consensus. Frequent online surveys & employees feedback using Microsoft Forms turns out to be the most effective engagement channel. That way employees know someone is listening!
What defines crisis leaders?
At a time when economies are shaking, and the surrounding is undergoing large-scale disruption, only two qualities in leaders determine the state of the organization and its staff members:
1.Empathy– All matters, big or small, needs to be approached and responded empathetically, not only with employees but customers too.
2.Willingness to Change– Customer engagements are pushed, postponed, and cancelled. Internal teams spend unproductive hours learning remote coordination and collaboration. Payments are delayed and above all, a lot of uncertainty haunts us. However, synergy can be achieved only when all employees rise together with leaders to accept the prevailing circumstances.
“One who accepts change and displays empathy survives trials and lives through many pandemics no matter what.”
– Abhishikha Chatterjee, Marketing Lead
In the making: de facto Infotech’s crisis management strategy
The unanticipated lockdown and the fearful time may have passed; however, the anxious mind of leaders cannot rest unless a proactive crisis management strategy materializes.
Yes, pre-planning for another such unpredicted time is the least one can do today.
de facto Infotech is already brainstorming plans and ideas, setting, and defining key priorities, training internal teams and managers to handle adverse situations, and constructing logical plans for uninterrupted customer-related activities amidst an unfortunate occurrence.
Just not leaders but we all need to come together and be compassionate towards each other while accepting the current times. We can and we will fight this invisible war against COVID-19 and win over it.