What did COVID teach business leaders?

Future Proof Covid Learnings

Pivot, pivot, pivot! What a unique experience to test the greatest business minds. We saw history unfold and learned more than we ever could in a classroom. With the playbook for COVID learnings ever evolving, we sat down with Tribe’s Sandy Gibbs to look at what we did really well, but also how we could have done things a little differently!

Tribe yellow line

We learned a lot… 

People First  

As we ventured out the other side we saw a new emphasis and focus on people, teams, and the value HR brings to a business. The need to support Leadership teams through “all things people” was both recognised and heightened.  Businesses learnt the importance of smarter recruitment and to recruit based on attitude, aptitude and intellect versus specific skills alone. This approach resulted in faster fill times, but more importantly – and something that has been a long time coming, an even playing field for the candidate, focusing on ‘something in it for them’.  The flow on from this has built loyalty from those candidates who didn’t tick every box but were given a chance - while allowing businesses to teach these new recruits ‘their way’.

Accelerated Digitisation 

With many of us having been through the GFC, it’s safe to say the business survival rate through COVID was supported by the advancement of today’s technology. By embracing the technology at our disposal, those of us fortunate to do so could continue BAU with minimal disruption. While there was a period of settling-in to manage overtalking, or constant reminders “you’re on mute”, there is no doubt that the world moved at a rapid rate, which in turn has advanced ongoing business practices and efficiencies. It’s moved the mindsets of many, progressing from archaic, inefficient practices - something many of us are very grateful for!

Stronger visibility for employee brand and team connection 

The importance of team culture came to the forefront.  Not all, but many employees opted for team culture over salary in their career decision, and most importantly, their decision to stay. Employment Value Proposition has never been more important for retaining and attracting talent, in turn boosting productivity. While building a strong EVP is key today, so is shouting it from the roof tops! You have worked hard at this, so share your story with the world!


The elements we can leave behind!  

The bottom-line panic!  

A hard pill to swallow, this is built into our DNA as leaders.  

However, as panic ensues, and with ‘bottom line’ at the forefront, one of the first cabs off the rank was headcount. While a difficult decision to make, the logic seemed clear - without these decisions  business may not have survived, right? Wrong.

The dust settled, the NZ economy bounced back surprisingly well, and the scramble to find people began, but they were nowhere to be found. Those available also came at an accelerated cost.

This impacted almost every industry and discipline, with businesses having to turnaround and fill roles with urgency, reemploying the same roles they had, at a higher cost!

When situations like these present themselves, and they have presented themselves before COVID, let’s reflect on it just a bit longer and remember it’s an opportunity to do business better! Look at your potential in the market to diversify, and look to implement that new strategy you’ve been considering for a while - versus the reaction of reducing staff numbers to immediately reduce costs.


The importance of the ‘water cooler’ chat 

Agility has been one of our greatest outcomes of COVID, allowing us to shift our mindset away from some ‘old school’ norms. Some moved their teams to as high as 80% -100% remote working.  Who would have thought we could get to that point?! What could go wrong…?

Quite a lot actually! We are seeing the impact of this decision on culture and are now hearing the same thing over and over. There's a real battle going on to find a middle ground - in some cases, getting people back into the office at all is proving an ongoing challenge. Off the back of this therefore, many businesses are paying the price when it comes to the essence of ‘team’, employee engagement, and unfortunately retention - all being a flow on effect from these reactive changes.

We moved away from the structured, rigid meeting format creating some effective culture within individual teams – awesome stuff, but team culture versus business culture are two different things.  It’s the networks and teams on the periphery of your own team silo that you now don't connect with.  It's the business culture suffering – ‘whole of business’ knowledge sharing and collaboration is being impacted by a lack of presence. The ad hoc stuff has diminished. We all know that great things come from the ‘sum of all parts’, but many of the parts are missing – missing where it makes a difference!


With many of us switching to a hybrid way of working, structure and policies were created for work from home situations. However, many had these policies were implemented quickly – locking them in versus an interim measure. This in turn has made it difficult to get staff back in the office enough to recreate, and restore what once was, a strong business culture.   It's similar to the reactive decision to mandate vaccines - losing great employees to those businesses who stopped to consider things a little more holistically first!

Tribe yellow line

An opportunity to do business better 

Take a breath and take the ‘glass half full’ approach during these uncertain times. Where there is recession there is generally opportunity. Focus on what you can do differently off the back of what you have been great at thus far. Stay true to your business values and beliefs, adapt rather than react, and look after your people. Be brave!

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