COVID-19 offers a chance to run our lives, companies and countries in a more sustainable way. Using the Purpose Playbook, we are working with companies to think through what the pandemic has revealed about the needs of their employees, communities, customers and investors from their businesses. Some of these needs will diminish in time but for many companies, the changed requirements from key stakeholders will be longer term and require a rethink of the business’s core purpose.
Based on the conversations we are having with our members, companies are focused on four main areas when thinking through these changes – purpose, strategy, operations and employees.
At the basis of the thinking about corporate purpose is the demand from society that businesses must become more responsible and inclusive as part of their efforts to recover post the pandemic. A lot of companies have already had to make urgent changes to their business model in order to survive during shutdowns and restrictions. That makes your current offering a useful base from which to think about your company’s purpose.
Priorities have shifted for many people the world over. How does this impact your business strategy? Most businesses are needing to shift strategically to adjust to the pandemic; for many companies these changes will continue even after lockdowns end. For example, a digital expansion to accommodate the higher numbers of people who are shopping from home.
Many companies with the ability to continue at least partially during confinement periods had to design and adopt a radically new operating model within a few days. Having navigated through this, it is now important to determine which of the developments imposed by circumstance may have generated value, financially, operationally, and for their people. Some of these could then be incorporated into future thinking about the business’s purpose and strategy. It is worth integrating the new innovation of both process and product achievements into new post-crisis operating standards, in a process of continuous improvement.
Restoring a sense of purpose within the organisation will also be important for re-energising employees. That entails thinking about how purpose is put into action within the business. While Facebook and others have announced a permanent “work from home” shift for a portion of their staff, as have many organisations on the continent, at some point most companies will want their employees to return to work. There is a need to consider what types of personal protective equipment will be required for employees. Considerations also include planning operations in accordance with health guidelines and focusing on wellness programs.