For most people, the work environment is their social anchor. Apart from earning a living, it is also the office that provides healthcare and structure. In short, many people rely on their workday for much more than their salary. In view of this, the holistic support that the workplace offers could well be the backbone of motivation.
Profit is understandably the goal of businesses and a measure of a given employee's performance will ultimately be linked to how he or she has contributed to the bottom line. However, do leaders give enough consideration to how reasonable their targets are in the first place?
In line with the global outbreak of COVID-19, it is a foregone conclusion that businesses will be affected. But to what extent is the business willing to take the hit before passing it on to their employees?
According to reports, "China’s Yingke Law Firm will implement a series of programs, including a reduction of lawyers’ individual performance targets, to help overcome coronavirus disruptions. The Beijing-based law firm said last week it will reduce the minimum revenue target for every lawyer in 2020 by 20% as part of an effort to help lawyers relieve performance-related stress during the downturn caused by the coronavirus. Women lawyers will receive a further 20% reduction on minimum performance target, the firm said, in order to encourage their growth. In addition to performance targets adjustment, Yingke, which has nearly 9,000 lawyers, also announced a firm wide exemption for the cost of renting office and cubicle space in February, given that most lawyers in China weren’t able to do business that month. Yingke operates in a traditional Chinese law firm structure where most lawyers operate as individual contractors with a firm affiliation; for a fee, they can share the firm’s resources, such as office space and administrative support. The rental waiver will apply to all 77 of Yingke’s domestic offices, regardless of local regulations. New lawyers joining the firm between now and June 30 can work six months rent-free in their first three years."
Yingke has also signed all of its lawyers up for an online virtual office system that will be available for free in 2020. The system, which the firm dubbed LAW WIT allows lawyers to handle case matters, sign documents and sort out administrative matters online. With this move, Yingke has set an example of business leadership, a supportive gesture that its employees will not likely be quick to forget. This will breed loyalty and increase a sense of ownership for the overall business in the future. It is also an excellent public relations exercise for their clients or potential clients. If we treat our employees so well, what more will we do for our clients?
As leaders, are we able to take short term pain in order to reap long turn gains?
Too often, we see businesses passing the buck onto its individual employees when the going gets tough. In order to keep profits high and on track with forecasts and targets, we choose to penalise the employee instead of seeing it as an opportunity to create ownership and cohesion within the team. Do we blindly follow forecasts without considering global events? Spreadsheets can be altered but employee and client loyalty is much harder to build.
It is often complained that employees lack initiative and ownership. But, could this be because they do not trust their employers to look after them? As leaders, are we too slavishly bound to forecasts that should not be set in stone? The spreadsheets are created to serve us. Not vice versa.
Every robust leader needs to turn a disaster into an opportunity. While global pandemics could be seen in the short term as Armageddon, it could also be a chance to foster employee and client loyalty for the long haul. Instead of following the forecasts, are we reviewing these in line with global events? Employees should not have the impression that they are the first to suffer due to events beyond their control. Is your business nimble and bold enough to amend forecasts and the like?
A study by Institute of Economics and Marketing, IULM University was done on the effectiveness of internal communication during a crisis. The results indicate a misalignment between what companies meant to communicate and what employees perceived. Companies planned excellent communication, made extensive use of official instruments and depicted the crisis as an opportunity, while employees complained about the lack of listening and about the clarity of messages, disliked hierarchical communication and accused their companies of opportunism.
Trust and action are instrumental to crisis perception and sense-making. Furthermore, internal communication should be strengthened through both planned management-employee meetings and interpersonal networks for spreading communication.
Well-planned and managed communication could fail if companies privilege some stakeholders over others. The challenge is to communicate accurately to all stakeholders. Finally, active listening should be the focus of internal communication in critical times, in order to capture employees’ concerns and direct organizational action.
Beware of trust busters and be prepared to address them. Tell us about the trust busters you have seen in your organization and what steps can be taken to repair the broken trust even through a crisis management.
Monica Tan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Monica Tan, Engaging Leaders, leads our clients through a journey of performance and change. With more than 15 years of client and project management experience, she serves as a key advisor to our clients.