The pandemic of 2020 created an economic crisis that virtually no company was prepared for. And while this was a type of crisis that no one has ever lived through and (hopefully) never will again, there are myriad lessons to be learned. As we look towards the path to recovery, it’s time to start thinking about ways you can turn this crisis – and future crises – into opportunities.
Assess Readiness and Develop A Plan
Planning for a pandemic that would lead to global economic shutdowns likely wasn’t in anyone’s crisis handbook, but now is the time to start planning for unexpected future events, both external (health crises, recessions, natural disasters, etc.) and internal (massive technology issues, data breaches, loss of company leaders, etc.).
The first step in developing a plan is to conduct a readiness assessment and you’ve got the data for that now. Where did things go wrong in the face of shutdowns? What did you do right? As you think about your response, don’t make assumptions. Survey employees and customers to get their input so that your future plan can speak to specific needs.
Make sure your plan facilitates communication and collaboration between three key response teams: Communication/PR, Legal, and Operations. These teams must work together when a crisis occurs.
Both internally and externally, communication is the key to turning a crisis into an opportunity. The right tone, tenor and frequency of communication ensures that employee morale doesn’t suffer, allows employees to focus their efforts in the right areas and keeps customer relationships strong.
Think about the companies you engage with regularly. You probably received a series of emails throughout the course of 2020 letting you know what their response has been and informing you of any important service delivery changes. While you may have gotten more emails than you wanted, you also probably took note of the companies you did not hear from and you probably noticed when companies were giving lip service rather than communicating real information.
Have a communication plan in place and frame messaging so that it both addresses your response to the crisis in a timely fashion and speaks to internal and external stakeholders in a genuine voice.
Even if you do a lot of things right in a crisis, you probably do everything right. It is imperative to assess both what you did well and where you were weak or even failed in your response. While it is tempting to just put the whole thing behind you and move on, you cannot emerge stronger if you don’t learn from your mistakes.
When company leaders are willing to admit shortcomings, learn lessons and develop plans for the future, employees at all levels will follow suit and the entire organization will come out of the crisis stronger than before.
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