LAST week, we started our management discussion series with the topic ‘the challenge of management in a COVID 19 crisis”. Today, we will look at the implications and challenges of management in a COVID 19 pandemic.
IMPLICATIONS OF COVID 19 PANDEMIC
COVID 19 pandemic has brought with it a new way of living popularly called “the new normal”. We will examine the implications of this new normal on Office Environment, Technology, Productivity, Talent, and Management function.
1. Office Environment: Health and Safety considerations in the workplace: The new work order clearly stipulates the guidelines to be followed by managers to maintain the health and safety of their organizations especially as offices are beginning to open up for business after the initial lockdown. This protocol will definitely bring about a significant change in office layouts and how spaces are designed. The office arrangement must now incorporate a social space element to bridge physical and virtual workspaces. Managers must establish new workplace practices, create a robust communication strategy, to support the new ways of working.
2. Technology: Its Implementation, Maintenance, and Use: The coronavirus pandemic has brought far-reaching events and changed the entire workspace. In obeying simple protocols to flatten the curve of this virus, many organizations have sent their teams home to continue to work remotely, utilizing digital tools to remain connected. The workplace will have to be marked by an acceleration in digitization and a much more robust digital infrastructure that can simultaneously support physical and virtual ways of working. Cybersecurity will continue to be an important aspect of digitization that should not be overlooked especially as organizations are beginning to leverage the constant stream of new technologies for their businesses and keep pace with changing consumer behaviour. Therefore, there is increasing pressure on the organization to manage and protect their digital transactions and records according to statutory and business requirements.
3. Productivity: New ways of defining, assessing, and improving it:
Most companies will have to adapt to measuring results rather than activities. This is going to be a fundamental shift from the traditional appraisal method. The focus now must shift away from individuals and towards corporate goals and teams. Employee well-being–physical, mental, and social will be a major factor affecting productivity. Evaluating employee performance is always an awkward yet crucial part of every manager-team relationship. There is a need to redevelop KPI’s to reflect the new reality and use a regular feedback system rather than once a year appraisal system. A modern appraisal/feedback approach such as “STAR” (ST- Situation, A- Action, and R-Result) might be a good way to structure the feedback session. Managers might have to design employees KPIs based on Customer satisfaction: Quality of business processes: Customer relationships: Quality of people (human capital) and Reputation of the brand while measuring performance would no longer be based on an employee’s physical presence in the office but by his/her deliverables.
4. Talent: Its development, deployment, and management: Managers must come to understand which roles are critical and what is the best way of filling them. Upskilling and retraining will remain an essential part of talent development. Managers must identify the skills that they need most, and strategize to develop or acquire the relevant talent. Reward strategies must be adjusted to match the new approach, and so must the handling of payroll.
5. Management Function: The management function will continue to play a major role in establishing the “new normal” and managing the transition. Managers will need to understand and answer the changing needs of the business and employees. They must understand and be guided on the implications and labour law dictates on policies that affect employees’ employment agreement especially as it has to do with cutting staff salary and allowances, asking employees to proceed on compulsory leave without pay, reducing working hours, initiating redundancy procedures, and so on. It is therefore most important for management to remain adaptable enough to redesign itself and remain relevant in the new world of work.
CHALLENGES OF MANAGEMENT
1. Business continuity: Managers are concerned now with coming up with strategies to ensure the continued existence of business; how to redesign jobs and work to adapt the organisation to learn and sustain future growth; balancing job security, employee benefits with operations and business continuity strategies; managing organisation and stakeholders’ expectations – Shareholders, Staff (Union), Creditors, etc; satisfying customers’ expectations and dealing with risk/uncertainties, competition, and other pressures from external environment.
2. Funding and liquidity: To keep the business afloat, the manager must ensure the continuous flow of revenue. Managers are concerned about how to source for funds (either through equity or debt), the benefits and/or demerits of each financing option, how to take robust and best financing decision to satisfy stakeholders interest/expectations, how to pay back the loan currently been owed by the business especially in our climate where interest on loans are in two digits, how to maintain and guarantee a proper equilibrium between profitability and liquidity, etc.
Other challenges include:
3. How to effectively communicate the organization’s intentions and expectations to various stakeholders.
4. Meeting up regulatory requirements and balancing that with commercialization drive.
5. Increasing production to satisfy customers’ demand and lowering the cost of goods to make them affordable especially as the purchasing power of the people has been majorly bruised.
6. Coping with manufacturing and supply chain disruptions brought about by the sudden shut down of the Organised Private Sector (OPS).
7. Investment in technology especially in terms of funding and training.
8. Coping with health and safety requirements/regulations and civic responsibility – An environment that will keep workers safe, healthy, and productive and
9. Increase in Digital Learning (E-Learning)
All the above are some of the challenges thrown on management by the coronavirus pandemic. If proper strategies are not in place, crisis situations can overwhelm even the most experienced leaders, presenting unexpected, complex scenarios that evolve at a fast pace and in several directions especially if there is no contingency plan in place. Even in cases where there are contingency plans, those plans need to be adjusted to respond to rapidly changing circumstances. Fortunately, there are tools and perspectives leaders can use to help their organizations weather difficult times: tools such as building trust; managing fear, and encouraging a sense of duty and community orientation.
What management strategies can be recommended for leaders/managers to successfully navigate this COVID 19 pandemic period?
The recommendation is captured in the acronym “STAY SAFE”
What is that?
Join us next week for the concluding part.
Sunday Ade Bello, is a multi-talented, analytical and highly qualified Management Trainer, Inspired Writer, Examiner and Education Specialist. He is the CEO of WorkLife Training Professionals, Lagos. (firstname.lastname@example.org)