LESSONS FROM COVID 19 and POST COVID LEADERSHIP
By Aurangzeb Soharwardi
The true definition of VUCA world has emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic which has radically altered the business landscape. Many companies experienced anywhere from a 20 to 60 percent loss in revenue in 2020, and more than 14 million Americans either temporarily or permanently lost their jobs. This pandemic has impacted every industry and every aspect of our lives. The 2020 word of the year was “pivot,” as we all scrambled to rapidly adapt. With continuing anxieties surrounding health and safety, job security, education disruption and financial strains, it is apparent that we can’t simply ignore the emotional fallout. Real change is required in the way we lead. According to the PwC US Pulse Survey, 54% of CFOs indicated that their companies plan to make remote work a permanent option. That means managers may soon have to figure out the best way to manage teams that are partially remote.And in order to keep pace with technological advancements and changes in the global economy, managers may need to work with their teams to up skill or re skill and find ways to collaborate with artificial intelligence. The Deloitte 2020 Global Human Capital Trends report found well being was the top-rated trend for importance, with 80% of respondents saying that well being — measures that help people feel their best so they can work effectively, according to Deloitte — is important for their organization’s success. At the same time, just 12% of respondents said their organizations were “very ready” to address the issue of incorporating well being into the workplace, while 50% said they were at least “ready”. According to the Deloitte 2020 Global Human Capital Trends report, 60% of respondents said they are using AI to assist, rather than replace workers. This rapid digital transformation could mean an increasing number of managers will soon be leading “superteams”, or teams in which workers and AI interact to do higher-level work. Managers in a post-pandemic workplace may need to hone a new set of skills in order to effectively lead these teams. Hatfield recommended leaders really get to know the members of their team, understand what their skills are, gauge the potential they have, and imagine how they might be able to reinvent their teams to thrive in the workplace of tomorrow.
As far as Pakistan is concerned ,The three waves of Covid-19 continues to impact the lives of the people. The country witnessed significant increase in its confirmed cases from the initial two cases on 26thFebruary 2020 to approximately 14,885as of 29thApril 2020.1In addition to the risk imposed by the virus to human lives, there is an imminent risk to the social and economic lives of Pakistanis .But the third wave has brought more devastation and number of cases has gone to astounding limits. The social and economic effects of COVID-19 are being felt with greater intensity across least developed, developing and emerging market economies irrespective of their income level. Most of them will experience a drop in the GDP and losses in employment and income leading to greater poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition. Concurrently, capacities and resources vary across the world to overcome this pandemic and its intertwined health, social and economic impacts. The public health system of Pakistan is already under stress with a ratio of one doctor to 963 people and one hospital bed to 1,608 people.7The country is facing an acute shortage of more than 200,000 doctors and 1.4 million nurses8. The absence of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) further exacerbates the vulnerability of the country’s population to the health, economic and social fall outs of this pandemic. The outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has severely affected the global and Pakistani economy. Major victims of the COVID-19 outbreak are micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). collected data from 184 Pakistani MSMEs indicate that most of the enterprises have been severely affected and they are facing several issues such as financial, supply chain disruption, decrease in demand, reduction in sales and profit, among others. Besides, over 83% of enterprises were neither prepared nor have any plan to handle such a situation. Further, more than two-thirds of enterprises reported that they could not survive if the lockdown lasts more than two months. According to a recent report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) (UNCTAD, 2020a), Pakistan would be hardest-hit by the global pandemic of COVID-19. Experts estimate that between 12.3 million and 18.5 million people in various sectors may lose their jobs. According to Pakistan Workers’ Federation, at least half a million textile and garment industry workers had been dismissed in Punjab province alone. Global supply chains in numerous sectors, especially the garment and textile industry, have already been disrupted, with global clothing brands canceling orders even for products already manufactured or in the process of being produced. This has exacerbated factory closures and layoffs. There is a risk that hundreds of thousands of workers in jobs linked to the global economy will be forced into part-time work for less income or lose their jobs. Among the factories ordered to shut down are textile and garment factories that employ Pakistan’s largest industrial workforce. In the most recent figures available, the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated that in 2014 to 15, roughly four million people were employed in this sector, which contributed 8.5 percent of Pakistan’s GDP and at least 50 percent of its total exports. The numbers are higher now. Most of the companies started making hue and cry at the outset of pandemic showing their inability to pay to their workers.Then lay offs started with not much to pay as compensation. There were numerous management challenges emerged at the workplace which lead to chaios and Leadership crises.
The post-COVID-19 workplace will not look the same in every country or industry, but for many managers, the pandemic presents both challenges and opportunities. Need of Leadership development has arised much more than before. Managers will have to adjust their skill sets accordingly. Many of the traits that have always been important for managers — empathy, clarity, authenticity, and agility — are even more crucial during this time of uncertainty and upheaval. Leaders have been challenged to maintain connection and a sense of belonging within their teams even when they cannot be in the same room together. As leaders begin to stage the return to work, they have an opportunity to leverage new insights and advancements developed during the past several months to re imagine the workplace, rather than attempting a return to business as usual. Following are the take home lessons and building blocks of post Covid redesigned Leadership which can help mitigate future challenges in a better way.
Empathetic HRM: The companies will have to resort to more employee centered HRM and the leaders should also be focused on giving importance to work force than the technology and clients or some other factor.The Companies who had better HRM policies and had better relations with employees based on trust, survived the Covid hit workplace in a much pragmatic and smooth way.
Human Relation Skills: There has to be more focus on developing human relation skills for Leaders to empathize , understand and interact with their fellow employees to gain their confidence and emotional support in the hour of crises.
Agile leadership with empowered teams, Flexibility to change and delegation has to be adopted in order to sail smoothly in post Covid era.
Simple work processes: Complicated and complexed work processes have to be transformed to the easy and simple ones , which can help the company in situation of work from home or work with less employees. The advanced use of technology can help in this regard.Routine and orthodox processes will not work. The companies should also revisit their value chains in order to make them compatible with the dynamic situations.
Digital learning and employee training: Has also become the most significant need of the hour. Improving digital skills of employees and providing them with state of the art trainings is necessary to enable them to work in crises situations.
Employee ownership: The employees must get fair treatment and also be provided with stock options to feel a sense of ownership in their companies which they work for. It should increase their level of belonging ness and commitment to the companies.
Efficient and decentralized fiscal Management: Covid 19 also exposed inefficient financial management which resulted in lay offs and stoppage of salary payments to employees even in very early days of the pandemic. The companies must resort to more efficient financial management having more allowance for the crises situations.
Customer eccentricity: The customers must be given and impression through excellent marketing communications that the companies are their to serve them and the customers should also be educated and persuaded to support the companies in crises situations. The most important area to work on is the customer relationship management and customer service.
Hannah Pitstick 29 September 2020, Erin JoyMarch 11, 2021,