The COVID-19 pandemic is entering a new phase with the easing of lockdowns and the gradual return to work. But just as most of us as individuals are discovering that the world feels very different when we venture outside, companies are seeing that restarting their activities also means rethinking their businesses.
That can be bewildering, but professor Joan Fontrodona and Philip Muller offer these five steps for businesses to take on their return:
- Reach out to your stakeholders. Start with your employees, giving them a full accounting of what has happened in the company during confinement, what decisions have been taken to mitigate the impact of the crisis, and what the outlook for the company may be. Then do the same with your other stakeholders, adjusting the message to their different profiles. And the communication doesn’t end there. Maintain open channels to answer the concerns and questions of all your stakeholders, including employees, investors and customers.
- Evaluate the impact. Once you’re back, and even if you’ve already done this during confinement, seriously evaluate what COVID-19 means for your business. This evaluation will bring with it, almost necessarily, post-crisis forecasts that include different scenarios. It’s important that forecasts incorporate the possibility of additional waves of infection in the future.
- Prepare for another confinement. Given the risk of another outbreak going forward, companies are wise to define in a clear and transparent way what you plan to do if there are new lockdowns or other exceptional measures. This is a way to ensure that everything that has been learned during lockdown — in terms of crisis management, continuity plans, prevention, and much more — is maintained and improved upon. Since there’s no vaccine against the virus, companies and people should get used to the strange reality that we’ll continue to live with the coronavirus, with all the risks and dangers that implies. Just as individuals we’re adapting new behaviors related to health and hygiene, companies also must encourage new behaviors that are sensitive to changing risk and agile in their reactions.
- Take advantage of the opportunity. What has your company learned during confinement and what can it improve on post-COVID-19? The crisis has forced employees and consumers alike to change their habits. This change entails risks and opportunities. It’s the ideal moment to implement new policies and practices aimed at strengthening your business model and consumer experience, in addition to reinforcing your corporate principles, values and culture.
- Design a public relations campaign. Each company should consider how it will tell its story of managing through the COVID-19 pandemic. Remember that just as governments are under scrutiny for their handling of the crisis, stakeholders are also likely to hold companies accountable for their response. Any campaign or communication strategy must faithfully reflect how the company responded to the emergency, and be centered around these axes:
- How the company has shown resilience in the face of adversity.
- How the company has acted responsibly, protecting the interests of its stakeholders at every moment.
- How the company has helped society fight the spread of the virus.
In restarting activities and adjusting business models to the new reality, the stakes are extremely high. “The next several years will not be a win-win world,” Fontrodona says. “There will be winners and there will be losers.”
Source: Muller, P. and Fontrodona, J. El día después: empresas socialmente responsables ante un mundo pos-COVID-19: Cuaderno 45. CaixaBank Chair of Corporate Social Responsability (2020). Available here in Spanish.
This post is also available in: Spanish