U.S. companies can learn from employers who are weeks or (even months) ahead of us in the colossal disruption to their industries and workplaces from COVID-19.
We are sharing the best practical examples from the global field. We hope one or more of these ideas can help your company as you navigate these times.
1. Constantly assess and communicate
Weekly leadership meetings are not sufficient anymore. Many companies are shifting to daily meetings, or even several per day, to keep up with the ever-changing situation. Huazhu operates 6,000 hotels in 400 cities across China, and set up an early crisis task force to meet daily, review procedures, and issue consistent, top-down guidance for their entire organization.
Harvard Business Review highlights the success of Chinese companies using a top-down approach of continuous assessment so the CEO and senior leaders were always available to make decisions on emerging questions. Communications task forces can then be localized and include a greater mix of senior and junior staff to oversee implementation and address local needs.
2. Plan for senior-level extended absences
According to Claudia Parzani, Managing Partner at European law firm Linklaters, clients have been approaching them for help with succession planning in case senior managers are seriously affected by the virus. Much of the conversation today is on remote work, but companies must also consider that some staff members will require sick leave, where even remote working could be impossible. It is important to have a plan in place for short or extended leaves of absence among decision-makers whose roles are especially crucial during this time of constant change.
3. Adapt your business model
A leading instant noodle and beverage producer in China, Master Kong, has actually come out ahead of competitors by analyzing current trends and applying that insight to predict likely future developments. They anticipated hoarding and the resulting empty shelves, so they shifted their focus to e-commerce and smaller stores before the shortages even hit. Then, by tracking the re-opening plans of their resellers, they adapted their supply chain to respond instantaneously.
In the U.S., we’re already seeing creative adaptations. Shine Distillery in Portland, Oregon has turned its production toward hand sanitizer to give away throughout its community. Fashion giants Dior and Givenchy are similarly producing hand sanitizer for health officials in France.
4. Strategically redeploy staff from obsolete positions
Chinese cosmetics retailer Lin QingXuan had to close 40% of its stores at the height of the COVID-19 crisis in China. Rather than furlough all of its staff, the beauty brand recruited more than 100 of its beauty advisors to promote the company online as influencers. As a result, in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, Lin QingXuan was able to increase sales by 200% from the previous year.
Next steps for employers:
American businesses can draw inspiration from these ideas that have proven successful for companies that have been responding to this crisis longer than we have. We also recently shared more examples of how global companies are addressing the crisis.
Now is the time to think outside of the box. Although this is an incredibly challenging time for employers, there are opportunities to seize—as Lin QingXuan, Dior, Givenchy and others have shown us.
In the coming days and weeks, Inspire will be sharing more resources and tips on our blog for retooling your current team and structure so you can seize emerging opportunities. Until then, we encourage you to add your ideas and learn from others on the Inspire LinkedIn page.