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No other time in recent history have we seen a pandemic with such far-reaching consequences for our businesses. COVID-19 has put every company under the spotlight, with the world watching as to how they will react and, more importantly, how they will treat their employees and their customers. 

A recent publication from Heidrick & Struggles has looked at Boards and the COVID-19 CRISIS. The article focuses on how boards should be leading during the pandemic and how this will help them to prepare for the future. I can’t help but agree, while the current situation is unique and will, in time, pass, there is a much bigger picture we should be looking at. With every company across the globe having to shift to remote ways of working, forge new collaborations and depend on technology like never before, there will be more permanent changes and opportunities to thrive.

In Heidrick & Struggles’ publication, there are some insightful points around how companies can use the current situation to prepare for the post-COVID world. With the right approach, organizations have an opportunity to improve:

  • Innovation – as new partnerships are created, supply chains are repurposed, and technology is harnessed, organizations will have the chance to discover new avenues for growth and innovation. 
  • Communication – every company is having to incorporate digital technologies to survive the current crisis. If boards continue to integrate digital into their regular work patterns, they will greatly improve communications. 
  • Reputation – if companies rise to the challenge and navigate the change with consistency, they will help enforce their organizational values to both employees and customers. 
  • Cohesion – boards that can become aligned in their purpose will be able to navigate the crisis, create a sense of stability and build a clear road map into the post-COVID-19 future. 

In the article, the authors break down each of these areas, discussing how the actions of boards can help to position their companies to thrive both now and immediately after the current crisis. 

The Role of Purpose and Authenticity

Any and every action that we take now is a reflection of our core beliefs. As the authors put it, what we need to do is hold on to our purpose as a guiding principle. Any decision regarding reduced hours or furloughs should be weighed against what will be needed on the other side. After all, when this is over, our businesses need to come out in one piece, strong and ready to take advantage of opportunities that may arise. 

As well as preparing our organizations for the future, relying on company values can help us step up in new ways. No doubt you can easily think of examples of companies who are changing their business models to manufacture protective wear, assemble ventilators and ensure vital supplies reach those in need. Those businesses offering facilities, resources, and financial support are building upon their reputation with the public, one of reliability, strength, and integrity. 

Of course, to achieve any of this, boards need to be aligned, remaining consistent in their actions and decisions. And, all members of the board need to be on-board, so to speak. Never has there been a greater focus on our actions. Leaders who are communicating clearly, transparently and compassionate will be the most successful, both now and Post-COVID-19.

The Rapid Shift to Remote Ways of Working

COVID-19 has caused a rapid shift in the way we all work, and that includes the board. No longer able to sit around a physical table, members have had to adapt to online meetings and events. The shift offers some distinct advantages, however, giving boards an opportunity to:

  • Communicate more frequently with each other, executive teams and one-to-one. 
  • See each other’s faces more, albeit virtually, and build stronger relationships.
  • Improve their overall level of digital proficiency.
  • Develop better information flows and improve the decision-making process.
  • Gain better insight into digital transformation and customer experience.
  • Review not only what they do but how they do it. 

Boards who embrace the digital shift will continue with more frequent meetings after COVID-19 and try to incorporate more digital components in their regular work patterns. By continuing to utilize the skills that they need during the pandemic, they will be better prepared for the next stages of digital acceleration. 

The Value of Extraordinary Collaborations

As companies are forced to work in new ways to adhere to strict regulations, they are having to think outside the box. This often means exploring outside the traditional boundaries of their business models. In response, we have seen some extraordinary collaborations as companies across all industries share information and supplies. 

While these new collaborations are in response to the current global situation, they offer huge potential for the future. The companies that will thrive will continue to explore unknown avenues to innovation and growth and embrace collaborations.

The Post-COVID-19 Board

During this crisis, boards across the globe are needing to pull on a variety of skills that weren’t perhaps front of mind previously. Traditional boards often value operating experience in their own industry over other areas of expertise. However, it is skills such as the following which will be guiding current decision making:

  • The ability to lead through a crisis
  • Investment and financial skills
  • Legal and regulatory knowledge
  • Technical acumen
  • Creative flair to problem-solving

Boards need to diversify, to be able to offer creative solutions during the path to recovery and growth. It is these diverse boards that will be in the best position to understand opportunity and risk and ensure that they can thrive in the post-COVID-19 world. 

As the pandemic continues to unfold before our eyes, businesses will continue to adapt. Those that are able to be authentic, remaining true to their core values while being innovative and embracing technology, will come out stronger. The key, of course, is then retaining those skills in the future, enabling them to be more competitive and more prepared for the next challenge when it arrives.