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COVID19: THE MIND OF THE CEO, WHAT EMPLOYEES NEED TO KNOW…

Due to the global pandemic COVID-19, the world as we know it is evolving rapidly and so are People as consumers of products and services. As consumers, we get forced into aligning our behavioural pattern to adjust to the demands of and survive the COVID-19 Pandemic, ultimately resulting in a “new normal” … a new way of being.

In this new world, we prioritize, and our emphasis shifts from purchase of non-essential goods and services, to focusing on methods of obtaining essentials, which have become more efficient with limited or no physical interaction, where possible. Organizations must assess these changes in consumer behaviour critically to understand and act accordingly if they are to remain relevant to this new normal… a new way of working.

The world may not know when the COVID-19 Pandemic will pass and continue to depend on the governments of nations and global entities to make well informed decisions, knowing that the Coronavirus will eventually get eradicated one day, at a future date.

What remains uncertain, is whether today’s consumer behaviour in engaging with a business to buy goods and services, will return to its previous state post COVID-19.

Imagine the CEO in a contemplative mood, in deep thought about how the organization will fit into today’s world with no real assurances on what normalcy will be post COVID-19.

What are the new customer needs? Do our products and services remain relevant in the value-chain and market? What new product lines can the organization’s skills-set provide to meet customers’ needs? What innovations and/or new ways of working do we need to deliver services at best value to customers? How much capacity is required to remain relevant? What near term, short-, medium- and long-term strategic investments should the organization consider?

These and many more questions birth even more questions in understanding the new needs of the consumer, and whether this new way of being will continue or revert to pre-COVID19 behaviour after the global Pandemic. The CEO has arrived at a perceptual crossroads and needs to make several difficult decisions swiftly.

Making these difficult choices typically involves an accelerated process of establishing a think-tank involving designated members of staff, brainstorming on and analyzing ideas, researching best practices, reviewing cost structures, required operational transformation/restructure and more.

A collective effort primarily focused on providing the business with enough information to make decisions geared towards organizational survival and sustenance in these challenging times and for the future.

The objective of every “for-profit” organization is to create value for the shareholders and essential to achieving this objective, is every company’s greatest asset… “its People”.

As a consumer you are most probably already thinking, maybe after this COVID19 pandemic, how do I keep certain aspects of this new way of being.

These thoughts, driven by realized efficiencies during the Pandemic in the short-medium term, which ultimately created a permanent shift in consumer behaviour for the long term.

When the consumer makes such decisions, organizations make adjustments to remain fit for purpose and competitive in the market. Besides other factors that represent the asset base of any business, employees of an organization are considered essential to achieving the overall objective of the organization and when change occurs, the tangible and intangible asset requirements of the business may change also.

Present status as “employed” does not make an employee valuable to the organization; a balanced combination of the character, skills-sets, educational and/or experience-based knowledge of the employee, can demonstrate where the value to the organizational objective is achieved. The Cambridge Dictionary defines the employee as “someone who is paid to work for someone else”.

In effect, every entity and/or individual within the value chain of a business is an employee of that organization, including 3rd party service providers. Once you (an employee) has established that the world around you has changed, your organization is changing to remain in business, and normalcy may change in the future, from what existed beforehand;

As an employee, what is your sustainability plan?

Interestingly, opportunities abound for those employees who dovetail swiftly with the business’ new alignments, as it makes these change choices.

New ecosystems come into existence, shaped around additional links in the value chain, and required to deliver organizational changes in the event that some pre-existing chain links completely lose relevance. In addition, some new and enhanced skill-sets become paramount as a requirement to take the business forward in this new normal, and as an employee, this is where opportunities could get harnessed.

The employee needs to pay close attention to shifts in the organization, engaging with leadership to understand the new direction in which the business has mapped to move forward, to the extent that it can be shared at any point in time. Asking the same honest questions of themselves that the CEO asks of the company.

What skillsets are required today? Will my skillset remain valuable to the company? Will my role in the organization remain essential to these changes required to satisfy consumers new way of being? Where do I fit? What do I need to do differently? and how can I add value to this new ecosystem? What additional new ways of working are required to deliver services to customers?

What near term, short-, medium- and long-term strategic investments should I make in myself? Do my skillsets remain directly relevant to new links in the value chain? Self-reflect, recognize this and engage with the organization, putting yourself forward to add much-needed value in an existing or new capacity; do this because there is a chance that post COVID19 normalcy may exclude the value you have to offer today.

The Airbnb case

On the 5th of May 2020, Brian Chesky the Co-Founder and CEO of the home-rental company Airbnb, sent the following note to Airbnb employees:

“This is my seventh time talking to you from my house. Each time we’ve talked, I’ve shared good news and bad news, but today I have to share some very sad news.

When you’ve asked me about layoffs, I’ve said that nothing is off the table. Today, I must confirm that we are reducing the size of the Airbnb workforce. For a company like us whose mission is centered around belonging, this is incredibly difficult to confront, and it will be even harder for those who have to leave Airbnb. I am going to share as many details as I can on how I arrived at this decision, what we are doing for those leaving, and what will happen next.

Let me start with how we arrived at this decision. We are collectively living through the most harrowing crisis of our lifetime, and as it began to unfold, global travel came to a standstill. Airbnb’s business has been hit hard, with revenue this year forecasted to be less than half of what we earned in 2019. In response, we raised $2 billion in capital and dramatically cut costs that touched nearly every corner of Airbnb…

… To those leaving Airbnb, I am truly sorry. Please know this is not your fault. The world will never stop seeking the qualities and talents that you brought to Airbnb…that helped make Airbnb. I want to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for sharing them with us.

Brian”

He cited core reasons for this decision in the note;

(1) we don’t know exactly when travel will return

(2) When travel does return, it will look different.

Reading this excerpt from the note, it becomes clear early on that he has engaged regularly and transparently with the team and made it known that layoffs emerged as a possible decision. The company has raised $2 billion to support its survival and transformation strategies for the future.

Only employees that remain valuable to the future business strategy are being retained in the organization. Unfortunately, 1,900 (25%) staff and any 3rd party service providers that represent redundant links in the company’s value chain, will have to leave Airbnb since the organization can no longer afford to keep as many product lines as they currently have; a decision most probably necessitated after careful consideration and making three months’ worth of decisions every week, by the expectations of a shift in consumer behaviour post COVID19 resulting in less need for the qualities and skills of 25% of its workforce.

An employee should be more concerned with if their organization does not appear to be making any adjustments to suit this new normal than with an organization that is visibly at various stages of transformation either communicating, strategizing or deployment.

As an employee, are you keeping your fingers crossed or mapping out a plan?

Written by Ms Uchenna Agbo

Have some questions? Get in touch with Ms. Uchenna Agbo via LinkedIn @ Uchenna

GFA is always looking for new writers, click here if you would like to join the team.

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