While most businesspeople accept that our future of work will be one typified by disruption, it is safe to say that a global pandemic was not envisaged. COVID-19 has done more than force its way into our plans; it has torn them up and forced us back to the drawing board. The macro-level impacts are devastating and far-reaching. It is time for executives to begin sweeping up the rubble and look to what lies ahead.
Victoria sat with bated breath on Sunday afternoon, waiting for its mask-clad leader to put its wondering to an end. It is a routine we are accustomed to. But Sunday felt different. For months, we have been able to keep this virus at a safe distance. Now, it runs amuck, thriving on a deadly concoction of malaise, ignorance, and desperation.
The slightest chink in our state’s resolve was all it took.
2020 was forecasted to be a year of change. The beginning of the future of work. Organisations were hoping to implement strategies they had spent years planning and developing. At the core of our projections was the concept of disruption. We all knew the future would be full of it. Not like this though.
We expected the effect of new, powerful technologies to manifest. With geopolitical tensions and a changing climate becoming increasingly problematic, we understood that our organisations would be contending with explosive, unpredictable forces. But those which COVID-19 has unleashed have nearly wiped us out.
Still though, our hearts keep beating.
The death knell for executives is an over-emphasis on attending short-term needs. The matters that require urgent attention are unending, so it is simple to devote all of our time into fixing these tangible issues. But we get nowhere without a plan for the future. Executives must take the time to strategise the long-term. This will be the key to restoring our organisations’ prospects.
Declining public trust is the perfect example of an issue that must be addressed now so that our organisations perform better in the future. According to the Australian Institute of Company Directors, new surveys reveal that business trust, since the onset of COVID-19, has fallen to levels below that of government trust. This is affirmed by the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer, which found that government trust has grown by seven points more than business trust since the beginning of 2020.
Eamonn Kelly and Jason Girzadas, writing for Deloitte, state that business leaders play a crucial part in building trust. One way that executives can do this is by “communicating more effectively with the rest of the world.” PR and marketing tips are unendingly helpful; however, leaders must ensure that their organisation’s highly curated end products are not insincere. Think about how many times you have read some form of public communication only to realise, upon reaching the end, that its message was empty. Connection is the most important characteristic of communication. It is upon that foundation that trust is built. Kelly and Girzadas put this perfectly: “Restoration of trust requires more genuine, open dialogue and less scripted monologue, new and more flexible engagement muscles and greater confidence in the power of authentic voice.”
What this case study demonstrates is the necessity that organisations strengthen global business trust along with the means by which leaders can achieve this. The key takeaway is that leaders must start to shift their gaze from the ground in front of them to the horizon ahead. While dealing with what is right in front of us might seem to be the right call, it does little to lay a foundation for future growth. Ultimately, it is our long-term strategies that will restore us to our former strength.
While crises might shake us to our core, it is up to our leaders to remain determined, hopeful, and committed to prosperity.