The only constant in life is change. I have learned to embrace this overused, yet remarkably accurate, cliché on a personally visceral level since the onset of COVID-19 nearly four months ago.
We have all taken lumps during the global pandemic. Many of us have seen the loss of jobs, both temporary and permanent. And, for the first time in modern history, over 20% of the workforce experienced what it is like to be in the virtual unemployment line, reliant on an overwhelmed system to provide financial subsidy. We have all been humbled. So much has changed. The world has been altered forever and for always. There is, however, some silver lining.
Organizations are no longer wishfully overlooking the need for a strong cash reserve. Those praying weekly with bated breath in hopes to make payroll are beginning to plan differently. That is just one of many operationally topical responses to the virus’s impact on small business economics all over the country. And these are all wonderful lessons to pocket as we move forward. But they are not what is paramount, as I have seen firsthand.
Priority one, while we continue to weather the current aftermath and the possibility for a second round, is now and will always remain myopic in its importance; the need for a flexible, transparent, and resilient workforce.
As you have come to appreciate (I hope) with these types of editorials, there is no sense in beating around the bush. So, let us be brutally honest. Each of you have very likely witnessed second hand, and probably first-hand, a top-down approach to leadership, financial decisioning, and operational management. It has been corporately accepted and argued as the dominantly effective and efficient way to garner collaboration and organization. Yet, in the last three months I have watched a company flip that concept on its head with incredibly positive results.
While every business, be it large or small, communicates their love and respect for its employees, very few are as inclusive as their mission statements may suggest. It is easy to write that “employees are first,” and much harder to apply the concept. For one company, I watched COVID drastically emphasize how their “bottom-up” approach to leading and managing change dictated a better enterprise on the other side. In an industry where autonomy and collaboration are equally important to delivering exceptional customer care, empowering every level of the business is the only path forward.
So, how did COVID make such an impact? What was it about one of the most serious and impactful pandemics in history that encouraged business owners and workers alike to reevaluate their approach to operating? It is a simple response… survival.
Most allow life to come at them and role with it. There are a few moderately forward-looking companies that take a proactive approach to change. However, with COVID no one had a chance to make any predictions. We have watched the virus wreak havoc on our world economy, with uncertainty still in the forefront of our modeling. Surviving this crisis has nothing to do with reverting to normalized circumstances, and everything to do with reinventing how we approach our people and the way they deliver the product. Personal connections, albeit hidden behind a mask, require more trust than ever. There is a sense of self that mandates a certain level of appreciation for the people taking care of your health. Doing things the way we have always done them has no place in an industry looking to grow.
Post-COVID, business is moving differently. People inherently are requiring more respect for their health and those serving them. Allowing organizations to consider all manner of thought and suggestion is truly how survival will look in the future. Being part of such an organization not only elicits pride but creates a sense of duty to the community that I just do not know I appreciated as much as I do now. The world is not changing… it already has. The question I might pose to you and your business is how you have pivoted to accommodate said change.
Brandon Rogers is vice president of finance for Verber Dental Group in Camp Hill, Pa. His past experiences include roles at Giant, Highmark, and JPMorgan.