Surviving to thrive: [Part 2] A 6 Part series to emerge stronger after a crisis

A Process to apply The RICAP Framework to build a resilient and thriving organization
In Part One of this series we shared a process to reduce some costs immediately and others permanently (without laying off people). In this blog, we share a framework we created based on our readings and observations about organizations that have lived through several economic downturns and have not just survived, but continue to thrive by simply applying certain principles intuitively. We have now codified these principles and developed The RICAP Framework for organisations to create a blueprint to resilience and execute.

The RICAP Framework and the process to create and implement a blueprint for business resilience

The RICAP Framework (©iCube Consortium April 2020) is an approach to embedding resilience into the very core of a company’s way of thinking and functioning. Central to the understanding of resilient organizations are 5 principles that influence the way an organization functions through the 5 pillars.

So how does this work?
We take a 5 step process approach to apply the 5 principles to the 5 pillars of the framework.

Step 1: Understand the 5 principles
Relationship: Connectedness built on mutuality, reliability and predictability.
Mutuality is about how two parties stand to gain when they agree to come together. Partnerships become predictable and reliable when they are built on strong foundations of aligning each other’s business purpose.

Innovation: Creative use of resources to generate new or alternate solutions.
Whether it is people, infrastructure, machinery, real estate or other assets, how can you use these resources to create something new or figure out alternate solutions to solve a problem?

Collaboration: Sharing resources to generate efficiency.
Achieving collective results whether internal or external. The support that you provide other team/enterprise for them to succeed is the true essence of collaboration.

Agility: Maintaining balance while adapting or responding to change with speed and flexibility.
Being nimble and alert to changing business environment, thinking through quickly to alter course that will continue to build the business is the essence of this principle. What should you do to review or reimagine your business & execute, playing to the core strengths of the enterprise?

Prudence: Relentless balancing between needs and wants.
This is a ruthless evaluation of what you really need for the business and what your wish list of wants could be. It is not just about reducing costs but also in assessing strategy, technology, people or structure. How will you distinguish between the two to eliminate inefficiency?

In general, no single principle is more important than others. However, in a given situation, one or two principles may take prominence over the others.

Step 2: Understand the stated definitions of the 5 pillars of a business
The pillars are Structure, People, Strategy, Process and Technology. Each of these are critical to run the business and are closely interrelated with each other. In other words, a cause and effect relationship exists between each of the pillars. For example if you add or reduce people, it will impact the Structure or the Process pillar.

Step 3: Assemble leadership team to study the 5×5 RICAP matrix and brainstorm
There are two ways of applying the 5×5 matrix. One way is to take one principle and review the matrix across 5 pillars. For example, take Prudence and review what it means across the 5 pillars of your business. The second way is to choose one pillar and review across all 5 principles. For example, choose Strategy and brainstorm how it pans out across the five principles.

Once in a year, at the point of goal setting for the new financial year, a review of all five pillars and five principles helps in sharpening the business goals. On the other hand, the matrix can also be used to review one pillar at a point in time, for the enterprise or its smaller units. The framework acts as a powerful tool with built-in statements that trigger ideation process. Teams will quickly get into the rhythm of brainstorming and it saves time and resources.

A full review takes up to 10-12 hours for quality discussions and outputs. If you don’t have time then prioritize the pillar to focus on, and apply the 5 principles for an action plan.

Step 4: Create a blue print, build a consensus and finalize next steps
Once the brainstorming is done, create a roadmap for all five pillars. Prioritize and agree a set of actions with the top team. Agree on the resources needed, get a buy-in, finalize the roles and responsibilities and measures of success. The process will include clear plans to engage key influencers in the enterprise, allocate resources, detail the plan, form a program governance team, engage the larger organization, communicate and manage change, amongst other things.

Step 5: Execute the plan, ensure governance and conduct post implementation reviews
Sustained sponsorship of the program and adopting feedback with speed and agility is key to embedding the change. Conducting post implementation reviews on every major initiative will ensure continuous improvement and point out the mindset change needed in people, if required.

As research shows, any change is as good as the commitment of the leaders and the mindset change driven across the enterprise.

A note in conclusion
None of this is rocket science or fundamentally something new to experienced business leaders. However, our reason for creating The RICAP Framework is intended to bring together a structured approach and a process to continuously assess and build resilience in the organisations to thrive, not just survive!

This article first appeared on solvecubehr blog (”

How to Monitor Your Employees — While Respecting Their Privacy

Even before Covid-19 sent an unprecedented number of people to work from home, employers were ramping up their efforts to monitor employee productivity. A 2018 Gartner report revealed that of 239 large corporations, 50% were monitoring the content of employee emails and social media accounts, along with who they met with and how they utilized their workspaces. A year later an Accenture survey of C-suite executives reported that 62% of their organizations were leveraging new tools to collect data on their employees.

These statistics were gathered before the coronavirus pandemic, which has made working from home a necessity for thousands of companies. With that transition having happened so rapidly, employers are left wondering how much work is actually going on. The fear of productivity losses, mingling with the horror of massively declining revenues, has encouraged many leaders to ramp up their employee monitoring efforts.

There is no shortage of digital tools for employee monitoring — or, as privacy advocates put it, “corporate surveillance.” Multiple services enable stealth monitoring, live video feeds, keyboard tracking, optical character recognition, keystroke recording, or location tracking. One such company, Hubstaff, implements random screen capture that can be customized for each person and set to report “once, twice, or three times per 10 minutes,” if managers so wish. Another company, Teramind, captures all keyboard activity and records “all information to comprehensive logs [that] can be used to formulate a base of user-based behavior analytics.”

Despite the easy availability of options, however, monitoring comes with real risk to the companies that pursue it. Surveillance threatens to erode trust between employers and employees. Accenture found that 52% of employees believe that mishandling of data damages trust — and only 30% of the C-suite executives who were polled reported themselves as “confident” that the data would always be used responsibly. Employees who are now subject to new levels of surveillance report being both “incredibly stressed out” by the constant monitoring and also afraid to speak up, a recipe for not only dissatisfaction but also burnout, both of which — ironically — decrease productivity. Worse, monitoring can invite a backlash: In October of 2019 Google employees went public about spy tools allegedly created to suppress internal dissent.

Tempting as it may be to implement monitoring in the service of protecting productivity, it also stands in stark contrast to recent trends in the corporate world. Many organizations have committed to fostering a better employee experience, with a particular focus on diversity and inclusion. There are not only strong ethical reasons for having one’s eye on that ball, but good bottom line reasons as well. The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey from 2019 found that 55% of millennials plan to leave employers that prioritize profits over people. Retention — which should be a priority for all companies, given the high expense of making and onboarding new hires — becomes difficult and costly for companies that don’t reflect those values. Given the risk of alienating employees coupled with the possibility of error and misapplication of these tools, it is quite likely that, for many, the juice just isn’t worth the squeeze.

Even so, some companies will still find it worth the tradeoffs. Justified fear of a collapsing economy reasonably drives employers to monitor their employees to ensure they are being productive and efficient. Indeed, they may even have ethically admirable aims in doing so, such as for the sake of their employees’ health and the health of the country as a whole. Furthermore, if the tools are deployed with the goal of discovering which employees are in need of additional help — more on this below — that may be all the more reason to monitor. But if your business concludes that it ought to monitor employees (for whatever reason), it is important to do so in a way that maximally respects its employees.

Here are six recommendations on how to walk this tightrope.

1. Choose your metrics carefully by involving all relevant stakeholders.
Applying numbers to things is easy, as is making quick judgments based on numeric scores spit out by a piece of software. This leads to both unnecessary surveillance and ill-formed decisions. It’s simply too easy to react to information that, in practice, is irrelevant to productivity, efficiency, and revenue. If you insist on monitoring employees, make sure what you’re tracking is relevant and necessary. Simply monitoring the quantity of emails written or read, for instance, is not a reliable indicator of productivity.

If you want the right metrics, then engage all of the relevant stakeholders in the process to determine those metrics, from hiring managers to supervisors to those who are actually being monitored. With regards to employee engagement it is especially important to reach both experienced and new employees, and that they are able to deliver their input in a setting where there is no fear of reprisal. For instance, they can be in discussion with a supervisor — but preferably not their direct supervisor, who has the authority to fire or promote them.

2. Be transparent with your employees about what you’re monitoring and why.
Part and parcel of respecting someone is that you take the time to openly and honestly communicate with them. Tell your employees what you’re monitoring and why. Give them the opportunity to offer feedback. Share the results of the monitoring with them and, crucially, provide a system by which they can appeal decisions about their career influenced by the data collected.

Transparency increases employee acceptance rates. Gartner found that only 30% of employees were comfortable with their employer monitoring their email. But in the same study, when an employer shared that they would be monitoring and explained why, more than 50% of workers reported being comfortable with it.

3. Offer carrots as well as sticks.
Monitoring or surveillance software is implicitly tied to overseers who are bent on compliance and submission. Oppressive governments, for example, tie surveillance with threats of fines and imprisonment. But you don’t need to pursue monitoring as a method of oppression. You would do better to think about it as a tool by which you can figure out how to help your employees be more productive or reward them for their hustle. That means thinking about what kinds of carrots can be used to motivate and boost relevant numbers, not just sticks to discourage inefficiencies.

4. Accept that very good workers will not always be able to do very good work all the time — especially under present circumstances.
These are unique times and it would be wrong — both ethically and factually — to make decisions about who is and who is not a good employee or a hard worker based on performance under these conditions. Some very hard-working and talented employees may be stretched extraordinarily thin due to a lack of school and child care options, for instance. These are people you want to keep because, in the long run, they provide a tremendous amount of value. Ensure that your supervisors take the time to talk to their supervisees when the numbers aren’t what you want them to be. And again, that conversation should reflect an understanding of the employee’s situation and focus on creative solutions, not threats.

5. Monitor your own systems to ensure that people of color and other vulnerable groups are not disproportionately affected.
Central to any company’s diversity and inclusion effort is a commitment to eliminating any discrimination against traditionally marginalized populations. Precisely because they have been marginalized, those populations tend to occupy more junior roles in an organization — and junior roles often suffer the most scrutiny. This means that there is a risk of disproportionately surveilling the very groups a company’s inclusivity efforts are designed to protect, which invites significant ethical, reputational, and legal risks.

If employee monitoring is being used, it is important that the most junior people are not surveilled to a greater extent than their managers, or at least not to an extent that places special burdens on them. For instance, it would be particularly troublesome if very junior employees received a level of surveillance — say, sentiment analysis or keyboard logging — that only slightly more senior people did not. A policy that says, “This is how we monitor all employees” raises fewer ethical red flags than a policy that says, “This is how we monitor most employees, except for the most junior ones, who undergo a great deal more surveillance.” Equal application of the law, in other words, legitimately blunts the force of charges of discrimination.

6. Decrease monitoring when and where you can.
The impulse to monitor is understandable, especially in these times. But as people return to their offices — and even as some continue to work from home — look for places to pull back monitoring efforts where things are going well. This communicates trust to employees. It also corrects for the tendency to acquire more control than necessary when circumstances are not as severe as they once were.

At the end of the day, your employees are your most valuable assets. They possess institutional knowledge and skills others do not. You’ve invested time and money in them and they are very expensive to replace. Treating them with respect is not only something they deserve — it’s crucial for a company’s retention efforts. If your company does choose to move ahead with surveillance software in this climate, you need to remind yourself that you are not the police. You should be monitoring employees not with a raised baton, but with an outstretched hand.

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5 Rules Of Remote Belonging And Engagement

For decades, corporations have sought to foster diversity by helping employees “bring their whole self to work.” This concept has led to the implementation of countless metrics, diversity officer roles, engagement surveys, and employee resource groups, as well as many other interventions. While these solutions are a step in the right direction for building more diverse organizations, how do they hold up in our new environment? How can we be helping people bring “their whole selves to work” when working from home?

COVID-19 has disrupted regular business and societal operations, leaving individuals without jobs, on extended furloughs, and in question about long term employment security. And on top of these pressures, employees are not just working from home; employees are balancing the personal responsibilities of homeschooling young families, supporting elder care, attending to pets, while finding an appropriate space – in all senses of the word – to continue to prove their value to the broader organization.

Today’s younger generations of employees and students have long demanded that schools, universities, and corporations offer “safe spaces”: areas where people can feel confident that they will not be exposed to criticism, discrimination, harassment, or any other emotional or physical harm. Yet they’ve primarily been met with resistance from these organizations who have challenged that safe spaces are not necessary, do not contribute to resiliency, and are impractical.

However, as corporations shift meetings to video systems like Zoom or Google Hangouts during the current pandemic, organizations must realize that they are entering the only safe space that many individuals have.

These homes are not just their safe space, but for many people who struggle with being fully understood and appreciated, these spaces are also a retreat where one can confidently be and bring their whole self. While employees used to be able to escape to a coffee shop, library, or their favorite neighborhood gathering spot to participate in video or audio meetings, those choices have been significantly curtailed amidst the backdrop of COVID-19.

As responsible employers, managers, and peers, we must respect the invitation we are provided as guests into someone’s home. Respect means avoiding the temptation to pass judgment as we enter our coworker’s space, assessing the worth, value, quality, or how their space equates to that individual’s ability to be productive outside of the office.

General Assembly is a unique culture that creates effective learning environments to support the re-skilling and education needs of learners. Whether you walk into the doors of a GA campus or login to one of our classes remotely, you will find a community that strives to allow one to bring their whole self to work. In the shift to all remote meetings and classrooms, we’re striving to pause to consider and adhere to these five rules of remote belonging and engagement in every interaction:

1. Have empathy. People are adjusting to working in an environment they share with roommates, partners, spouses, children, pets, other housemates, and dependents. This will inevitably lead to a significant disruption in schedules, meetings, and workflows, requiring all of us to be more accommodating to this new reality.

2. Recognize that people are bringing their whole selves in new ways. People’s family situations, physical disabilities, or life circumstances may be more visible. Ensure that you respect privacy and boundaries as much as possible.

3. Acknowledge your position and power in the organization. The way you show up as a manager, leader, or executive to members of your organization will feel different to employees when you are in their physical space.

4. Create space for different learning and working styles. Provide a platform for introverted thinkers to find their voice and participate in the dialogue.

5. Over-communicate to your employees about the benefits and resources they can use, particularly for mental health. Give support as needed (through benefits like telemedicine or virtual meditation sessions) to take care of their physical and mental health needs.

With these five rules as a north star, we’ve been able to seamlessly transition students and staff online while maintaining our focus on dignity, safety, and value to the organization.

Organizations that want to do the same in providing safe spaces for their internal and external stakeholders–while smoothing their operations during this time of remote work–should review and implement these rules of remote belonging and engagement. During this time of instability, these measures will provide for an environment of safety and stability for organizations and their people alike.


14 CEOs on how to reopen businesses in the coronavirus economy

During the novel coronavirus pandemic, how long can a business leader keep his or her organization functioning under emergency protocols before the urge to resume normal operations becomes too great to ignore? Though the curve of global COVID-19 cases is flattening (and the economic pain of mitigating its spread beyond comprehension), the risks of prematurely reopening for business are too great to entertain. That is to say: No one wants to show up early to the post-pandemic party. We need only let history be our guide. Most deaths from the 1918 Spanish flu, which infected about a third of the world’s population, arose from a “second wave” of infections, when troop movements during World War I undermined nations’ efforts to mitigate the disease by shuttering activity at home. So how to reopen for business this time around? We asked 14 Fortune 500 CEOs in an array of industries to share how they’re thinking about next steps. All of them advocate caution. Many are using the moment to focus on fundamentals. And a few see a glimmer of opportunity at an otherwise dreadful moment for humanity. To learn more, read on.

1. Jim Hackett, CEO, Ford
Take it one step at a time.

Our mindset going into this was that we were going to see a V-shaped curve. That is up for intellectual debate, so we tried to protect as many jobs as we could. At the top of the company, we took pay reductions. The idea is to get everyone back to work. I suspect we’ll have a stepped approach. One of our factories has 7,000 people in it; they can’t all show up at the door one day and expect to be productive. So we have to turn it on in waves. We need the economy to respond from a demand perspective. So we’re talking to people in government and saying, If you could create some incentives at the end of this, that would be helpful to the whole industry. —As told to Susie Gharib

2. Sonia Syngal, CEO, Gap
Use this moment to rethink the future.

When covid-19 hit, we saw a meaningful acceleration in our online business. For us, the opportunity of this crisis is using our omnichannel capabilities to help store teams quickly prepare to open to the public as well as manage inventory against online demand. In the meantime, we are in active discussions with our landlords. It was a strategic call to not pay rent in April for stores closed by public health orders. We’re also using this as a moment to think about what we want our fleet to look like. We’ve announced a series of safety measures for our stores. In this new world, everybody has a responsibility to each other, and we have a responsibility to provide a safe retail environment. The government’s job is to advocate for that and to enable that. As for sales trends? The casualization of how Americans are dressing and the focus on activewear have accelerated in the COVID-19 crisis. And kids and babies continue to grow in any environment. Last time I checked, people put on clothes every morning. It’s a need. —As told to Phil Wahba

3. Heyward Donigan, CEO, Rite Aid
Accept the new normal.

The world never went back to normal after Sept. 11, 2001, and we won’t go back to the old normal now. We’re rethinking our supply chain. We are not going to allow ourselves to ever be in short supply of gloves, masks, or hand sanitizer. We will have a broad and diverse supply chain for immunity boosters, like vitamin D and vitamin C. We’ve picked up market share in grocery, too, and generally when you pick up market share, you keep it. —As told to Emma Hinchliffe

4. Christopher Nassetta, CEO, Hilton Worldwide
Be wary of a new wave.

The biggest obstacle I’m seeing is the tension between a desire to get back to our old routines and concern about the continued spread of the virus. The best way to address it is to build confidence that consumers can move about safely by offering robust testing and doubling down on containment. As we gain a greater understanding of those who are most vulnerable, we need to do everything we can to protect them. —As told to Rey Mashayekhi

5. Steve Mollenkopf, CEO, Qualcomm

It’s amazing how quickly our organization adapted to a new working environment. Part of it is that we had already been instrumented to be able to do something like that. I think if we had [nearly everyone working remotely] 10 years ago, the industry would have fallen apart.—As told to Clifton Leaf

6. Lynn Good, CEO, Duke Energy
Remember what’s important.

When you’re in the midst of a crisis like this, priorities become clear very quickly: Take care of your customers and employees. Make sure you provide essential services they need. Beyond that, think about scenarios and outcomes over the longer term: financial results, for example, or policy changes. As we go forward, we will respond to longer-term economic impacts. We understand the importance of delivering certainty to our investors. —As told to S.G.

7. Margaret Keane, Synchrony
Follow the money.

People are spending. I think the real test is going to be, How long are people going to be out of work? Do we see a bounce back? What worries me—what I lose sleep at night about—is that there are an enormous number of small businesses out there that are shut. I do think we have to start opening businesses up to get people back working. For us, the factor is really going to be how quickly people can get a paycheck and get back to work. —As told to S.G.

8. Ed Bastian, CEO, Delta Air Lines
Prepare for more turbulence.

Business is bouncing along the bottom right now. There’s not much lower we can go. That’s the good news. We’ve got to rebuild and instill confidence in the traveling public that it’s safe to travel again. We’re rethinking the entire customer experience. We’re implementing all the social distancing measures you can take. We’ve changed the entire boarding process—it’s not safe for the people in front to have people parading past them, so we’re now boarding from the back of the plane. We cap load factors—we will not board a plane that’s more than 60% full in the main cabin or 50% full in first class. We’re sanitizing—our cleaning scores are through the ceiling. We’re taking the opportunity to rethink what the business will look like in the future. We’re not necessarily going to build back what we had. We’re saving cash to get through a difficult winter and maybe two years of difficulty. We’ll see it through by preserving our financial flexibility and building up a pretty big nest egg. —As told to S.G.

9. Giovanni Caforio, CEO, Bristol-Myers Squibb
Walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk.

Returning to normal life is going to happen in stages. We are going to have to learn as we go. It is possible that the reopening of society and the economy will result in an increase in the number of infections. We have educated our workforce to recognize signs and symptoms of the disease when there is an employee reporting symptoms of concern. We have a mechanism for that employee to be tested, and we also have the ability to track the contacts that that person may have had in a plant to alert the people who may have been in contact with them. That strategy has been very successful because we’ve been able to enable our people that we need to be in the plant to stay safe and healthy. —As told to Sy Mukherjee

10. Kevin Johnson, CEO, Starbucks
Leverage what you’ve learned so far.


Learning from our stores in China, we began taking progressive steps to contain the spread of the virus in late February. Now our U.S. business is transitioning into the “monitor and adapt” phase. We are reopening stores with safety protocols and modified formats. We are promoting social distancing by directing customers where to stand and limiting the number of customers in a café, providing partners with protective equipment, maintaining elevated sanitation procedures for the foreseeable future, and promoting low-contact channels for customers. Our app will optimize for curbside pickup, entryway handoff, improved drive-thru experiences, and voice ordering through Siri. We will shift toward more cashless experiences and predict that our mobile app will become the dominant form of payment. Our belief is that these impacts are temporary, as evidenced by our continued recovery in China. We believe the focused actions we are taking will help to restore upward momentum in our U.S. business. —As told to Rachel King

11. Michelle Gass, CEO, Kohl’s
Put your best foot forward…

We need customers to adjust to this new normal. We’ve been able to maintain strong relationships with them while stores have been closed. We know customers are ready and excited to return. Job number one for us is to welcome them back. If you show how much you care by creating a safe and comfortable shopping experience, you can expect business to return over time. But no one exactly knows when; no one has navigated a global pandemic like this. For us, it’s getting back to our core tenets. We’re not in malls. We’re easy to come in and out of. We have spacious stores. We’ve historically attracted mission-driven customers [who go to the store for specific items]. All of this plays to our strengths. —As told to P.W.

12. Charles Scharf, CEO, Wells Fargo
…but don’t get ahead of yourself.

It is important that we begin to open the economy, but it needs to be done in a way that protects the public’s health. We should remind ourselves that the virus is not gone. The improvements we’ve seen are due to the measures taken to control its spread. If we go back to previous behavior without the proper controls in place, we will likely see new waves. I know that at Wells Fargo, we will be thoughtful as we begin planning for an eventual, phased return to the ­office. —As told to R.M.

13. Jeffrey Gennette, CEO, Macy’s
Play to your strengths.

We’re cutting back on our spend as we look at 2020 and 2021. But I can tell you what we’re going to amplify: digital. Still, there is still a huge role for stores. When we come out of this, people are still going to want to go to stores. Customers want better experiences and better brands. That is of the same order of opportunity as digital. We’re going to be smaller and we’re going to be more leveraged. But we have a path forward. —As told to P.W.

14. Chuck Robbins, CEO, Cisco

My peers have made comments like, “If you had told me in January that 95% of my employees would be working from home and the firm would be running as well as it is, I would never have believed it.” Now that we recognize what’s possible, that paradigm shift is going to stay with us.—As told to C.L.

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Financial worries have profound impact on employee mental health

The vast majority (90%) of employers agree that financial worries have a negative impact on an employee’s mental health, a survey by fintech company Smarterly has found.

Eighty-seven per cent of employers in the survey said money worries have a negative effect on an employee’s work performance, while 70% of individuals said their mental health was affected by financial worries.

Employees between the ages of 25 and 35 were particularly likely to be affected, with 74% saying financial worries have a negative effect on their mental health.

Alan Millward, partner and corporate benefits leader at Mercer Marsh Benefits, told HR magazine: “It is clear that financial worries can have a real impact on employee wellbeing. This can lead to increased absence but also presenteeism where an individual can be at work but less productive as their mind is elsewhere.”

He added that although employee welfare should always be of concern to employers, addressing financial concerns is particularly important as it can positively influence a company’s bottom line.

“Less financial worries lead to less absence and less distraction, ensuring individuals are more productive,” he said.

Smarterly’s study also found that 88% of employers feel they should support their employees’ financial wellbeing, which could include offering a workplace savings scheme.

To assuage financial concerns some companies have been introducing financial wellbeing services for their employees. Mercer has also launched complementary financial wellbeing resources for employers and employees.

Millward added: “There are providers who offer a full range of face-to-face workshops, online learning, webinars, social media applications and financial modelling tools to help employees improve financial literacy and put better financial plans in place.

“A lot of financial education has traditionally been based around the company pension scheme. However a more complete programme would offer support to employees across a much broader range of topics, including things like budgeting skills, tax, borrowing, short- and long-terms savings, and so on.”

Smarterly’s study surveyed 2,000 individuals and 1,000 HR managers earlier this month.

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To Build Trust, Cut Down On Surveillance—Even For Employees Working At Home

According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, at least one type of business is flourishing in our COVID-19-induced world of remote work: companies selling tools that permit employers to monitor how employees spend their time. The chief executive officer of ActivTrak, a company providing employee monitoring software and user behavior analytics, remarked that inquiries had been “a little insane” lately. Teramind, another vendor in the space, has also experienced a tripling of inbound inquiries since mid-March—along with a sizable uptick in additional licenses requested by existing clients to track more users within their organizations.

It’s not surprising that companies would want to increase their surveillance efforts, given worries about a potential decline in productivity among newly remote workers. But before you turn to ever-expanding technologies that allow managers to see their employees’ screens, keep track of the sites they visit, monitor their email (and potentially their phone calls) or use their computer’s camera to watch them, consider these four important facts.

1) Trust Is Fundamental for Effective Organizational Functioning
In the forward to JetBlue’s executive chairman Joel Peterson’s book, The 10 Laws of Trust, Steven Covey referred to trust as “an economic driver,” noting that “high trust is a dividend; low trust is a tax.” Research backs him up. A longitudinal study of 88 retail stores found that when employees felt trusted by management, they performed better in terms of sales and customer service (in part, because employees accepted more responsibility for their work).

But trust impacts more than external measures of success. It acts like an organizational lubricant—with high trust, there is less friction and people work together more effectively. Moreover, trust affects employees’ willingness to collaborate and share information, since they would be less inclined to divulge valuable and important insights to those whose motives they suspect. For instance, of the 1,202 working-age adults in the U.S surveyed by the Trust Edge Leadership Institute, 23 percent said they would offer more ideas and solutions if they trusted their leaders.

2) Surveillance Diminishes Trust
When a company engages in close surveillance of employees, the action signals that it does not trust staff to get the job done themselves. But this is hardly a new practice. Electronic monitoring of employees long predates COVID-19 and the shift to remote work. Even 14 years ago, a survey found that 78 percent of employers conducted surveillance on employees, with half monitoring phone calls.

That’s because employers believe that their oversight and direction makes things better—something social psychologist Robert Cialdini and I called a “faith in supervision” effect. In essence, observers tend to see work performed under the control of a supervisor as better than identical work done without as much guidance.

But what monitoring actually does is make employers less trusting of their employees. In a classic study conducted by social psychologist Lloyd Strickland more than 60 years ago, participants were randomly assigned to more closely supervise one of two subordinates (actually confederates of the experimenter) in a simulated work environment. When given the choice of who to monitor more closely on a second task, they selected that same person, assuming they were less trustworthy (for no other reason other than they’d already been observing that individual).

The paradox of surveillance is that if a boss is always watching, they can’t possibly know if an employee is trustworthy because that worker has no chance to demonstrate trustworthiness. Until employers take that risk—and allow employees to operate independently—they’ll continue to view the work as a reflection of their oversight rather than the result of an employee’s own motivations and conscientiousness.

3) Companies Should Assess Results Rather Than Micro-Level Behaviors
As long as people comply with the law and applicable regulations to get their work done, why should an employer care how they spend their time? As numerous studies show, hours spent working are often inversely related to productivity. And taking breaks—from school-related study or work—can actually improve concentration.

Presumably, employers hire people to get things done, not necessarily to work certain hours or engage in specific behaviors. This should hold true now more than ever, as more routine tasks become automated, and soft skills, like problem-solving and critical thinking, skyrocket in value.

Yet micromanaging is still a common practice—one that’s a source of deep resentment. Employees are thinking adults and, for the most part, want to be treated as such. They do not want to be viewed as little children who need to be watched all the time.

4) Surveillance Creates Stress and Health Problems
In computer- or software-based monitoring, work and scheduling decisions are ultimately controlled by a machine, a practice some refer to as algorithmic management. As a result, employees do not have, or do not feel they have, the freedom to reach out to peers for advice and social support as they do their work.

The stress that arises from this degradation in job autonomy and job control can actually lead to both short-term illness and long-term changes in health status. A study of more than 700 AT&T employees found that people who had their work electronically monitored perceived their working conditions as more stressful and reported more psychological tension, anxiety, depression, fatigue and health complaints. Meanwhile, an analysis of several field experiments and surveys found that, compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies reported 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 13% fewer sick days and 40% less burnout.

The Only Way to Build Trust Is by Trusting
In addition to reducing the sense of freedom so fundamental to both employee well-being and engagement, close supervision undermines the trust leaders have in the people they manage (and vice versa). Cultures of trust rely on less surveillance, not more.

Coincidentally, the COVID-19 pandemic gives workplaces the opportunity to do something they should have done a long time ago: provide people with more control over their own work, greater job autonomy and added responsibility—in other words, treat them in a manner consistent with who they are: sentient adults.

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OKRs – It Is More Than Just A Hype

One of my clients, let’s call him John, has been asked to do a presentation on OKRs (Objective and Key Results) during their executive planning session late last year. He was one of the younger team members, but he was nervous and concerned if some of the more senior leaders will be open to this more agile approach.

He phoned me directly after his presentation with the news that it went so well that the CEO has changed the agenda to incorporate time for the EXCO team to start defining their team’s OKR at the session.

This was their first attempt to use OKRs and wanted to ensure they focus on long- and short-term goals which they agreed on:

An annual high-level business OKRs,
Quarterly OKR’s for each team and
Weekly check-ins to track results.
You might wonder what the hype is all about.
OKR’s is an agile way of doing performance management and is an outcome-based approach. Many businesses, for example, Intel, LinkedIn, Airbnb, Dropbox, Twitter, have adopted this approach with success.

OKR is divided into 2 parts:

The Objectives are the inspirational qualitative descriptions of what you want to achieve.
Key Results are outcomes you want to achieve; the qualitative measure of results that will measure the value and impact to your clients or employees.

Here is an example of an OKR for the People (HR) team for a quarter:

Objective: Create an outstanding Employee Experience
Key Result #1: The Employee Nett Promotor Score will increase from X to Y
Key Results #2: Increase the number of mentorships from 30 partnerships to 45 partnerships.
Key Results #3: Design 3 more online workshops (this is an example of a poor key result as this is counting activities instead of measuring impact). Better key results might be ‘Increase the number of virtual workshop attendees from % to %.

I often get the question: “What is the difference between an OKR and KPI?” OKRs are based on tracking data, where KPI is a data point. For example: a KPI for the People (HR) function can be the attrition rate or the time to fill a vacancy.

Here are some ground rules to follow if you are considering implementing OKRs:
Ensure alignment. Ensure that team’s OKRs are transparent and aligned with the overall business objective. It should form part of the organisational culture. It can be informal and fun.
Focus on priorities in your business; don’t create too many OKRs as this can lead to lack of focus.
Objectives are not activities or “to do” lists. This should be short, memorable and inspirational. Ask yourself: ‘Does this motivate, engage and challenge the team?’
Key Results should be ambitious and a stretch. Consider putting the word aspirational in brackets to be clear that it is an ambitious outcome. Define 2-3 key results per objective.

OKRs have a bi-directional cadence – it is not cascaded top-down. OKRs encourage bottom-up and top-down conversation which leads to the alignment between teams. Often teams opt for shared OKRs; this enhances alignment as each team might have different initiatives to achieve the OKR whilst working towards a shared goal.

When OKRs are transparent, it contributes to the alignment. All OKRs should be visible to everyone in the company.

OKRs are decoupled from remuneration. Consider making OKRs one (not the only) aspect of input for employee performance. The difficulty (ambitious outcome) and the impact of the goals itself should not be ignored. This will result in creating a culture of ambitious goal-setting and soon employees will focus on impact and value to clients instead of only the percentage of goal achievement as this relates directly to a bonus payment.
What Will Performance Look Like Post-COVID-19?
The COVID-19 pandemic brings new things to think about at a leadership level. This is a defining leadership moment. It is a balancing act – the short term actions vs compromising the sustainability of the business and the intersection of employee and company wellbeing. Leaders need to exemplify humanity. We have to understand and embrace concepts like empathy, compassion and care and show it. To fake it, won’t serve leaders in this critical time – colleagues are attuned to the realness of their leadership. As a leader, you set the tone at the top.

How one measure the performance of your teams is a definite one to consider – now and beyond “business as usual” will not be the same as what it was pre-COVID-19, and forward-thinking leaders know this.
Make OKRs Work for You
For the companies that are already using OKRs, a recommendation would be to add a step to overcome the uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic. Teams can use assumptions as facts and base the OKRs in the short term on these assumptions. Think of assumptions behind the marketplace or changing clients’ needs. Test these assumptions with stakeholders in the business to sense-check it and use this as a basis for setting OKRs.

With big changes come big opportunities. This pandemic provides the opportunity to experiment and learn in uncertain times and to see what is working best. It also heightens our ability to be adaptable and to think differently.
This may be the ideal time to start using OKRs and experiment and see how this is impacting the performance, motivation and engagement of your teams.


Is The War For Talent Over?

For so long there was a “war for talent”, but will it be the opposite post Covid-19, with great talent fighting for fewer positions?
How quickly things change. Although there were signs of easing, the Canadian economy has been running in high gear for the last couple of years. Unemployment at record lows has been the norm and employers competed for talent across industries and skillsets. This war for talent is now a war for survival as Canadian companies make sense of the impact the COVID-19 will have on their organization.

The difficult balance for employers now is ensuring the viability of their business while retaining their top talent. It’s not an easy tradeoff for employers. This balancing act will unfortunately, result in talented workers on the sidelines looking for their next opportunity.

The shifting talent equation will not be one size fits all in Canada. Many industries, such as healthcare, grocery retail, manufacturing (food/essential products) and logistics, are busy now and can take advantage of the available talent from organizations that have had to make difficult layoff decisions. Talent in resource-related industries such as Oil & Gas will flood the market and compete over the coming quarters for limited opportunities.

From a skill set perspective, the war for IT talent will continue. Many organizations now realize how important IT infrastructure and technology tools are as they quickly moved to enable their workforce to work from home. The downstream impact of the pandemic will create more demand on IT and technology skills to support all types of work arrangements, particularly in the areas of infrastructure, cloud architecture, data security and the related support needed to maintain and manage the new processes.

Logistically, the way work gets done is forever changed by the pandemic of 2020. Companies are morphing into more fluid work structures, hyper responsive to economic demands and global trends. The new reality of working from home, virtual teams, remote management means a likely higher demand for contract, multi-skilled, in-demand talent and project-based consulting work. Perennial overhead costs like large office spaces and permanent salaries will be reconsidered against investing in new technology, and contract/consulting arrangements. Agility will be the safe guard against anxious investors and nervous business analysts, and perhaps leaving many well qualified candidates looking for work.

As companies recover and rebound post pandemic, there will be a larger talent pool available and the war for talent will be fought in specific skill sets. The new battle for the Canadian workforce and employers will be fought in learning. How can we support the learning and re-skilling needed to support our new reality in Canada?


How to Manage an Employee Who’s Struggling to Perform Remotely

“You need to make Anil do his job!”

My client, let’s call her Robin, received this text from her sales manager during their virtual leadership meeting. As a food manufacturer, her company is deemed essential during the pandemic. But like many managers today, Robin is feeling the pressure of running a $1.5B division remotely with a team whose nerves are starting to fray.

Anil, her customer operations manager, was a strong performer back in the office. Remote work, however, has not been kind to him. Though he claimed to have his tasks under control, with three children under 10 and a wife who also works, things were falling through the cracks. Salespeople had begun to receive complaints from desperate restaurant customers. Orders were arriving incorrectly and late. Since their businesses depend on every order to survive, these mistakes posed a serious threat.

Despite being an empathetic and skilled leader, Robin was struggling to hold Anil accountable. Difficult conversations are her Achilles heel, and she’s not alone. One study shows that 18% of top executives say holding others accountable is their greatest weakness. The guilt many managers like Robin feel has been made worse by the current crisis and the pressure to remain compassionate of what others may be going through — not to mention the challenge of giving feedback virtually.

At the same time, an employee who isn’t keeping up while working remotely is a problem that cannot be ignored. In fact, poor performance consumes up to 17% of a leader’s job (equivalent to roughly one day a week), and today, given the state of the economy, its financial costs are intensified.

So how can leaders like Robin confront team members who are struggling to successfully work remotely while also remaining sensitive to the times? It requires a broader approach and different skills than many leaders are used to. But there are several ways to learn them:

Expand your diagnostic lens.
With many unfamiliar variables introduced by Covid-19, getting to the bottom of a new performance problem is more complicated. Prior to the pandemic, most leaders might have reflexively zeroed in on the underperformer as the primary unit of analysis and presumed the problem was the result of insufficient skills, lack of initiative, commitment, and/or a poor attitude.

While these often play some role in underperformance, they rarely account for all of it. That’s why focusing on the underperformance vs. the underperformer leads to better problem solving. This is especially true today when a myriad of new factors could be contributing to the issue.

Before confronting your underperformer, use these questions to help you figure out what those factors may be:

What’s different? When you’re dealing with someone who has just recently started to underperform, begin by identifying new variables that could be interfering with their work. Have there been recent organizational shifts? Difficulties in their personal life? For many, working from home has presented several technical and self-management challenges. Isolating which factors may be presenting legitimate obstacles to your employee’s job will require you to have sensitive and persistent conversations with them. In the case of Robin, she assumed that Anil’s demanding home life was a large factor. Feeling bad for him, she restrained from addressing the issue. As it turns out, her hesitance kept the real causes concealed.

What’s worse? Working virtually, as many of us are, will undoubtedly amplify weak areas of your organization: clunky processes may feel more cumbersome; getting information in a culture of secrecy may now feel impossible; work-arounds people have adopted to cope with outmoded technologies will likely break down. But leaders must be able to identify which broader organizational performance issues may be contributing to an employee’s performance issue. Sometimes you may not know until you have the conversation, but it’s important to consider all the factors before a confrontation. You want your employee to trust that you’ve thought through the situation and considered it from their view. They will be less likely to use those broader issues as an excuse.

What’s fact, what’s emotion? In a crisis, anxiety, anger, and fear can lead to blame, defensiveness, and irrationality, which worsen when we’re isolated. As such, it’s even more critical to separate emotion from fact in these situations. Leaders experiencing frustration around an underperformer will need to acknowledge the presence of these emotions, and honor them, before they are able to set them aside. Once you do, you will be more equipped to discuss what is factually true. In Robin’s case, the team’s and customer’s anger amplified her and Anil’s guilt, clouding everyone’s judgment about how to identify and solve the real problem.

What’s mine, what’s theirs? Healthy accountability starts with a leader acknowledging they may play a role in someone’s underperformance. Have you been clear about what you expect from your newly remote team? Have you provided needed resources, coaching, and feedback? Is there a gap in your leadership contributing to the problem? Robin’s misassumption about Anil’s stressful home life became the perfect excuse to justify not addressing him. But this contributed to the problem. Anil’s failure to ask for help, offer creative solutions, and set expectations about how his new normal were his contributions to the problem.

Show empathy without lowering the bar.
“Who do I throw under the bus?” Robin asked me. “My customers, who need my products to survive, or one of my top leaders who is up against tough constraints with a family to care for?” Her unmanaged anxiety and confrontation-avoidance backed her into a false-binary corner, leading her to ask the wrong question. What she needed to ask was, “How do I help my key leader succeed?” Ultimately, she was confusing empathy with lowered expectations. Her fear of making Anil “feel bad” wasn’t compassionate, it was cowardice.

You can demonstrate your care for an employee’s struggles by both acknowledging their hardship and redoubling efforts to help them succeed. The best way to have these conversations right now is through a video call so that you are able to read one another’s tone and expressions. When you start the discussion, remember that this behavior is new for your employee too, and they are likely already feeling badly for struggling. “Check in” before you “check on” as a rule. Ask how they are doing to gauge their well-being. Then, clarify that your goal for the conversation is to help resolve the problem at hand.

To begin, use probing questions like, “Why do you feel this is happening?” Listen carefully to how they describe the situation. If they deny there is a problem, you may have mismatched expectations. If they point fingers, make repeated excuses, or refuse to take responsibility, you may have someone in the wrong role.

When Robin finally confronted Anil, she discovered that the fulfillment process at her company was the real problem. Their data systems were still tied together by laborious manual processes, including spreadsheets, heroics, and hallway handoffs. To avoid catastrophes in the office, Anil and his team routinely ran between buildings with key information. “Running between buildings” had now become endless texts, slacks, and emails. Anil couldn’t keep up.

Through their conversation, Robin learned that a crisis doesn’t let people off the hook from the delivering the same level of results they did before. It means the path to those results might need to shift, and it was her job, as the leader, to help Anil discover that path.

Engage the underperformer in problem solving.
In my experience, performance shortfalls, especially sudden ones, are best resolved by asking the person in question to be responsible for solving the problem. Once you’ve identified what the issue is, ask, “What would you change if you could?” or “What can we all learn from this?” to open their imagination and signal that you trust their ability to improve.

Resist telling them what to do, or being overly proscriptive about how to do it. You don’t want to dilute their ownership and commitment. Remember that working in isolation can make people more anxious about their mistakes, and this is a person who is used to seeing success. Reassuring your employee that you are OK with missteps as long they are corrected and learned from will help empower them to solve the problem on their own. At the same time, you should remain available to provide guidance when needed. This may require instituting more frequent check-ins to compensate for the changing conditions.

To redirect her conversation with Anil, Robin asked, “What can we do right now to help you? How can our whole team help make sure every order is on time and accurate?” This gave Anil permission to ask for help without deepening his shame. It also opened the door to creative, interim solutions. “I know these are tough days, and I know we can do better,” she said. “I need you to come back to me with a plan you are confident will get all orders out the door on time and accurately.”

Anil took less than a day to build a plan and get his peers on board.

Strengthen team accountability.
There a few things you can do to avoid this issue from reoccurring in the future. One of them is making sure that your team members realize their collective success belongs to one another — not just to you, the boss. Otherwise, you’ll end up playing air-traffic control for every result the team delivers, and spend more time managing what falls through the cracks than helping them achieve greater performance.

The toughest question I asked Robin was, “Why do you suppose your sales manager felt it was appropriate to send that text to you, instead of something more generative to Anil like, ‘Anil, we can see you are struggling. How can we help?’” Robin was stumped. I told her this interaction could be exposing another problem: excessive reliance on her for the team’s performance. I suggested that Robin go back to her sales manager and ask what it would have taken for him to reach out directly to Anil.

To avoid the situation Robin found herself in, there is one exercise you can use to strengthen your team’s sense of shared accountability during this crisis. In your next meeting, ask every person to identify how they rely on each of their team members. Then compare answers. There should be explicit commitments they each make to one another, in which you remain uninvolved.

Remember, your biggest contribution to those you lead is helping them be, and contribute, their best. When they fall short, your greatest show of compassion, especially right now, is to help them figure out whatever it takes to get back on track. In some cases, it may be more compassionate to loosen expectations, so long as you make that decision with people and not for them.

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Diversity still matters

COVID-19 is confronting companies around the world with a daunting degree of disruption. In the immediate term, some face devastating losses of revenue, dislocations to operations and supply chains, and challenges to liquidity and solvency. Others are coping with enormous unexpected spikes in demand. In the medium term, we can expect material and lasting shifts in customer markets, regulatory environments, and workforce deployments. Leaders and managers will need a great deal of resolve and resilience as they seek to navigate an economically and socially viable path toward a “next normal.”

The lessons from previous crises tell us there is a very real risk that inclusion and diversity (I&D) may now recede as a strategic priority for organizations.1 This may be quite unintentional: companies will focus on their most pressing basic needs—such as urgent measures to adapt to new ways of working; consolidate workforce capacity; and maintain productivity, a sense of connection, and the physical and mental health of their employees.

Yet we would argue that companies pulling back on I&D now may be placing themselves at a disadvantage: they could not only face a backlash from customers and talent now but also, down the line, fail to better position themselves for growth and renewal. Some of the qualities that characterize diverse and inclusive companies—notably innovation and resilience—will be much in need as companies recover from the crisis.2 Indeed, it could help companies to unlock the power of I&D as an enabler of business performance and organizational health and contribute to the wider effort to revive economies and safeguard social cohesion. In this article, we explore what companies can do to ensure that I&D remains a core part of their agendas during the downturn, and beyond.

The benefits of I&D are clear now—and that doesn’t change in a crisis
Our research has repeatedly shown that gender and ethnic diversity, inclusion, and performance go hand in hand. Our latest report, Diversity wins: How inclusion matters, reinforces the business case.3 Over the past five years, the likelihood that diverse companies will out-earn their industry peers has grown. So have the penalties for companies lacking diversity. Another forthcoming McKinsey report, about Latin America, highlights the strong correlation between gender diversity and positive behavior directly related to better organizational health—which, in turn, is associated with better business performance. Similarly, our previous research found that women tend to demonstrate, more often than men, five of the nine types of leadership behavior that improve organizational performance, including talent development. Women also more frequently apply three of the four types of behavior—intellectual stimulation, inspiration, and participative decision making—that most effectively address the global challenges of the future.

Diversity winners that deploy a systematic approach to inclusion and diversity and don’t fear bold action to foster inclusion and belonging are most likely to reap the rewards. Now is the time to be even bolder.

The bulk of this research on the business case for diversity was carried out during the past five years, when economic conditions have been mostly favorable. Yet the evidence from past crises shows that diversity can also play an important role in recovery. For example, several reports have shown that in the 2008–09 global financial crisis, banks with a higher share of women on their boards were more stable than their peers. This research also suggests that banks run by women might be less vulnerable in a crisis.4 And we are seeing, right now, that cities and countries with women leaders are thought to be facing the COVID-19 pandemic more successfully than those without them.5 It may be, some researchers conclude, that female leadership has a trust advantage giving women the edge in certain crisis situations.6
The challenge: Why I&D may lose momentum during the COVID-19 crisis
Progress on I&D could slow down during and after the crisis unless companies consciously focus on advancing diversity and fostering inclusion. The importance of such continuity is quite intuitive, but it was not the norm during the 2008–09 financial crisis: although gender-diversity programs were not officially deprioritized, they did not benefit from additional effort or interest, and programs targeting all employees became a higher priority among some of the companies in our sample.7 Early signs, this time around, are not encouraging. One pulse survey of I&D leaders, for example, found that 27 percent of them report that their organizations have put all or most I&D initiatives on hold because of the pandemic.8
Representation at risk. As the crisis makes jobs vulnerable, diverse talent may be most at risk. To be sure, we may see an uptick in the number of jobs and, possibly, in pay for some gendered occupations—such as healthcare providers on the front line of public service.9 But these effects are likely to be offset by job losses in the private sector, where low-skill, low-paying jobs in retailing, leisure, and hospitality may be hard hit.

Furthermore, the crisis will probably intensify existing workplace-automation trends that are already expected to take a greater toll on women and minorities. While previous research from the McKinsey Global Institute has shown that automation has a more or less equal net impact on the jobs of women and men, it will vary greatly across sectors and regions. Pervasive barriers to the development of skills and access to technology must be overcome if women and minorities are to get new job opportunities, especially in the tech sector. Avenues for economic advancement will continue to be a challenge for them. And because they typically work in medium- and lower-paid occupations, and demand for such roles is expected to shrink, they are likely to bear the brunt of the transition.

We can see this playing out already in the crisis. McKinsey research has found that 39 percent of all jobs held by black Americans—compared with 34 percent by white ones—are now threatened by reductions in hours or pay, temporary furloughs, or permanent layoffs. That is seven million jobs.

As the COVID-19 crisis makes jobs vulnerable, diverse talent may be most at risk.

Eroding inclusion. A second key risk is that remote-working conditions may erode inclusion. Sending staff home to work, in a bid to stem the spread of COVID-19, risks reinforcing existing exclusive behavior and biases and undermining inclusive workplace cultures. McKinsey research analyzing the lessons of remote working in China—an early mover because it was at the vanguard of efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19—found that teams or whole business units working remotely can quickly become confused and lose clarity. Isolation leads to uncertainty about whom to talk with on specific issues and how and when to approach colleagues, leading to hold-ups and delays. In such a climate, there is a risk of amplifying noninclusive dynamics.

Remote-working norms, particularly videoconferencing, could make it difficult for some personnel, such as LGBTQ+ employees, to avoid publicly sharing aspects of their home lives they might not be comfortable revealing to all of their colleagues. Working from home also may put women and minorities at a disadvantage, given challenges such as broadband access, the availability (or lack) of home-office space, and childcare and home-schooling duties.10
The chance: Leveraging I&D in the crisis
These challenges, if unaddressed, could undermine corporate responses to the COVID-19 crisis. Leaders and organizations will need enhanced problem-solving skills and vision to address dislocations in businesses, industries, and regulatory environments. Strategic agility—the ability to spot and seize game changers—is likely to be a mission-critical trait. It is also likely to be stronger in organizations that can draw on the full spectrum of diverse talent available to them.

Our research and the research of others suggest that when companies invest in diversity and inclusion, they are in a better position to create more adaptive, effective teams and more likely to recognize diversity as a competitive advantage.11 Meanwhile, other companies might struggle. Their responses to I&D during the COVID-19 crisis could mirror the broader stances toward I&D described in our report Diversity wins, where three broad categories of approaches emerged.

Diversity winners and fast movers. One-third of the companies in our data set have made significant I&D gains over the past five years and are increasingly pulling ahead of their industry peers in financial performance. Our experience with companies in this group suggests that many of them will view their existing strengths in I&D as a way to bounce back more quickly from the crisis while they actively seek to boost representation and inclusion.
Moderate movers and resting on laurels. A middle group of companies have made only modest I&D gains in the past five years. It’s easy to imagine their continuing to tread water during the crisis, perhaps seeking to protect their gains but doing little new to build on or increase them.
Laggards. Companies in this broadest group have progressed little, remained static, or regressed in their gender and ethnic representation in the past five years. With no momentum, most could well deprioritize I&D efforts during the COVID-19 crisis.
The crisis, in other words, will interact with existing I&D trends. Further separation between diversity leaders and laggards is possible, and companies in the muddy middle could make huge progress (exhibit). Such organizations, by raising their I&D sights, should be able to upgrade their “license to operate” and realize the goals of recovery, resilience, and reimagination.

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