Top Five Tips for Retaining Organizational Resilience while Managing COVID Complications
While vaccine progress ignited hopes for a post-pandemic existence and re-openings signaled a safe reemergence for many, a new surge in cases due to the Delta variant raises renewed concern. As new questions arise about vaccine efficacy and transmissibility of the Delta variant, it seems the only constant we can depend on is change itself. Organizations that were on the verge of opening their doors for in-person operations are, understandably, reconsidering their next steps.
Given the nature of viruses and their tendency for mutation, scientists predict that other variants of COVID, in addition to the Delta variant, will continue to pose a threat. Based on this probability, it seems we should ditch our efforts for post-pandemic planning and switch our focus to persistent-pandemic planning. To help you towards that approach, I offer the following five tips:
1. Don’t let history repeat itself.
While there are generally very few benefits that arise out of a disaster like a global pandemic, one that must not be wasted are the lessons learned during the initial phases. There’s a catch. The only way to actually reap that benefit is by conducting a careful analysis of what worked and what did not and implementing changes to address the deficiencies. At the beginning of the pandemic, mistakes and missteps were more easily forgiven due to the newness of the situation. This time around, there will be far less room for error and higher stakes for getting things right off the bat.
If your organization needs assistance conducting an after-action review or identifying your actionable lessons learned, reach out to set up your FREE consultation.
2. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.
The only way to plan for a scenario that has the potential to change quickly and often is by adopting a flexible approach. To do so, your plan must contemplate contingencies and identify thresholds/triggers for those alternatives. This means you need to establish for your organization, the impacts, data points, and/or decisions that will trigger certain actions, modifications, and/or contingencies. Identifying thresholds and triggers upfront will reduce the decision-making burden down the road. For example, a college with resident students on campus might identify a threshold for the number of positive cases on campus that might trigger a decision to go fully remote or cancel certain in-person operations.
3. Communicate early and often.
If you haven’t been doing this before now, odds are it will be among your lessons learned per Tip One. When uncertainty is high, communication is the number one thing people are looking for. That doesn’t mean your communications need to answer every question. In fact, embracing what you don’t know and allowing flexibility in your plans for that uncertainty will actually instill more trust in you as a leader. It will also prevent you from painting yourself into a corner with a rigid approach or decision.
Establishing a communication plan is critical for ensuring you are communicating consistently, providing necessary updates, and helping your people feel connected. Your communication strategy should address:
A proposed schedule for regular updates;
The types of information included in regular updates (See Tip 4); and
How those messages will be shared and with whom.*
*In contemplating the"whom" think about the various audiences you might need to address and how communications might need to be modified for each. For example, how does the message to the board of directors differ from the message to employees?
Your communications plan should also identify when critical communications may be required. For example, critical communication may be required if pandemic conditions prompted your organization to revert to fully remote operations. It’s a good idea to map out a proposed template for critical communications like this one, to avoid a delay in getting this type of messaging out later on.
For all of your communications, don’t forget the 4 C’s. Focus on communicating clearly, concisely, correctly, and consciously. Read more about quality comms in my recent post Prepare like a Boss.
Pro Tip: An emergency notification system comes in super handy in instances when you need to get information out quickly via multiple channels. If your organization doesn't have one, you are missing out on an opportunity to better serve your community and set yourself apart as a resilient organization.
4. Stay informed and transparent.
It’s important that you identify your information sources upfront and stay on top of updates. Specifically, what are the sources you are looking to for guidance in making organizational decisions throughout the pandemic? In this time of misinformation, disinformation, and doubt, it’s imperative that you are transparent and consistent about the information you are reliant upon. In choosing these sources, it's a good idea to select several of varying types (i.e. government-based, news, science/medical) and aim to select sources that are the least politically polarizing (I know this can be difficult). Consistently sharing updates from the same sources in your regular communications may help fodder trust among your population or at least a sense of comfort in knowing information and updates are coming from the same place.
5. Keep your priorities straight.
While getting back to work and keeping the lights on is obviously important to any good leader, if you fail to prioritize the well-being of your people in your reopening plans, you set yourself up to fail as an organization. While ensuring the physical health and safety of your community is a major piece of that puzzle, through its pervasive impacts on our lives, COVID has demonstrated the holistic nature of our well-being. People are facing new and prolonged challenges in every area of their lives, from finding caretakers for loved ones to finding support for their own mental health.
Consider ways that you can uniquely support your people with added resources, benefits, and accommodations.
Resilient people are at the heart of every resilient organization. Let's work together to help you invest in the readiness and resilience of your organization, one individual at a time. Learn more.
Despite our greatest hopes, this pandemic is far from over. The duration and complexity of this pandemic will continue to pose new challenges to us as individuals, communities, and organizations. Accepting change as a constant and readying ourselves with a focus on flexibility will help us retain and continue to restore our resilience. Remember, resilience on any level--from individual to institutional--is a muscle that can be trained, built, and improved upon. If ever there was a time to start prioritizing that work, this is it. I'm here to help. Get in touch.
For more on the role of resilience in our well-being check out this post.