Faced with the current Covid-19 crisis, companies of all sizes and industries must adapt and implement new emergency measures. These measures directly concern employees, but also shareholders. In addition, mobilizing against the virus with societal commitments, although not all companies are able to do so, is also a challenge and a responsibility in this unprecedented context of health crisis management.
Then, what is the role of the leader and the right reflexes he should adopt?
Although the situation itself is not fully controllable, the role of the leader is to answer as quickly as possible by acting on what he can control.
Many employees face anxiety about their (near and far) professional future. While some find themselves in a situation of partial unemployment, others work remotely, and many accommodations are necessary. Globally, the situation is not simple for anyone, and the professional environment can quickly become a source of anxiety for employees.
Whatever the company’s possibilities for employees, the manager should reassure and guide his teams more than ever. The more realistic his speech, the more transparent he will be about the challenges facing the entire company, the more he will have a positive impact on his teams. In parallel with the proposals made by the government, the companies must adjust their policies and organization in favor of employees as best as possible. It is important that the manager communicates about this, at the risk of succumbing to a state of panic, harmful both for the company and all employees. In this context, the company has the role of a social organization regardless of its size and although the leader has to focus on his economic and financial strategy, he must also manage an emotional proximity, with regard to employees, some of whom will not be spared illness. This also requires preserving moments of calm and pause to make the right decisions and avoid reacting in real time.
Messages on the solidity of the company and its business model, others on solidarity, mutual assistance with the implementation of adjustments, more or less important depending on the resources of the company, will allow employees to feel heard, supported and will participate positively in their commitment and motivation.
The state also encourages companies not to pay their dividends, and goes even further, by refusing the aid it proposes if the companies continue to pay them. The manager must then give a recommendation to his shareholders.
- Some corporate companies such as L’Oréal, HERMES or TOTAL don’t need financial support from the government; especially on partial unemployment and can afford to pay their dividends (while resorting to short-time work).
- Others who need more financial support from the government do not pay their dividends; the companies preserve their cash to support their economic activity and their employees. This is particularly the case of SAFRAN, JC DECAUX or ACCOR
- But what about very small size and small size companies? Some managers facing a decline of revenues have chosen to use short-time working to better protect their employees. But how long will they be able to survive on their cash with certain fixed costs that remain unchanged?
Finally, companies today have even more responsibility. In a context like this, the leader could then ask himself the question: «what can we do, on our scale, to participate in the improvement of the crisis? ». This includes the production of gel in companies specializing in cosmetics, gas vouchers always for healthcare employees, hotel rooms made available by hotel chains or temporary housing rental platforms.
The role of the leader may be changing today. There are many initiatives of employee solidarity that he can encourage, support and follow-up. Its role is also to ensure that employees have discernment, manage to distinguish things when information comes to them, make them grow, make them “responsible”, so that they carry out their actions by solidarity rather than by interest.