From the Pot to the Frying Pan

From the Pot to the Frying Pan
There are circumstances in life where one can go from a bad situation to a worse one, despite even the best intentions. For organizations countering marketplace trends resulting from COVID-19, there’s mounting evidence suggesting another front possibly awaits -- one involving employees.

In their book Stall Points, authors Matthew Olson and Derek van Bever studied more than 600 of the Fortune 100 companies rising and falling from prominence over a half-century to understand the basis and consequences of stalled growth. Among their most telling conclusions was the fact that the enemy of progress or sustainability for most organizations comes from within.

According to Olson and Bever, only 13% of economic stalls impacting organizations are the result of external forces. A whopping 70% can be attributed to strategy. That is, direction from leadership in response to shifting market conditions was either off the mark or too late in the making. 

To put this into perspective given current events, consider the transition involving the American workforce. On March 13, 31% of U.S. workers were working from home. In less than three weeks, the percentage doubled. The shift wasn't easy, and many struggled with new routines and anxieties associated with shattered norms. Apparently, for many, that's no longer the case.

As corporate America begins to resume on-site operations, many workers aren’t as eager as they once were for the opportunity to do so. In fact, a survey conducted by Gallup in April 2020 suggests that nearly 60% of workers don't want to return to the office. For businesses, the obvious objective is to return to normal operations as quickly as possible. For many employees transitioning off-site, the perspective of working outside the office appears to have shifted from a new reality to a preferred one very quickly.

Just as the initial response to the pandemic involved unprecedented emotions for your workforce, those associated with the retreating tide will as well. Organizations that fail to take this into account will likely experience implications involving decreased morale and disengagement as a result.

For organizations so inclined, a graduated transition of sorts may provide the best course of action. Phasing into on-site operations and allowing some telecommuting for those able to work from home effectively may offer a compromised solution that would be much appreciated by many.

After all, over the past few months, it was your employees whose adjustments – many of which impacted their family members – made uninterrupted business operations possible. Shifting backward for many won't be as easy or without consequence.

At the end of the day, your most valued asset is your workforce. Your employees are the bumper between the ebb and flow of the marketplace and the hard lines defining your business model and operational capabilities. As you consider the future of physical or remote work, consider the needs of your employees equal to those of valued clients. As previously noted, stalls impacting most organizations over time are attributed to flawed strategy from within, not from forces outside the organization.

Decisions made amid crises are often long-lasting and reflect what we value most. Make sure yours demonstrate genuine, authentic, and sincere caring. The rest will work itself out in due time.

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