In brief

In brief

  • During a crisis like COVID-19, people look to leaders for compassion, care and confidence in navigating the company into the future.
  • We detail specific physical, mental and relationship needs workers have, based on our data. And we share a checklist for immediate actions from the C-suite on the people front.
  • We share a checklist for immediate actions from the C-suite on the people front.

The state of leadership during COVID-19

Responsible leadership has taken on an even deeper meaning, as our workforces and our customers find themselves in an unfamiliar, fast-moving global environment. COVID-19 has changed the way we live and work already, with far-reaching impact. Leading with compassion and caring for our workforces and communities is more essential than ever.

Virtually all companies are still determining how we change the way we work, short- and long-term. But speed is of the essence, as our workforces and communities try to function and perform, while struggling to cope with what is happening in their daily lives.

We are helping Chief Human Resources Officers, CEOs and boards navigate the leadership challenges in this new reality. We share a few brief insights from Accenture workforce research spanning 15,600+ global workers in 10 countries and 15 industries. Our study highlights what workers need from leaders in three basic areas: physical, mental and relational. These needs apply at all times, but they are magnified in crisis. Leaders who rise to the challenge will help their people develop human resilience—the ability to adapt and engage through difficult times.

These worker needs apply at all times, but they are magnified in times of crisis.

What your people need now

People need to trust leaders always. But especially now.

Distilled to one essential message: your workforce is looking to trust you. And it will trust if it believes leadership cares for each individual, the community, and humanity as a whole.

Beyond caring, leaders must show they have a plan. You don’t have to know everything, but you do need to be transparent about what is driving decisions. A leadership team that looks ahead proactively, and responds rather than reacts, goes a long way toward helping people in volatile times.

The ability for leaders to address people’s physical, mental and relationship needs is the foundation of trust. While all of these needs have equal importance, there is an order in which they make the biggest difference.

10 things the C-suite can do now

  1. Gather the troops. Develop a multidisciplinary C-suite “plan and act” center. Gather feedback from all areas of the organization and all types of workers.
  2. Relieve people from unnecessary work and activities. At a time when people are worried about their basic needs and their paycheck, focusing resources is key.
  3. Responsible leadership is an imitable formula. Use it. Educate and coach leaders on the five elements: stakeholder inclusion, emotion and intuition, mission and purpose, technology and innovation, and intellect and insight.
  4. Hierarchy be damned. If you aren’t used to working in cross-functional, agile teams, now is the time to begin. You don’t get to outcomes via functional silos.
  5. Elevate your most visible leaders based on compassion and caring. Workers will remember the faces and voices you empower to lead the charge during this time. Be sure those voices are not only wise, but compassionate and caring.
  6. Integrate your company’s purpose and values into every communication and initiative. Shared purpose and values is what will give employees the sense of belonging they so desperately need right now. As quarantines and social distancing play out, employees need a sense of connection.
  7. Tell a story. Don’t spew data. People are wired to find meaning and respond best to stories and analogies during times of great stress and ambiguity. What people want as human beings is the larger story, the insights.
  8. Rally leaders around consistent communication. Establish strong communication governance, guiding principles and tone. Leaders throughout the organization need to be in sync.
  9. You were always going to need remote workforce capabilities for at least a portion of your workforce. Now’s the time. Crisis is never the best time to set up new ways of doing things, but this pandemic gives many companies no choice. Pre-pandemic, our Accenture workforce research showed less than one-third of all workers were able to make full use of their technology to effectively do their job. Now is the time to accelerate human+machine collaboration and support people as they transition to digital ways of working.
  10. Don’t allow the crisis of the Now stop you from moving toward the Next. Reserve two hours per day for work focused on getting your organization and your workforce to the future. It’ll feel like you’re ignoring the urgent, but two hours, wisely spent, will help move your organization beyond the urgent and prepare for the future.

As the situation unfolds, we will continuously update our materials, so please check back regularly.

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