by Karin Bonev

May 26, 2020

In the unknowns and shades of gray that surround COVID-19, there are two certainties:

  • COVID-19 swiftly and suddenly impacted every single organization around the world. All organizations were forced to quickly shift gears to defense.
  • As organizations begin to reopen and employees return to offices, every organization must now navigate a new change – the shift from defense to focusing on the future.

While organizations will have more control over this next wave of monumental change – they will determine when and how to best move forward – they’re still very much in uncharted waters. Each entity must create their own re-opening playbook that reflects its unique strategy and culture.

And the stakes are impossibly high. All stakeholders are paying attention. Organizations that can successfully navigate the pivot will have engaged employees ready to charge ahead, new opportunities to leverage, as well as support from customers, investors and communities. Organizations that do not will fall further behind.

To discuss these challenges, we recently hosted a Brainfood session, a signature Dix & Eaton series designed to highlight latest industry trends, share best practices and learn from peers. More specifically,we explored how organizations are navigating the pivot with a panel of diverse experts:

  • Alicia Gauer
    Director, Global Communications
    The Lubrizol Corporation
  • Autumn Kiser
    Senior Vice President of Revenue & Marketing
    Playhouse Square
  • Joe Roman
    President and Chief Executive Officer
    Greater Cleveland Partnership

Interestingly, several common themes emerged that apply to all organizations:

  • Adaptability at all levels is a critical asset. New information about the pandemic, the economy, markets and customers emerge each day. Leaders need to develop paths forward that can adapt to an environment that is still quickly changing. Managers have shifted to leading remote teams and communicating through very uncertain times. And employees have been and will continue to stretch as they take on new roles and assignments.
  • There is no “one-size-fits-all” playbook for reopening or returning to the office. This new wave of change brings additional confusion and agita. Concerns around employer liability, childcare, longer-term flexible work policies and use of shared internal spaces are coupled with how to safely welcome back customers and the need to possibly revamp business models when capacity is less than 100 percent.
  • Employees understand their organizations more than before. A silver lining in all this – organizations have had to clearly communicate what they do, how they do it and why to their employees for rapid shifts to occur. With this new clarity, employees are better positioned to understand how their role impacts the business and its strategy and therefore better able to pivot as needed.
  • Organizations are supporting their communities in new ways and sharing stories. During this crisis, there have been some amazing moments. Manufacturing organizations have stepped up to supply materials for critical products – medicine, protective equipment, hand sanitizer, clean water, etc. – and making much-needed donations. Theaters have provided educational and innovative content for isolated families. Museums have shared new content in new ways – opening up archived material and offering behind-the-scenes glimpses. This has led to new ways to connect with important audiences.
  • How organizations respond and communicate now will set the tone for the future. As we pivot toward the future, organizations are facing widely different circumstances and may need to make difficult decisions in the months ahead. Stakeholders are watching closely with the backdrop of compassion and candor from COVID-19 communications.
  • Organizations need – and can help – each other. Each organization must navigate its own pivot. But by sharing our best practices, lessons learned and experiences, we can help each other accelerate the pivot and be successful.

We are developing additional Brainfood webinars in the coming months. Is there a topic that you’d like to learn more about? Let us know by taking our brief two-question survey.