Did your business do the right thing during Covid-19?

The way you treated your employees during the pandemic will determine how your organisation will be judged and whether your business survives, writes Ronel Lehmann

June 08, 2020 11:15

I have heard it said that the proof of a great actor is not how well you perform in a hit, but how you manage in a turkey.

The same is true, of course, in the business world. When the economy is thriving, the job of a manager is easy: keep it up. It’s when things are going badly – as for so many during Covid-19 – that your mettle is tested.

And we don’t all get it right. Surveying the pandemic, one can see the perennial variety of human nature expressing itself through the way in which companies have reacted.

A survey published by gives a brief glimpse of the best and the worst. On the one hand, we hear plaudits from a Glasgow staff member (‘the company does put the safety and wellbeing of employees first’); on the other, a disgruntled worker in Stoke-on-Trent writes of a Scrooge-ish HR department: ‘We have been told we must prove we have coronavirus before we can self-isolate.’

I doubt that these nuggets really match the sheer unreality of contemporary experience. The spectrum is wider than we might think. There is a huge gulf between, say, Ally’s heartwarming decision to add free Covid-tailored telemedicine consults to their employee benefits programme, and the boss who purchases spy software to watch you work from home.

It was Leo Tolstoy who said in War and Peace that whenever you hear the word ‘nowadays’ prepare to hear a lie. What he meant was that the fundamentals of what is required of a human being don’t change just because the news cycle has. I would submit that this has never been truer than now.

And what are those fundamentals? Well, you won’t be surprised if I tell you they haven’t changed since the Torah was written. It is true that Moses is silent on the finer points of Zoom calls and Rishi Sunak’s furlough scheme, but if one looks at the Ten Commandments, with their exhortations towards enacting a moral existence, we can see how absolutely old truths continue to apply.

Crises are mirrors on us. They offer a glimpse of what we have been and might well reflect back at us our potential as well. If a company didn’t make regular communications to furloughed staff during the crisis, the chances are they weren’t communicating effectively beforehand.

It’s my hope that they will afterwards. When this crisis passes, we’ll all ask of ourselves and others whether we behaved with dignity. That will always mean bestowing dignity on others.

It’s my belief that businesses that did do that will prosper, and that those who didn’t, will find talented staff seeking work elsewhere.

Ronel Lehmann is founder and CEO of Finito Education

June 08, 2020 11:15

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