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The Importance of Putting Your Employees First During Times of Crisis

What the pandemic has taught us about companies who survive and prosper during uncertain times

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Business leaders are expected to be prepared for any challenge that comes their way. And though even the most experienced CEOs cannot anticipate a life-changing event such as a global pandemic, employees across the country had no choice but to trust that their leaders were ready to ride out the storm together.

While the longstanding mantra ‘customer is king’ holds true in many aspects, the pandemic has showed us that companies who place their employees as a top priority along with their customers can truly thrive in the face of adversity.

As the owner of a creative and digital agency, I was faced with the same daunting task as countless other business leaders across the country – navigating both my employees and clients through unprecedented territory. While the future is still largely uncertain, I’ve taken stock in a few key actions that I believe have put my company in an optimal position for success.

By taking control of as many variables as possible and maintaining a transparent relationship with employees, our company was not only able to survive the pandemic but create something new that will truly contribute to society in a positive way.

Take control of the situation at hand

No matter the scale of the crisis, the first thing to do as a business leader is assume as much control of the situation as possible. Taking the time to ensure preparedness in guiding your team is critical when it comes to decision-making. This can easily equate to the instructions received by airplane passengers during a flight emergency. No matter how chaotic of a situation, when the oxygen masks sign comes on, passengers are instructed to put their own mask on before assisting others. This means that by preparing yourself first, you are in the optimal position for leading those around you and ultimately negating a potential crisis.

In a constantly changing environment like a pandemic, it might be tempting to make sporadic decisions in a quick attempt to save face. But by remaining thoughtful and composed, you can better assist your employees and in turn guide your company with strategic composure.

Remain fully transparent and confident

Once a definite approach is developed by all leaders within an organization, consider the next logical steps on how to approach the situation. For me, this meant guiding those who were most dependent on our company – the employees and our customers who needed direction through the ever-changing state of the pandemic.

Like the wide majority of businesses, our agency was in turmoil as customers paused to make sense of the situation at hand. While this is a normal reaction and our customers returned shortly thereafter, I believed in keeping full transparency throughout the organization, which unavoidably led to some distress. Nonetheless, as a result of taking the necessary time to get organized and prioritizing the best interest of employees, our team was ready to forge ahead, develop a new strategy and pivot together.

On paper, this seems like a simple enough task for all involved. But when it comes down to a matter of survival, a tremendous amount of courage is required from both employees and leadership. Developing this kind of trust within an organization can only happen through creating a transparent and authentic relationship with each and every staff member.   

Fostering a sincere relationship with employees

Clear communication from leadership to individual staff members is imperative in creating a successful team. All employees, no matter how high or low on the totem pole, need to recognize their value to the company so the organization to function to the best of its ability. This recognition and understanding is best communicated when coming directly from the top leadership roles, as this instills motivation and gratitude in employees.

Whether this communication comes through a personalized or handwritten note, phone call from an executive or an action like sending a gift card or providing lunch on the company, showing appreciation and encouragement, especially in times of uncertainty, is vital to the success of your employees and ultimately your organization as a whole. 

Looking ahead

As we transition to the concept of remote work as a permanent reality, there needs to be a deeper understanding of an employee’s work life balance from business leadership. Many companies in the digital marketing industry specifically have shifted quickly toward permanent remote work, and it is imperative to set expectations in the adjustment to finding remote work and personal life balance. To set your employees up for success during this change, make sure they are provided with the tools and guidelines needed to have a healthy, separate balance of work and home life. By fostering a sense of community within your organization and carrying out the statement that you’re in this together, your company can come out of a crisis stronger than ever.

The pandemic is still very much a reality, but with a vaccine around the corner there is an end in sight. However, the lessons we’ve learned as business leaders through this crisis will be of vital importance and not forgotten for the years ahead.

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