Five purpose lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic

Decisions made by businesses during the current crisis will shape an organisations’ identity and leave a mark long after the pandemic has ended. So what role does Purpose have to play? And how can purpose guide business action and leave a lasting and positive impact? Below are 5 key lessons we’ve identified. Do you agree?

1. Put your employees first 

Engage and support your employees first and foremost. Engaging employees effectively at this time has never been more important. COVID-19 has transformed the way we work almost overnight. Companies need to communicate transparently with their workforce and be honest about the challenges ahead. More than that though, the crisis provides an opportunity to build a common sense of purpose and bring people together. Involve employees in the decisions you make and buy-in - even for the toughest of decisions – will be easier. You don’t need to look far, to see the reputational damage caused by those that don’t. 

2. Lead from the front

In a time of crisis people look to leaders for guidance and reassurance. Positive and effective leadership can help bring clarity when there is ambiguity. Reflecting, emphasising and leaning on your purpose and the business’ values to guide the decisions and choices you make will help ensure a focus on what matters most. And where leadership takes action that is purpose-driven and genuine, the goodwill of all stakeholders – be that employees, customers and consumers - is likely to last.

3. Actions speak louder than words

If COVID-19 has taught us anything it’s that actions speak louder than words. The crisis has created a moment of truth in which we can all evaluate and judge whether the actions and choices being taken by business are a true reflection of their purpose and values. Those that have provided genuine assistance as opposed to ‘window dressing’ have rightly gained recognition. The difference between talk and action has never been clearer.

4. Be authentic

Authentic action is critical. Companies need to test their actions against their values and what they stand for. Brand behaviour shouldn’t feel opportunistic particularly at a time of crisis. Consumers will almost certainly stop buying or supporting businesses that act inappropriately or are seen to be ‘jumping on the bandwagon’. Whilst this crisis has touched nearly everyone, in many ways the businesses that remain committed to their long-term purpose and passions (even if not seen as directly relevant at this time) may win out. Long after the dust has settled, people will remember the ways in which companies supported and engaged in the communities in which they operate.

5. Look to the future

Brand purpose can guide and light the way as businesses look to the future. Often rooted in a company’s heritage, it also provides an opportunity to reshape, reframe and redefine how companies operate in the long-term. Actions that may have started out as temporary changes or adjustment to the crisis, may in fact bring unexpected benefits that not only enhance but further a company’s purpose and reason for being.

Written by Holly Rouse, director and partner at FleishmanHillard Fishburn