What have business leaders done to reassure and support their workforce through the Coronavirus crisis?
Andrew Guy Partner Friisberg & Partners UK
British business leaders were way ahead of the UK Government in taking responsible steps to protect, reassure and support people – especially the people in their own businesses, but also their customers and the wider population. It was notable that bastions of enterprise in the travel, sport, leisure and entertainment industries were actually much quicker to react than the politicians by cancelling and postponing several major events. Football’s Premier League and Rugby’s 6Nations led the way with decisive actions to slow the spread of the virus before Boris Johnson declared the lockdown. Such responsible corporate citizens will be remembered and will retain the trust of their customers, suppliers and the British public. The economic effects of the crisis will be damaging short-term, of course, but the CEOs and Boards of these businesses moved quickly to save lives, despite it costing them money. Meantime, many more business leaders instituted working from home long before it was government policy and equipped their staff accordingly. The big retail banks ordered tens of thousands of laptops so their staff could be effective, and safe, working from home. Vistry Group stopped construction well ahead of the government edict to do so. ‘Doing the right thing’ is what leadership is ultimately all about. Taking the easy, popular or cheapest option can be very tempting but these champions of the common good actively turned those down this time. UK businesses are now finally starting to get the financial support that government was quick to promise, but has been slow to deliver. Those most decisive of business leaders who were swift to act, on only the early indicators, to protect their people will have helped their businesses (and their own jobs) over the longer term too.