We Talk With Our Clients

26 August 2020

Göran Björkman, CEO Sandvik Materials Technology & Chair Swedish Association of  Industrial Employers

Talks with: Peter Strandberg, Partner, Friisberg & Partners Sweden & President Friisberg & Partners International

Since the Covid-19 Crisis began, what steps have you taken?

When the Covid-19 Crisis began and ever since we have focused primarily on our employees’ health taking our cooperate responsibilities seriously.

Sandvik’s moto is always “Safety first” and we have tried now, as always, to live by that moto. We have tried to follow all restrictions and regulations as stated by the different Governments around the world to minimize the risk of viral transmission such as restrictions when traveling, quarantining people if they came from “at risk” areas, allowing people to work from home, conducting most meetings virtually and limiting the numbers of people in one place at meetings.

Business-wise we immediately recognised that this was an event that would affect us very much. With that in mind we devised various scenarios enabling us to plan accordingly and be ready for anything.

Of course everything we anticipated didn’t turn out exactly the way that we imagined, but it definitely made it easier for us to understand what we had to deal with and then make the necessary adjustments.

What lessons have cities learned from this crisis so far?

Irrespective of the crisis, it is good to be agile and act as soon as you possibly can - even if you do not have all facts to hand. You have to take control of the situation and even if you can’t control it, you have to try to be proactive. Try to create realistic scenarios and start to execute accordingly, but also have an open and flexible mind and be willing to change your decisions and guidelines when needed.

When will the situation change?

This is impossible to say of course, but in the short term, for our business, we must continue to de-leverage and by having effective cost control navigate through the next few months. Hopefully we have now reached the bottom, however when and how fast we will see a rise depends on many things. Perhaps if we are lucky we might see some recovery by the end of this year, but how big and how fast still remains to be seen and will rely on many unknowns such as if there might be a second wave, or if a vaccine is shown to be effective.

The things that were important before will remain just as and more important afterwards.

What will be the biggest lessons learned?

We have a short memory so I think a lot of things will at least, for a while, go back to more of how it was before - at least in the short term.

Taking a longer perspective, the situation has forced all organizations to rethink policies, for example travel to and from where people can effectively work. Working from different locations means of course that the logistics must be in place, but also the way organizations are structured, set up and managed might need to change.

In terms of the efficacy of the leaders and the way their performance is measured some managers will adapt, but some will not. Those aspects of business we took for granted all over the world before the pandemic, such as face to face meetings, might be replaced in the long-term with virtual tools.

Companies have amended the way they go to market using all sorts of new technology and have to be organized to facilitate that. People are now learning quickly because right now they have to - they are learning by ‘doing’ and not from ‘education’. This methodology will inevitably elicit a much better uptake and sustain these behaviours better than any training.

To our surprise we have discovered that looking again at the way we conduct our own business might just make our own impact and contributions even better. Hopefully this also means that we will have even more flexibility in our organisations, and that we will be better at measuring our performance.

Performance management will be even more important!

This new way of working and behaving will also put bigger demands on governance, and the capability of managers will be even more important. They have to be able to balance between good performance and not making people work too much. In a flexible organisation, where you can work from wherever, there is a risk that the good people never stop working and that brings its own problems such as health issues.

Are you optimistic about after Covid-19?

Yes, absolutely! I am always optimistic there will be a good future out there … I think!

It’s just a matter of getting there and as I said before, what was important before will also be important afterwards. There is no doubt that we will all be affected one way or another and might have to prioritise a little differently, both as professionals and as individuals.


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