Three ways boards can drive systemic change post-Covid

Covid-19 crisis has brought fundamental shifts in every sphere of life and things have been especially tumultuous for businesses. Uncertainty has become the norm of the new normal and businesses are expected to transform overnight to become more flexible, agile and resilient to meet shifting needs and sentiments of customers, without affecting productivity.

Organization boards can help businesses navigate through the transformation better and deliver on these fronts by providing a foundation for the support structure, in three specific areas, suggests an EY article.

  • Re-establish a strong purpose by tying it to long-term value
  • Instill a new culture that fosters continuous change
  • Develop a workforce, fit for the future of work

While under usual circumstances this might appear to be the responsibility of the management alone, but in the “new normal”, if business leadership gets proactive support from their board, it will help the organization achieve its goals faster.

Re-establish a strong purpose by tying it to long-term value

Covid-19 has reset the society’s expectations from a business. Customers, employees, investors and other stakeholders now want businesses to look beyond generating profit to bring positive changes in the society and the planet. Through several surveys it was found that people now want businesses to collaborate with national leaders to drive environmental wellbeing, fight climate change, reduce inequality and boost diversity.

Enterprises today are facing heightened scrutiny and an increasing demand to become transparent. Businesses that can demonstrate that they have a strong purpose and are working towards creating long-term value across a broader section of stakeholders, will attract more capital and talent. Hence now is the time for businesses to reignite and redefine their purpose.

Since senior executives are focused on guiding the organization through the pandemic in the short term, the board can shoulder the responsibility of driving long-term strategies about creating and measuring long-term value and delivering positive results for a wider group of stakeholders.

Instill a new culture that fosters continuous change

Corporate culture has become a crucial element of business transformation. Today, organizations must respond quickly to changing customer demands and new market realities. And that can only be done if the workforce is curious, agile and nurtures a culture of entrepreneurism.

The work culture must also be designed to reflect the values of the millennials and Generation Z who would otherwise gravitate to other organizations. Similarly, a culture of experimentation and innovation becomes extremely essential to persuade employees to participate in reskilling initiatives and engage them in learning how to use new technology – which are now key elements of business transformation.

The company board and senior executives must first collaborate and design a corporate culture that they want to promote in the organization, one which is well-aligned to company goals and strategy. Second, the senior executives should ensure that the culture is disseminated through the organization. The board should also make sure that adequate provisions are made to promote the culture to measure if the culture is being implemented and giving rewards and incentives to people who propagate the culture and inspire others to embrace it.

Develop a workforce, fit for the future of work

An EY survey finds that while CEOs rank human resource issues like unable to upskill or shortage of talent as a top business risk, board directors rank the issue as their seventh important risk. Since Covid-19 is catalyzing adoption of technology phenomenally, a vast majority of job roles in most organizations are about to transform and for organizations to keep functioning smoothly through the transformation, their workforce will play a crucial role.

Boards, thus, should take a lead in discussing the future of work in their organization and help the executives in identifying important changes that must be accepted and propagated. They should also make sure appropriate talent is recruited and adequate staff upskilling is achieved. Boards should also re-evaluate the remuneration structure for senior executives and make required changes to balance between competitive pay and a benefits package that might be perceived as excessive.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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