The values of the larger community have always been an important consideration for business success even prior to the COVID19 outbreak. Aligning corporate values with the values of the larger society is now becoming even more important for attracting clients and talent, securing employee and customer loyalty, and staying competitive. In our survey about the new normal, we asked leaders about values that are surfacing as we confront new health and economic challenges and will prevail beyond COVID19.
Which societal and business values are going to prevail in the post-COVID19 world?
A few of the leaders we spoke to doubted that there would be a lasting change to our value systems beyond the COVID19 crisis. But a good majority felt that this trying experience would stay with us long enough to bring about long-term shifts to our priorities and what we value. There was a good deal of consensus around some contradictory values that are expected to prevail ranging between the extremes of compassion and empathy on one hand and polarization and self sufficiency on one hand.
- Compassion and Empathy. There is at least hope that what we are experiencing as a human race will lead to some mutual appreciation of of what others are going through and the environments they have to live and work in. As already evident, employers are expected to continue to demonstrate greater display of empathy for workers, their families, their health, and their well-being. The focus is going to be not only on compassionate leadership, but also compassionate collegiality and compassionate citizenship. The epidemic is teaching us that good hygiene and protective social habits are part of our responsibility toward the health of others in and outside of our immediate circles not just our own.
- Volunteerism and Charity. Beyond being more empathetic and compassionate, there is an increasing sense of responsibility over the wellbeing of the larger community that comes with tragic crises. Given the duration, scale, scope, and economic impacts of the COVID19 crisis, this sense of responsibility is expected to be grow. Respondents believe that the greater public display of acts of heroism, selflessness, and generosity in business as well as social networks will extend even as we recover from the crisis.
- Honesty and Transparency. The disparity in public and private entity transparency about the progress of COVID19 and protective measures has been appalling to many across the globe. There is a great deal of dissatisfaction with how some governments, health authorities, medical institutions, and industries have handled the crisis. Trust has been broken in these cases in terms of both how honest leadership had been about the extent of the crisis and how seriously they’d been about protecting employees, clients, and the general public. Going forward, it is expected that the average citizen is going to command honesty and transparency from politicians as well as business leaders. Likewise, honesty and transparency is expected to be a requirement on the individual level about social activities and proximity to support pandemic containment efforts.
- Self Sufficiency and Polarization. This value set is at odds with the first two, but they are expected to continue to coexist. As economically disadvantaged communities experience more health and economic tragedies during the crisis, preexisting feelings of inequality and unfairness would only get reinforced and stick further in the foreseeable future. On the other hand, the more privileged nations and communities have now become more aware of the range of economic and health risks that surround them. As they become extremely protective of their stability and safety, de-globalization and regionalization trends will pick up even more pace. Self sufficiency is predicted to remain a priority at the expense of collaboration and globalization.
Expectations about values that would prevail in the new normal may vary from time to time, from one location to the other, and between social and cultural backgrounds. But it would be useful for leaders to form and regularly revisit their view on the prevailing value system. The ability of a public or private enterprise to align its actions with societal values can be a great differentiator when it comes to attracting customers and attracting and retaining top talent. Also, innovation in product and service design, development, and marketing has largely benefited from an understanding of the aspects of life experience clients value and would value over time. Leadership across many leading businesses and progressive nations have already been proactive about embracing the opportunities that come as different or new values prevail. What value shifts bring about new opportunities or risks for your business, team, or career? What strategic choices are you making to capitalize on the opportunities and navigate the risks effectively?