Mark Topley reveals the important steps businesses need to take to succeed post-COVID-19.
The disruption of the past six months has changed every sector of society. It’s rare for any generation to experience an event that leaves no one unaffected, whether rich or poor.
But with challenge also comes opportunity. There have been notable advances in clinical workflow with the use of video consults. There have been several tech innovations that have been accelerated to market. New ways of working have made some things better.
In fact, for many, business has grown, with increases in new patient numbers, and teams pulling together, delivering beyond expectation. However, I’m acutely aware of the large number of businesses who are struggling to reopen, get their teams to re-engage, and attract nervous customers back through the doors.
The differentiator from my observation is whether or not the business did the right things during lockdown. And these ‘right things’ centre around things that group together under ‘purpose’. Caring for their people, and their community.
Here is a summary of what the successful practices did well in lockdown:
Cared for their teams
The first few days before the furlough funding was announced was an anxious time for everyone. With little information and very little clarity about how things would pan out, the best principals and managers took immediate steps to reassure their teams. They took control of the narrative, and also showed their teams that they were in it together.
They took steps to protect physical and mental health. The emotional impact of lockdown on many has served to exacerbate depression and anxiety. It has placed huge stress on those caring for the vulnerable. Also on those trying to juggle home schooling with work for home.
A number of my clients really upped their game in this regard and have reaped the benefits with loyalty and goodwill. For staff who kept working, the best practices made sure they recognised their efforts.
Overall, they simply communicated that they had their team’s back.
Lockdown provided an opportunity to care for patients in ways that few other providers could. ‘Care calls’ provided a lifeline to the vulnerable and lonely. Practices used their patient database to call people in the at-risk groups, and offer help where they could.
They encouraged and supported patients with clear and regular information – how to get clinical help, signposting to additional services they could access, and sharing what they were doing to help out the community – whether that was delivering care packages, volunteering or supporting their neighbours.
The pandemic was, and still is, an opportunity to really step up as a business and show that you care about your community. Your social media channels are a great way to share information that will help people to access services and be better informed. The successful practices also inspired people with their actions. In addition, they talked about the good things they were doing in the community.
Study data shows that simply witnessing an act of kindness makes us feel better. The best practices didn’t switch off their public communication or raise the drawbridge – they used the opportunity to connect with the public and demonstrate their values.
Connected with the community
Finally, responsible practices used their time and resources to make a difference. They connected with their community at a time when it was never more important. This outward focus not only made a difference, it also had the knock-on effect of giving the practice a sense of greater purpose. Just some of the ideas I saw utilised:
- Signposting people to services, and connecting to support them
- Joining COVID-19 Mutual Aid UK and other local groups to strengthen their efforts
- Supporting food banks – my local food bank saw a 200% increase in genuine demand in the first week of the pandemic. Practices donated food, time and money
- Encouraging their team to volunteer – furloughed staff could volunteer with no risk to their income.
What does the future hold?
These elements of communication, leadership, community engagement, combined with care for the environment are the critical ingredients of corporate social responsibility (CSR). For businesses that want to succeed post- COVID-19, and win over a workforce and a consumer base that expects more, it’s becoming more important daily. A structured approach to CSR gives your practice exactly this.
The three pillars of CSR are:
- Leadership and people – looking after and inspiring your team, treating your patients and stakeholders well
- Environment – covering the basics of reduce, reuse, recycle wherever possible, and taking positive steps to reduce your carbon footprint
- Charity and community engagement – making a structured and positive impact on charities and your community through fundraising, volunteering and donating skills.
Few practices would deny that these are positive aims. But most would struggle to find a means to achieve them. Particularly as there is so much else to do.
More practices and businesses are finding that a structured approach to these CSR pillars, integrating them into the businesses’ core strategy (as most consumers expect) reaps positive results all round:
- Increased team engagement, trust, loyalty and a sense of common identity
- Enhanced patient perception, differentiation from competitors, increased trust and loyalty
- Consistent and improved impact for good causes – locally and further afield.
An engaged team united by a sense of purpose and committed to your values, and a willing and supportive social licence to operate from your community will be vital in the coming months and years. That’s why placing a higher purpose at the heart of your business now is a smart move.
Mark Topley: The CSR coach helps business owners and managers to grow their leadership, teams and business with corporate social responsibility. For more information, visit www.theCSRcoach.uk.
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