Over the past months, the pandemic has dominated the headlines. Greta Thunberg and the acute focus on climate change is quietly simmering on the backburner while we deal with more immediate threats.
Similarly, focusing on work and what is deemed to be ‘essential’ has shifted, too. This year, in addition to doctors, nurses, and hospital staff, people working at grocery stores and in our supply chain have been the most essential while everyone is working to keep their heads above water.
And in the workplace, it seems like big-value differentiators like the ping-pong table and beanbag chairs are nearly a laughable luxury of the past that seem petty to complain about now with so much going on.
Where this takes me, is the shift in the importance of a company ‘why’. With furloughs and layoffs at an all-time high, being safely employed is more important than the ‘why’ of a company. Safety is riding shotgun while our ‘purpose’ is taking a seat in the back. For now.
What this means is that right now, the ‘how’ of a company is more important than the ‘why’. Where we do our work is more important than why we do it because safety is on the line.
Let’s take it back to a model we’ve likely all seen before. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. At the base of the model is the requirement for our physiological needs to be met. Do we have food, shelter, water? To be our best, this must be true. And while this comes from work, I think we can agree that it would come from any work with a living wage and perform safely.
After physiological needs are met, though, comes a sense of safety and security. Given the craziness of the past months, this is what I believe is the most important aspect to work on.
- How are we keeping our people safe?
- How are people getting their work done?
- How are we working together?
- How are we safe and secure?
If we need to keep our families safe and a roof over our heads, this is going to be the differentiator, not what comes after.
What comes after gets safety gets us closer to our ‘why’ – why we do our work. How are we aligned? What is our common purpose? What is it that we do to make the world a better place and how do we make a difference? To say this isn’t important isn’t fair; it never has been and never will. But today? Today we need to understand that survival and health are first, and our why and purpose come next.
After reading this, you might think that I’m advocating to forget the ‘why’ of our company and focus solely on safety. That isn’t the case. The point I’m trying to make today is that we have to meet people where they are at. The virus is more dangerous than it has ever been and people need to know that by being a part of the team, they are doing all they can to be safe, secure, and able to provide for their families. While some are staying home and working remotely and others are back in the office, it is important to know exactly ‘how’ work is being done if we want to attract and keep the best people for our teams.
Questions to ponder:
- How are you promoting safety at work?
- How are you articulating how the team does their work?
- How is your ‘how’ differentiated from other companies?
- What will the future working styles look like for your tea?
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