There are three stages of any crisis – pre-crisis, crisis response, and post-crisis. 

Pre-crisis, the first stage, involves prevention. You try to identify known risks and prevent them from becoming crises. 

But the COVID-19 pandemic, a global health emergency declared by WHO on January 30, 2020, was not the type of known risk organizations were prepared for. 

Within days, businesses found themselves grappling with a global crisis, unlike anything they’d ever experienced. They were forced into the crisis response stage without really knowing how to respond to the evolving uncertainty and risks. 

Fortunately, it’s November 2022 now, and we’re well past the acute phase of the pandemic. But while organizations are in the post-crisis or recovery stage, business leaders can still feel the after-effects of the pandemic. 

Leadership Challenges in the Pandemic-transformed World

The unforeseen event has led to unique challenges that business leaders should focus on to survive and thrive in the post-COVID world. I’m highlighting a few challenges which I believe require immediate attention with some tips that can help leaders to come back stronger-

1. The Talent Shortage

The number of talented workers has fallen considerably since the pandemic. According to an SHRM report, compared to the 3rd quarter of 2019, 3.2 million more Baby Boomers in the US retired in the 3rd quarter of 2020. 

Another report suggests more than 1.1 million women left jobs in the US between February 2020 and January 2022, and most of them are yet to rejoin the workforce. 

With talent shortage at its peak, organizations are expected to compete for the limited talent pool aggressively. 

The Solution?

The right hiring is key to avoiding talent shortage. For leaders and recruiters, it’s essential to know what they need. Start by creating a talent avatar that clearly defines the right fit in terms of experience, skills, and personality needed for the role. And once you have the right talent, leaders should focus on-

  • Reskilling and upskilling
  • Redeploying workforce
  • Offering promotions and higher pay
  • Offering incentives like remote working, reduced workweeks, and flexible schedules
  • Avoid forcing excessive workloads on existing employees and consider hiring part-time employees to pick up the slack

2. Attracting and Retaining Top Talent

According to the JOLTS report from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 10.7 million job openings in the country in September 2022. 

However, the number of unemployed persons per job opening stood at 0.5. So, there is only about 50% of the talent to fill in the job openings. Moreover, 4.1 million employees also quit their jobs in the same month. 

With many employees still quitting jobs and not enough talent to fill the vacancies, attracting and retaining top talent has also become a significant leadership challenge. 

The Solution?

Here are some tips to help employers attract and retain top talent-

  • Rework the hiring process to make it shorter and simpler
  • Limit interviews to fewer rounds
  • Define tasks clearly suited to the employee’s abilities and passion
  • Offer workplace flexibility and stability
  • Help employees connect with the vision and mission of the company
  • Provide opportunities for career growth
  • Recognize employee contribution and keep reminding them how valuable their contribution is for business growth

But most importantly, it is important to treat employees well. The best way to retain employees is to treat your employees how you’d like them to treat your customers. The key is to build an environment of trust, respect, and support.

3. Leading a Hybrid Team

Remote working became the norm during the pandemic. But now that most businesses have reopened, several employees are not keen to return to their workplaces. 

They want employers to implement a more flexible hybrid model that combines work-from-home and work-from-office. According to a McKinsey report, 52% of American employees prefer the hybrid model. 

However, maintaining successful professional relationships with employees (you don’t regularly see face-to-face) is a newfound challenge for most leaders. 

The Solution?

Use these tips to lead a hybrid team-

  • Build a clear hybrid working structure
  • Regularly schedule meetings with every team member
  • Organize online/offline team-bonding activities
  • The out-of-sight-out-of-mind approach could prove detrimental; treat remote employees like office employees and give them due recognition
  • Use social technology tools like Zoom, G-Suite, Slack, etc., for better communication with the team members

Navigating Through the Post-Crisis Phase

Challenges and catastrophes are not new to business leaders. However, none of the past events was as profound as the COVID-19 pandemic. To recover from a calamity like this, leaders need a well-thought roadmap that considers each of the unique challenges the organization is suffering from so that they can effectively tackle them. 

The recovery strategy should also pave the path for a pre-crisis plan so that organizations are better equipped to handle such events in the future. 

Building a truly agile organization is the key to navigating through these challenges.