Addressing the Coronavirus Crisis and Corporate Response
In this global pandemic crisis, every company is being tested. No matter how much time was put into emergency planning it is difficult to imagine that anyone could have foreseen the scope and nature of the current crisis. But we are about to experience and witness an important test.
Companies have to recognize the nature of the crisis, the impact on their operations, prepare consumers, employees and stakeholders for the impact, and then communicate accurately the expectations and plan.
This process, however, has been jeopardized by the federal government’s failure to lead, to provide accurate information and to communicate a plan and then execute it. The danger of lack of accurate information has had a dramatic impact on corporate response, planning and assistance.
State and local leaders have stepped up to fill the gap. But we still need federal leadership and there is no excuse for its failure. The absence of federal leadership has resulted in growing fear and loss of business confidence as reflected in the stock market.
I am not advocating any specific political perspective – the federal government’s failure to lead, the absence of testing for the virus, and transparent and honest communications by all involved has compounded the problem exponentially.
The United States is a great country that has overcome challenges in the past. When these horrific tragedies have occurred, the federal government has been the leader in rallying the country, state and local governments, and ultimately, the global response.
The American people are resilient. I am an eternal optimist. But we have not faced in the past a pandemic the scope of which is likely to be wide with a dramatic impact on every aspect of American life. This will pass but with unfortunate suffering and death.
For companies, business continuity planning in response to a pandemic is a serious challenge, and companies have to plan, communicate, implement a response strategy and recover from this serious pandemic.
Companies are trying to catch up – our email in-boxes are filled with messages from companies acknowledging the pandemic and the impact on their operations.
For compliance professionals, the current situation is a real test as well. With an emphasis on remote working from home, when available, and the need to address coronavirus risks at the workplace, compliance officers will need to step up, reiterate crisis messaging to employees, and focus company staff on safety and employee well-being, both physical and psychological.
Companies will face questions from their employees, and have to reassure employees with a plan that is communicated about their safety and job security. This is not a time to make drastic or dramatic changes to a company – instead, this is a time for clear and honest communications with efforts to bring the company, the employees and stakeholders together to make it through this difficult challenge. It will be hard and we should all expect significant suffering. In the end, the American people, its leaders and our communities will rise to the occasion.