In a matter of weeks, life has changed beyond recognition. The world is different. So we need to think differently. But first, retreat back a hundred years and take a recce at the Pals’ Battalions of World War One…
When war broke out in 1914, Lord Kitchener, then British Secretary of State, believed the key to victory was overwhelming manpower and set about looking for ways to encourage men to enlist. It was suggested they’d be more inclined to join the Army if they could serve alongside their friends, relatives and workmates.
The idea was battalions of pals, battalions in which friends from the same workplace or town would fight shoulder to shoulder for each other and for a common purpose: the honour of Britain. The scale of the response was astounding. Within a month 500,000 had volunteered and another half a million had joined them by the end of the year. These troops had a shared purpose they believed in. And they drew on that solidarity as they marched together into what faced them.
Winding forward to 2020, the world is gripped in a pandemic that has ambushed life as we know it. Towns and cities are in lockdown, we’re forbidden to go out or be near each other and business has ground almost to a halt. Our employees are feeling frustrated, disconnected, some even fearful.
Before COVID-19, the world was already in employee engagement freefall with only a fraction of the workforce engaged in their work. This costs businesses billions each year in lost productivity and growth, and the impact of COVID-19 will only make it worse. To keep business running, operational, advancing, progressing, we need our employees to be engaged more than ever. But currently they’re crying out for clarity, purpose and hope for some kind of future.
Among the devastation, there have been upsides – air pollution has reduced globally and wildlife is re-emerging in newly clear waters and landscapes. While we’ve had to pause, the earth hasn’t – it’s repairing, changing, reacting to this new environment in a hopeful and positive way. Could this be a chance for the world’s business to do the same?
How long will it be before we get back to ‘normal’? Will things ever be like they were? Would we even want that? Or shall we seize this extraordinary and unplanned opportunity to make a progressive kind of recovery? Do it differently. Shape an entirely new world.
The time to do that is now. Seriously. We can reset, start again, do it properly, do it differently. Bring to life the ambition we had but felt the time was never right, the change was too great, behaviours too entrenched. The opportunity is now for major change. The time is now to get the story straight.
Providing our employees with a strong and clear purpose they believe in will also give them a shared responsibility and a sense of control. In it together, they’ll feel calmer, in sync, have empathy and stability. They’ll feel organised and united.
Likewise, we can act together too – collectively, to give our people purpose, a future they can believe in. Our people will become our power. Keeping the world working.
This is a call to arms: let’s play our part, empower our people, shape the new world in a new way.
If you’ve tactics to share or want help to empower your own people, let’s talk.