By Jasmine Glasheen
Fleet is operating in the wake of a pandemic, economic crisis and civil unrest, and trust has become a core issue. According to the global research firm, Edelman, which has been monitoring consumer trust for over two decades, only 47% of consumers say that business has done a good job of ensuring that products and services have been readily accessible during the Covid-19 outbreak. Additionally, 44% say that businesses have done a good job of protecting essential employees whose jobs require them to work outside their home, and even fewer consumers believe businesses are looking out for their employees or partners--only 38% believe they put people before profits, 39% believe they protect employees’ financial wellbeing, and 38% believe they are helping smaller suppliers and partners stay in business by extending them credit or giving them more time to pay.
Perception is everything, particularly in a digital culture where every move is transparent and reported online. During Covid-19, stakeholders are carefully monitoring how companies treat their employees. Are they furloughing employees without pay? Offering paid leave? Extending health benefits for laid-off employees? Do they have the necessary financial capacity to manage these challenges? How do organizations burnish their brands and image? And how does fleet enable trust and resilience among all its stakeholders? Edelman reports that businesses joining the fight against the pandemic is key through donating needed equipment, switching production from what they currently make to what is needed in the fight, and redefining the company’s goals and purpose. We should be prepared for another coronavirus wave if a vaccine isn’t found soon.
Resilience is Value-Driven
Trust starts with a strong mission statement, and your mission statement is what employees will keep coming back to in turbulent times. Rob Asghar, who contributed to The Art and Adventure of Leadership: Understanding Failure, Resilience, and Success, along with Warren Bennis and Steven B. Sample, says that evidence of a leader’s value system is especially important when the future is uncertain and ominous. Clients want to see what drives the companies they work with in times of crisis.
Asghar asks, “Is the leader fundamentally driven by expediency and bottom lines, or by human values and commitments?”
We are living in a time where consumers are demanding unparalleled transparency. As a result, customer-facing companies need to be more conscious than ever of how their supply chain partners look on paper. “Everything (fleet leaders) say or do will be weighed by others as they make gut decisions about their own futures,” Asghar says. “Candor and humility are important here, along with a willingness to show in tangible ways that you genuinely care about their interests.”
Agility Helps Businesses Build from Failure
Failure is a popular topic in the collective business narrative of the moment. It is heralded as a benchmark of growth and eventual success (particularly in tech cultures) and often encouraged by some leaders. But the authors of The Art and Adventure of Leadership caution company leaders not become too glib about massive failures. “We want to be stone-cold sober about the matter: Falling a short distance may allow us to try again tomorrow. Falling a great distance will not.”
There’s a difference between obsessing about unknowns––when businesses will safely reopen, which clients will continue their contracts once nonessential businesses reopen, whether there will be a second wave of coronavirus cases––and weighing the potential outcome of business decisions can control.
Your company’s agility (resilience) is what enables you to deal with contingencies as they come. To some degree, this necessitates maintaining a willingness to let go of your intended business trajectory. “If there's anything we've learned in recent months,” Asghar says, “it is that long-term plans can be wrecked suddenly, and the whole world can tilt in a new direction. You must let go of that symphony you were trying to conduct and to see what the new possibilities are. In short, you can't be rigid.”
Collaboration Strengthens Fleet Organizations
We are operating in uncertain times. To ensure your business can weather whatever storms may come, you will want to prevent leaning too heavily on any one employee. This is where cross-training takes center stage.
Whether you call it succession planning, cross-training, or redundancy, the meaning is the same: training your employees to step up or fill the role of other employees. Should you or your employees fall ill, you need to be able to immediately assign someone else to their role to remain operational. This is particularly relevant for fleet.
Cross-training is one of the most important things you can do to ensure the long-term success of your fleet. Executive coach, author, and redundancy advocate John Baldoni broke it down for NAFA readers:
“Covid-19 has turned the world upside down. Economically we are in a recession. Businesses will be looking for ways to cut expenses. Sadly, that may include layoffs. Employers need to look at what can be cut to help the company prioritize.”
But he does not advocate laying off staff unless absolutely necessary. “Rather than cut staff,” Baldoni continues, “I would look for ways to assign them new responsibilities. Invest in re-training when necessary. The gain you will get in productivity will be even greater in loyalty.”
Cross-training may seem like extra work in the beginning, but it can be a lifeline for your company in times of crisis. Use this time to prepare your business for any unknowns that may come your way––whether they are a result of Covid-19 or future crises.
“For individuals, look for ways to acquire new skills if your job is being eliminated,” Baldoni adds. “Find areas where you can apply your skills to maximize your value.”
Baldoni is also a strong advocate for digital education during shutdowns. “What you do in face to face training you can do virtually,” he says. “It’s a matter of designing programs that maximize technology in ways that deliver information and value.”
Transparency is the Foundation of Trust
A recent Ipsos study found that distrust outweighs trust in business relationships, but transparency is the cure for organizational communications breakdown. Professor Scott Galloway says, “It helps to be a leader and invest early in the medium or technologies that are booming. You have the wind at your back, and those who follow won’t bask in as bright a glow.”
Change is often hard for workers to accept and adapt to. The changes we have lived through over the past several months have been unprecedented, often with on-the-fly solutions. Clear, authentic communication about organizational change ensures that employees are in the loop – building trust. Fleet organizations can give workers a voice in the company’s decisions. Everyone, especially next gen workers, want a seat at the table. If you do not offer one, they may demand it! Through transparency, cross-training, and remaining agile, your fleet will be able to build trust and stay resilient enough to thrive, no matter what the future holds.
Finally, Edelman suggests that we are at a moment of reckoning. It lists five initiatives to build lasting post-pandemic trust:
Tangible action is needed to preserve trust for the long term
Business and government agencies need to collaborate on solutions
Businesses should live up to their multi-stakeholder promises
CEOs must demonstrate public leadership
The return to work in-person is the final test of trust for employees on the front lines
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