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Ask Madison: What will be changed from this crisis?

April 21, 2020
| ByDan Davenport

Life will be now known as Before COVID-19 and After.

There are moments in our lives that alter our realities and create the tick-marks on our timelines like marriages, first jobs, births, divorces, deaths, retirements and more. Certain communal events of grand magnitude also are engrained in time and cause us to reflect on “before [blank] and then “after [blank]” as if they determine the trajectory of our paths; examples like the assassination of JFK, 9/11 and now the COVID-19 pandemic. This specific event transcends others because the COVID-19 has enveloped every corner of the world. All individuals, everywhere, from young children to the oldest generation, will remember this moment of “social distancing” and “shelter at home”. 

From life practices to how we work, there will be elements in our lives that will change forever based upon this crisis. From our everyday commute (to the office or the dining room table), to our renewed appreciation for our free lifestyles, and to how we embrace our employees, colleagues and peers at work, COVID-19 pandemic will have left a lasting imprint on humankind, the working world, and life in general.

Our views and expectations in life and work will be altered

  • Social distancing will be the Webster dictionary word of the year and we will have a protocol of how to practice it.
  • We witnessed renewed resilience among families, neighbors, employees, much like 9/11, but on a much grander scale we banded together in many instances to help each other. Strangers created delivery services to the most vulnerable; we took a moment to relish in any good news among the constant flow of bad, and new innovations will be borne to help us adapt to any future disruptions.
  • We had to learn how to creatively play outside again and learn ways to self-occupy – without an organized effort. And many people may have found the time to tackle issues or projects they may have put off in the past because of overloaded schedules.
  • We learned to get by on less. At the risk of sounding philosophic, this collective pause allows reflection and a step away from our world of instant gratification. When the government noted that going without the bag of chips or box of cookies for a week was important in order to save lives by staying home and stopping the spread, we did it and made do without.

Entire industries learned they can change direction on a dime. We will see a significant change in how we work, what our routines will be and new business models launched.

  • We mobilized quickly and now every company will be sure to have an emergency preparedness/crisis management plan put in place. Just as how schools, businesses and government buildings invested in active shooter drills, training and protective equipment; and areas prone to hurricanes and other natural disasters have disaster-response plans, all businesses large and small, in all industries will have a protocol to stem infection, create social distancing procedures and modify business operations. Households will also follow suit, as Bloomberg reported an uptick in the acquisition of emergency prep kits.
  • Remote working will be a dominant business model and organizations will seek to rely more on contract workers. Organizations may realize that by having that flexibility, less overhead from fully-operational and occupied buildings and a versatile workforce with a mix of permanent and contingent labor, they are more agile to respond to critical events and emergencies that force immediate change.
  • Convenience-based business models will continue to sky-rocket. Grocery and essential goods ordering tools, deliveries, curbside pick-up, take-out – for months we have and will still become accustomed to these types of services and will find that we will continue to rely on them for the foreseeable future.
  • Healthcare will always be recession-proof, but healthcare worker mobility and crisis management healthcare positions will increase so that we can turn to leaders who will travel in a pinch and who can unite a response effort in a large healthcare facility quickly and efficiently.
  • Education will be changed forever and a newfound interest in our youth’s education and the impact of our teachers will be remembered. Entire school districts either ramped up their already-established virtual school system, or some that didn’t have the capabilities in place created alternative lesson plans that could be carried out at home. Schools found ways to feed children who depend on the structure of the school day for their meals. Teachers were trained on new systems, in some cases within a week, and delivered online lessons for students. As systems went live, there were hiccups, capacity overloads and a plea for patience. However, as online systems began running more efficiently, it laid the groundwork for how we will be prepared if faced with another crisis, or as a catalyst to exploring potential new educational methods. With the changeover to virtual environments, the educational system’s workforce will continue to expand beyond teachers and administrators and districts will be incorporating business managers, technology professionals, and specialized trainers to be able to support an online model. We may see a new model of a virtual school hybrid model, with time spent in the building as well as at home to alleviate overcrowding in some of our schools.

Employee rewards and recognition programs will evolve once more

Whether it’s to recognize workers who are remote or had to significantly step up their efforts as essential workers, or because we need to focus on being a positive constant in the lives of our employees to see them through this crisis, the systems we have in place will adapt.

  • Social recognition programs, will increase tremendously because it’s an easier platform to engage in especially with a remote workforce and social distancing guidelines in place.
  • We will begin investing in programs that recognize the whole being, not just the employee at work. During the COVID-19 crisis, individuals engaged in activities that serve humankind. Employee recognition programs will grow to be able to reward team members for what they do outside of the workday or through the causes they champion. Listen to our own Judd Weisgal, Senior Vice President of Madison in a recent "White Swan" podcast series discuss more.
  • We will see an increase in hospital and other industries that are in the front line embrace recognition programs for their employees. A program to disseminate virtual rewards that can be redeemed by first responders, nurses, doctors and crisis management personnel would be a first step. It is difficult amidst shelter in place and stay-at-home orders to deliver rewards to others who need it most. Having a system where you can set up an account in someone’s name or a location (such as a hospital) and use it as an online receptable to upload rewards to be redeemed would eliminate the need for physical engagement and allow recipients to redeem at their convenience.
  • Our reward programs will benefit from bestowing experiences in lieu of material things. This pause has allowed us to remember the things we like to do, not necessarily the things we like to have. Rewards systems will evolve into being able to recognize someone with a moment they can remember and cherish – like a trip, an outing, a lesson, or simply time for their leisure.

Companies that have plans in place for business continuity will emerge from the crisis intact, but an important element of that plan is keeping the happiness and the well-being of employees top of mind. Having a robust, versatile and malleable employee reward and recognition program in place is a crucial component for companies to thrive during a crisis and after it ends.

It’s important to remember that for every crisis, there is an end in sight. We will begin to have celebrations again, meet up with colleagues for events, and fill up our calendars with trips, games and appointments. Our timelines will be forever changed by the COVID-19 crisis, and hopefully the spirit of humanity that we saw rise during this time will be impressed as a permanent mark.

At Madison, it’s not business as usual, but instead, we are focused on support. Supporting our invaluable customers by maintaining business continuity, sharing advice about new working models and providing an opportunity to connect with others. 

While you adjust to your new working routine – whether it be at home or part of an essential service - please join the conversation. Ask Madison is an opportunity to share ideas, ask questions and help create our ‘new normal’, together. We believe that employee recognition is an essential business function and that, now more than ever, it is our responsibility to celebrate each other, recognize every milestone and collaborate together—even though we may be sitting apart.

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