If the pandemic has taught business leaders anything, it's this: The question isn't if the next crisis will come, but when.
Because the next change can strike at any moment, leaders and their organizations must be perpetually prepared.
But according to their employees, they're far from ready.
Only 38% of U.S. employees strongly agree that they are confident about their organization's financial future. And most employees -- three out of four -- believe the coronavirus situation will have a negative impact on their company.
In other words, too few leaders are effectively cultivating a sense of stability about the future.
Leaders can bridge the confidence gap and build resilience by examining crisis management best practices from world-class organizations. In Gallup's experience, four critical dimensions have emerged as enduring organizational needs and key areas for leaders to focus on.
1. Reimagine your customer experience.
Predicting demand and customer behavior is harder than ever, yet critical to stimulating cash flow. When the stakes are high, companies need to know their customers to drive loyalty and long-term profits.
Leaders must display ambidexterity by adapting to consumers' needs without compromising overall brand consistency. This requires an intense focus on the customer experience.
When the stakes are high, companies need to know their customers to drive loyalty and long-term profits.
Company leaders should use advanced analytics to test and optimize their customer journey. By reimagining their customer experience, organizations can stay agile to meet changing needs and cultivate loyalty when it matters the most.
2. Reshape your culture to ensure it is an ally to disruption.
Most leaders right now have an enormous opportunity to significantly improve performance by reshaping and strengthening their work culture -- any organization's most critical asset.
Before COVID-19, only four in 10 U.S. employees strongly agreed that the mission or purpose of their company makes them feel their job is important. This is particularly troubling because an organization's culture begins with its purpose.
A weak organizational culture where employees' sense of purpose is lacking leaves organizations more vulnerable to issues like ethical concerns. Plus, it can diminish the organization's brand value and undermine team collaboration and team identity.
In turn, companies lose agility and speed of innovation.
Organizations with strong cultures, on the other hand, are built to withstand disruption.
In strong cultures, leaders and their teams know their purpose and call on it in every decision they make. They more easily align on choices when priorities shift because their core values remain steady. This makes their resulting behaviors more stable even as they react to new circumstances.
3. Refresh your leadership development, and rededicate to core leadership values.
Leaders can't fully predict how a crisis like COVID-19 will impact their teams, but they can be prepared to bring their best leadership selves to the table to deal with it. Leaders need to refresh their tactics too.
Gallup research from late March showed that only 38% of U.S. employees have confidence in the leadership of their organization "to successfully manage emerging challenges."
This confidence gap says a lot about the need for leaders to take a step back and evaluate how they are showing up for their organization. Employees need inspiration and direction from their leaders now more than ever.
In times of grueling disruption, to continually inspire their people, leaders must invest in their own development. They first need to know and apply their most dominant strengths. They also must rededicate themselves to core leadership values that guide their daily decisions.
Leaders shouldn't stop with themselves, though. They should prioritize manager development too -- so leaders at all levels are set up for success.
In times of grueling disruption, to continually inspire their people, leaders must invest in their own development.
4. Continuously reignite your workforce.
Like other times of significant disruption, COVID-19 has dramatically affected workforces. For instance, many employees have been forced to work remotely and deliver the same products and services with fewer hands on deck. Managers have had to adapt to their employees' changing schedules to accommodate childcare needs and health concerns.
New issues like these present an opportunity to reignite workforce strategies that can help leaders manage uncertainties for the long term. To do so, leaders need to continually prioritize their people and build systems that engage and support their teams and inspire high performance.
Disruption can leave leaders in a reactive state as they tackle high-priority problems. But the best leaders don't just resolve concerns -- they take advantage of crises by supporting peak agility and resilience.
To this end, they continually reimagine their customer experience, reshape their work culture, refresh their leadership development and reignite their workforce strategies.
When leaders prioritize these dimensions of business performance, they stay focused on what really matters and inspire their teams to do the same -- even when everything changes.
Learn how to build a culture that enhances your brand, improves business results and fulfills your organization's purpose.
Dipak Sundaram is Director of Consulting Solutions at Gallup.
Heather Barrett is a Senior Consultant at Gallup.
Shannon Mullen O'Keefe contributed to this article.