Last year I spoke a lot about trust. I talked about the importance of having a pioneer mindset. I encouraged transformation & agility. Not just pretty buzzwords but essential for any company to thrive. At the start of 2020 the focus was on evolution; staying relevant, crafting new areas for expansion. Then the coronavirus rolled into town and all of that planning promptly went up in smoke. Instead, like so many others, we shifted to survival mode.

That doesn’t mean coasting along. I’m a firm believer in taking calculated risks and never staying still; you need to keep moving, change up your offering and advance in order to stay relevant. When the pandemic first struck, the knee-jerk reaction was to cut budgets and staff and focus on self preservation. Being the human ostrich seemed to be the favoured approach. This was not my preference. Yes, hard measures needed to be taken (postponing all non-essential spending etc.) but one thing that didn’t waiver during the peak of the coronavirus was the idea of loyalty.

It goes both ways; I expect it from my employees and vice versa. It’s easy to think that job cuts are the only way to stay afloat, but this is a short-term outlook. Eventually, life resumes. Even now, you could be forgiven for thinking things are back to normal until you catch sight of someone in a mask and then it hits you just how much has changed in 12 months.

We’re not out of the woods yet and it’s now that things will get harder. Now comes the fallout as we examine the extent of the damage. Now is when you need your best people to sift through the rubble and help you rebuild, so what are you going to do if you’ve fired them all? In the grand scheme of things, it’s loyalty that matters most. Demand will come again and until then it’s about re-skilling and redistributing the workload, placing team value high on the agenda. The narrative, at least in the business world, has been focused mainly on the economic cost of the pandemic, but what about the human cost? We cannot afford to lose sight of this.

The economy will bounce back, but it will take time. We are fortunate in this region that the government has acted swiftly and decisively in order to safeguard people’s wellbeing, whilst still keeping companies afloat. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a lot of closures, places that are struggling etc. but if you compare our situation to the rest of the world, we have a lot to be thankful for.

And that’s one of the biggest lessons we’ve learnt living through a pandemic – to be thankful. Appreciating the small things, getting to know people better, actually making time for the ‘non-essential’ things. It all helps at a time when we are all still working remotely. When people are secure in the knowledge that they have a job and the company is steady, efficiency is better, morale is higher; it’s not exactly rocket science.

Ultimately, you want a team around you that are as committed as you to getting back on track. There’s no room for any weak links in the chain anymore; everyone has to be on the same page, working as one or further setbacks are inevitable. It’s been a tough lesson for businesses to learn but maybe it was a long time coming.

Here’s four thoughts I’ve had when considering the idea of loyalty this year and how businesses can use this to succeed in future…

  1. ‘All For One & One For All ‘Mentality: The top down management approach is dead and has been for some time, it’s just taken a shift to remote work for everyone to get fully on board. Now, we’re working in streams and in collaboration, so whatever you decide to implement should be rolled out across everyone, regardless of position or seniority. I truly believe this will make all the difference in how you are perceived as a leader and the only way to garner true respect; be all for one, and one for all.
  2. Be Open & Honest: Don’t communicate behind closed doors – it will only encourage rumours to spread and discontent to fester. Be upfront with your management team and decide together what messages will go out to their teams and when. Regular updates are important, but don’t just speak for the sake of it either. Be consistent with what you’re telling one person to the next – we have enough misinformation spreading online, don’t let that become a template for your workplace as well.
  3. Give Autonomy: This goes hand in hand with the above – when employees feel informed and in control, there’s less chance they will a) look elsewhere and b) disengage from work. Autonomy is another buzzword we all love to throw around, but again, having to work remotely has helped this become a reality. The barriers have broken down and allowed individuals to shine. I’m all for accountability and if anything 2020 has helped us identify who is ready to step up and progress.
  4. Practice Gratitude In The Workplace: Now, those of you who know me are aware of my limited tolerance for anything that isn’t practical and tangible, but there is something in taking a moment to appreciate those around you and what they have contributed. With no festive gatherings this year, it’s important to still acknowledge the work that’s been done and celebrate the achievements. So, Team MMPWW – thank you for all you’ve done this year and continue to do – you are all fantastic. We have overcome the worst and I believe that things will now start getting better, slowly and steadily.

And with that, I’ll sign off for the year. See you all in 2021.

by Ayman Haydar,