Your retention statistics one year from now will be the best indicator of how you have managed the current crisis

Your retention statistics one year from now will be the best indicator of how you have managed the current crisis

14 May 2020
Gerrit Sarens
Gerrit Sarens
  • The current crisis we are going through is for organizations a critical moment of truth, not only financially or strategically, but also from a human perspective. It is an ultimate opportunity for leaders to show that “People and Business in Balance” is more than just a slogan on the wall. During our second virtual round table last week, we discussed three essential ingredients to minimize human damage during the crisis. Three elements you must keep in mind as a leader in crisis periods: transparency, authenticity and solidarity.

  • The importance of transparency

  • Transparency about what?

    Practical issues (remote working creates the need for new frameworks and guidelines)

    • Working hours: when do you expect your team members to be ‘available’ thereby considering that not everyone has the same rhythm of life (think of people with young children).
    • Conference calls: number and duration (avoid Zoom fatigue at the end of the week) but also speaking rules (think of appointing a facilitator for calls with large groups).

    The future of the organization

    • The impact of the crisis on the revenues and cash flow: don’t be afraid to share details on the financial situation of the organization even if this reality creates stress. If people know how the organization is impacted, they will be more willing to accept the measures you must take to secure the organization.
    • Decisions taken by management, irrespective of the gravity and impact: instead of using the intranet or e-mail, communicate in person (e.g. in a group call). This allows you to see people’s reactions and answer to their questions directly.
  • The importance of authenticity

  • Remote working creates stress resulting from:

    • The combination of work and family life;
    • The lack of human contact (no small talk);
    • The difficulty to get recognition from your manager .

    As a manager, you must spend enough one-to-one time with your team members outside the team calls. But remain authentic! Show that you are sincerely interested in how they feel and give them recognition for the work they have done. However, please don’t make it an obligatory task on your to-do list. People feel that immediately.

  • The importance of solidarity

  • This is mainly related to the temporary unemployment measures you take. It’s essential to show that everyone is in the same boat. Don’t discriminate between groups of employees (blue collars, white collars, management and external consultants). Make sure the impact is the same for each group. For management, this is the ultimate chance to lead by example. It will be much easier for people to accept a salary decrease if the same reduction applies to management.

    Moreover, don’t lay off people on an arbitrary basis to safe costs. Maintaining group cohesion is very important in difficult times and afterwards. The negative impact of a partial lay off on the motivation of those who stay is immense. Consider an equal salary decrease for all your team members instead of laying off some of them.

Struggles of a manager

Managers are

  • not or inadequately trained in this role


    • lack self-confidence
    • don’t know how to go from being a colleague to being a boss
    • need to loosen up on the command & control leadership style
    • must let go of the (technical) expert status
    • cannot give or accept constructive feedback
    • feel pressure to perform as manager
    • have difficulty building relationships
    • want to be liked by everyone or want to be the ‘bad boss’
    • play the hero
  • are struggling


    • stay too involved in operations
    • have trouble prioritizing
    • cannot delegate
    • fear conflict situations
    • disconnect from the team
    • deal with flawed strategic thinking
    • do not relate to higher management
    • lack clear communication skills
    • remain not self-aware
    • avoid difficult conversations
    • miss political antennas
    • ...
  • capable of more


    • need mental preparation as successor
    • need to be able to lead big changes ahead
    • need to learn to be emotionally resilient and in control
    • need to learn to make big decisions fast without all the information
    • must become persuasive presenters
    • need to learn how to cultivate their own personal brand
    • need to learn how to lead by example
    • manage by trust, not by fear
    • need to overly develop empathy
    • ...
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