Implementing a People-First Strategy During COVID-19

Social distancing may help reduce the transmission of the Coronavirus, but it does little to help businesses thrive – in fact, it threatens to devastate this sector not just here in California but throughout the country as businesses find new ways to communicate with one another.

As COVID-19 rages on, nonessential businesses have been forced to close, now faced with mounting bills for both payroll and rent. In many states, restrictions on businesses will last through the end of May, meaning we’re not out of the woods yet – not even close. Some states are opening up right now, albeit slowly. But with more than 30 million Americans out of work and filing for unemployment, the big picture can look grim.

But that being said, being prepared to weather this storm and its aftermath will be key to who will survive and who will not. That’s why it’s so important to have a clearly defined post-COVID 19 game plan that includes:

  • Social distancing/telecommuting
  • New business organizational structure, roles, and responsibilities
  • Remote work capabilities at the highest level

Let’s discuss how you can preserve or even pivot your business organizational structure to  come out the other side of this stronger than ever.

Companies throughout California and the country as a whole are in crisis mode. How we react will make all the difference, but it’s not just a matter of reacting effectively; we also have to accelerate up the learning curve and quickly draw conclusions that allow us to improve the business sector’s resilience going forward, says BCG.

Embrace and Encourage Smart Work

Flexible working models are crucial in the war on COVID-19 because they drastically cut down on workplace contact. Many of you likely already switched to teleworking and virtual meetings during the early stages of this pandemic. But keep in mind for the future: this isn’t just a temporary Band-Aid to fix a static situation. This may be the new normal for businesses as we baby-step our way through the rest of the year and beyond.

Putting plans in place now as part of your business footprint is wise because you will need them later. Here are some tips for accelerating smart work:

  • Establish remote working: Allow employees to take screens and docking stations home and establish additional VPN gateways for data access. Set up collaboration tools such as Slack, Trello, and Google Hangouts for virtual meetings. These investments in technology and culture change will provide a benchmark for new models of working.
  • Replace in-person meetings with virtual ones:Meetings in the office should be held only when no alternative exists, and even then, security precautions must be met, such as keeping meetings to a minimum, maintaining the six-feet distance between participants, wearing masks and making sure the room has adequate ventilation.
  • Create virtual agile teams: Direct interaction is critical for agile work. With the right tools, your teams can maintain their working models without having to be in the same room. Craft virtual agile boards with fixed team events. Social intimacy within such meetings allows your team members to interact on a more personal level, such as with socialization over virtual coffee, for example. Build-in time for people to work individually, hold one-on-one exchanges, and hold smaller group discussions.

Reduce People Risk

What does your company’s plan for staff absences look like? How prepared you are will determine how deep the economic fallout from this pandemic will go. You are at risk when enough employees – especially key personnel — become ill that normal operations are not able to be sustained. A good plan by an organization that looks ahead will mitigate those risks.


  • Support critical roles: Cluster your workforce by competency rather than organizational structure. Competency clusters breed people who can replace one another rapidly.
  • Split up teams: You can further cut risk exposure by staggering your teams, with employees in critical roles receiving special protective measures, such as exclusively virtual board meetings. Critical staff should avoid occupying the same space by being in different buildings. When you split your critical employee teams, you could mandate, for example, that Team A would work from home for one week, with Team B onsite, and then switch it up for the following week.
  • Contingency staffing and planning: Implement preventive backup solutions to replace key staff, perhaps rehiring retired employees or asking former employees to return to the company.
  • Form a rapid-response team for people priorities: Act directly in a targeted, proactive way immediately, which will require a rapid-response team for people This team should check in with one another every day and report directly to upper management.


COVID-19 is posing one of the biggest corporate challenges affecting business in recent history. But putting effective people-centric solutions in place now will generate a learning curve and help us all to sustainably improve our corporate resilience post-Coronavirus.

Contact Incito Consulting Group

To learn more about implementing a people-first strategy during COVID-19, contact us at 866-697-LEAN or send us a message online. Our business management consulting firm can help during these trying times.

Want to learn more? Schedule a consultation.

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