Successfully returning to the workplace is the priority as you reopen your business. But recovery from the COVID-19 crisis is also an opportunity to reframe your organization’s future.

There is no doubt that COVID-19 has had an impact on the way the world works, and that the future of work will never be the same. Organizations around the world had to adapt quickly to immediate challenges — remote working, video meetings, cloud management and more — to continue operations. Today, business leaders are confronting unprecedented issues as they return to the physical workplace and adjust to new rules of society and work.

During a recent virtual learning event with YPO’s strategic learning advisor EY, global chief executives gained insight from EY subject matter specialists, Randy Tavierne, Scott Mullan and Stasia Mitchell, on how leading companies are employing a two-gear approach to respond to and prepare for a reimagined future. While mitigating risks for employees and customers to ensure a trusted transition is a priority, recovery from the COVID-19 crisis is also an opportunity to reframe your organization’s future for the better. Here are nine tips on how businesses can move from a growth-economy business model to a value-based one.

Look at your drivers of growth

“Creating a framework for how to move your business forward begins with a look at what the business will do with each of the EY 7 Drivers of Growth now, next and in the beyond,” says Tavierne, EY Private Global Assurance Leader. The EY 7 Drivers of Growth include people, technology, operations, customer, finance, transactions and risk. Most businesses will continue to shift back and forth to gear one, creating trust among all stakeholders and transitioning to a new sense of normal in the workplace, on an ongoing basis. In the second gear, they can adapt the business and increase resilience, with a particular focus on customers, before leveraging the drivers of growth to move beyond COVID-19 and thrive.

Apply learnings to model, iterate and pivot

Business leaders need to reflect on learnings, work through multiple timelines and scenarios, be prepared for sudden changes, and make adjustments accordingly. “We’re not through this yet and we have to keep adapting, learning,” says Mullan, Principal, EY Consulting. The larger questions to address in the next phase are who is the new customer, what are the customer’s needs, and how can I protect and engage my employees. These are not problems business leaders have solved in the past, and as a result, many are learning from and sharing with others as they work through various challenges. Market leaders will quickly adapt, increase resilience, and ultimately leverage the EY 7 Drivers of Growth to thrive.

Create a thriving environment

Mitchell, Global Entrepreneurship Leader EY Private and a YPO member, says a business leader must exhibit 10 traits to thrive in the post COVID-19 economy: decisiveness, agility, ambition, a strong communicator, a creative problem solver, resiliency, a passion for purpose, ability to think big, bravery and generosity. “There are a lot of unknowns out there,” says Mitchell. “There is a need to lean on others. It’s going to take this collective trust to move to the next [level] and beyond, and these are the three pillars that will make a bigger difference: a deeper dive in purpose, showing up generously and then opening that communication.”

Working toward a higher purpose

An entrepreneur’s ability to focus on a higher purpose in all aspects of the business, to embed it in the work culture even in the reasoning behind mask-wearing and layoffs, and to communicate it to all stakeholders is particularly important. Mitchell likens it to a GPS, showing you if you are heading in the right direction. For example, Hamdi Ulukaya, Founder and CEO of Chobani and EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year™ in 2013, turned his New York location into a food pantry during the COVID-19 crisis and is supporting America’s food banks through the sales of the Food Bank Batch PB&J.

Build trust moving forward

Being generous, not just with time but with attention, ideas and understanding has also become a priority during these difficult times. It increases the connection among employees and makes them feel safe. “While emotions are high, sensitivity and generosity will put a leader steps ahead,” says Mitchell. Providing digital mental health services or time off to join rallies she says, are all ways to bring order to uncertainty, create a path towards stability and build trust.

It’s going to take this collective trust to move to the next and beyond, and these are the three pillars that will make a bigger difference: a deeper dive in purpose, showing up generously and then opening that communication. ”
— Stasia Mitchell, Global Entrepreneurship Leader EY Private share twitter

Communication is critical

More than ever, the ability to communicate to all stakeholders is key. “Great communicators value contributions from many people and they are giving them a voice,” says Mitchell. For example, Dr. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Executive Chairperson and Managing Director of Biocon Limited and EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year 2020, uses social media to communicate her views on compassionate capitalism on a large scale. YPO member Brad Keywell, CEO of Uptake Technologies and EY World Entrepreneur of the Year 2019, opted to write a personal letter to his team every Sunday, creating a sense of intimacy and openness. 

Adjust efforts for a range of internal and external conditions

Business leaders will need to create their own individual phased physical return-to-work plans based on public health data and a range of external and internal factors. Rob Lowe, CEO of Lowe Enterprises and a YPO member, faced unique challenges for different business divisions. For the corporate offices, the process was relatively straightforward: ensuring remote work and connection through Zoom calls during the initial shutdown and a return to 50% in the workplace in the second phase. However, pausing and reopening a complicated resort hotel was completely different: revenues plummeted, furloughs were high and virtual communication was more difficult.

Reopening created a different set of issues: safety, a new customer base and varying state regulations. “When we reopened, we really only had one customer: the drive-to-leisure guest and so we had to create a whole different operating model to serve that one component,” says Lowe. As a result: many parts of the facility are still not open, some employees have been brought back from furlough, others will be added back over the next few months and others have been permanently laid off.

Create a human-centric approach

For John Kramer, CEO of Cambridge Air Solutions and a YPO member, it was necessary to place the health, safety and well-being of his employees at the center of the company’s response in order to remain open as a critical infrastructure company. To do so, Kramer created a COVID-19-team focused on building trust among its employees in both the physical and remote workplaces.

“Two years ago, we made the decision to use technology as a competitive advantage,” says Kramer. “We had daily rhythms that were a springboard.” The team created Zoom morning meetings to maintain open communication and to foster relationships virtually. Two WhatsApp groups connected employees without email for informational and social purposes. Through weekly polls, the organization found that their employees felt safe and wanted to return to work and, as a result, they doubled in-office capacity in July.

Work through multiple scenarios

Going forward, three key focus areas will drive progress: health and safety, technology, and physical space. Companies that will be successful in the post-COVID-19 world will put people first and work to meet the needs of the various stakeholders. When working through how to bring the employee, customer, or citizen successfully back, Mullan says to think through the experience, the well-being and capabilities, physical versus digital, data and technology, in order to create a plan. “Go through these with various scenarios,” says Mullan, “so you can create your own roadmap and create the employee and market impact you desire.”

Connect with EY

EY is YPO’s strategic learning advisor.

YPO members can check out the global discussion with EY and other global business leaders here.

For more crisis leadership stories like these check out the COVID-19: Leading Through Crisis page on All YPO members can find breaking news, offer insights and view current discussions happening about COVID-19 impact within the YPO community on the YPO member-only platform.