Op-Ed | Colin Lovering: The bottom of the ladder is as important as the top

Mihai Cristea 05/01/2021 | 12:26

For most of us this Christmas included a careful positioning of a laptop at the dining table in place of those missing loved ones. It also included pointing opened presents towards the camera as we shared what Santa Claus (with his mask of course) had brought for us.

By Colin Lovering, Business Performance Advisor/Trainer – Brainovate Creative Leadership Consultants

 

Now it is time we need to positively reflect on 2020 and gather all the various learnings together to begin preparing for the challenging year ahead.

A year, it seems, that will still have a strong element of unknown as Romania still navigates its way out of the clutches of the Covid-19 pandemic. We will all be seeking those rays of sunshine that will, excuse the pun, inject new optimism and longer-term planning and strategies.

For the most part our creativity and adaptability will continue to find the way through despite some industries suffering more than others. Many have adapted and grown through the last few months and we should congratulate all of them.

The Covid Winners & Losers’ categorization of various markets has been reasonably accurate despite some wonderful stories of this adaptability.  But is there an undercurrent that we are not seeing yet that we should pay serious attention to?

A recent survey by McKinsey highlighted a potential challenge for organizations through 2021 as the working from home concept adopted in 2019 starts to settle down into the predicted hybrid working system going forward.

Basically, some people will be able to work from home for a couple of days per week as the norm and others will not.

The report concluded that there was the potential for a divide between higher paid workers in roles that generally do accommodate WFH flexibility versus lower paid jobs that tend to require at least 90% office attendance and therefore very little flexibility.

The development of any ‘them and us’ colleague scenario is a deeply concerning red flag to businesses and a damaging disease that can spread through departments completely unnoticed until it becomes a quite serious infection.

But the challenges do not end there. I mentioned the so called Covid Losers and we must take just a small sample of these to realize that lower paid people can also be the consequential Covid Losers too.

Whether it is in the hotel industry with waiters and cleaning staff losing jobs or in retail with shop assistants. There is a great worry that society in general will be impacted through 2021 as people at the lower rungs of the social ladder will be more deeply exposed to financial hardship going forward.

This exposure is relative of course. When we live in a small village in the country our awareness of material advantages of others is less, and they usually only include observations such as the family at the end of the road having a big house or flashy car.

But when you live in a big city such as Bucharest or Cluj, the differences can be much more profound particularly if you are just managing to make ends meet each month but see others, around you every day that are doing better.

The vulnerability of these hard working people facing social and economic declines in their lives is something we should all be very much aware of. We should also not forget those not even visible on the social ladder such as the homeless who are now moving into an even harder winter this year.

Without getting too political, I personally witnessed how Thatcherism created a very hurtful and wide divide in working classes in the UK that took literally years to repair. As more and more young people in Romania turn to credit cards and loans to sustain their lifestyle, we must predict the inevitable.

Now, I know that the sad picture I paint here is not so dramatic within the general business community. However, we should, as business leaders, recognize and keep a close eye on those human Covid Losers within our lives and organizations to ensure that they are well supported and respected as the new business landscape unfolds in 2021. They may not be so recognizable as we have many young couples living together and dependent on two salaries. So, although one will seem ok, they may still be suffering due to becoming a one income household.

Away from the business world, there has never been a better time to support the local and national Romanian economy. Buying local products and produce, continuing to use the small coffee shop near the office, getting a delivery each week from your local restaurant or just simply supporting a local NGO.

All these pleasurable actions and contributions are literally helping small businesses and people to survive and will, in turn, feed some stability into their potentially fragile world in 2021 and beyond.

This coming new year will indeed highlight the wonderful entrepreneurship of Romanian business leaders. Let’s also keep looking over our shoulder occasionally like the head of a buffalo herd ensuring that nobody is drifting at the back or being left behind altogether.

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