2020 has been a year that we are likely never to forget. The COVID pandemic has drastically impacted every area of life on a global scale. No segment of life is immune – and it will be some time before people will be able to experience in-person contact without first donning a mask or thinking about social distancing.
Amidst plans to reopen businesses, elective healthcare services, churches, and community services, daily developments require a flexible strategy to curb potential spikes in COVID cases. With a positive view toward recovery, we are cautious about the journey and how long it will take.
The impact on US airlines provides some perspective on our progress and how far we must go. According to the Transportation Security Administration, this past weekend marked the most air travel since the Coronavirus pandemic caused the industry to bottom out this spring. For the first time in 11 weeks, more than 400,000 people were screened by TSA on two days – both Friday and Sunday.
American Airlines reported that this was its busiest weekend since early March, with Sunday being its busiest single day. While this is encouraging, those numbers pale in comparison to typical volumes. The 401,000 travelers on Sunday was only 17% of the same Sunday in 2019. At the lowest point, the average domestic flight departed with fewer than 20 passengers on board. The current average of 54 passengers is a significant improvement, but we obviously have a long way to go.
Through tough times, organizational culture is critical to sustaining productivity and profitability – and of of the most important cultural traits is resilience. While this is true for tough times in general, it is especially true during the COVID pandemic, as pointed out by Gallup’s Jim Harter in his post, “Is Your Culture Resilient Enough to Survive Coronavirus?”
As Harter says, “People’s compounding concerns about their health, financial future, and disrupted lives make this the toughest time most of us have ever experienced.” He sites Gallup’s findings of unprecedented spikes in daily worry and stress, while overall percentages of people “thriving” have dropped to Great Recession-era lows. In such an uncertain and disrupted climate, it takes an exceptional level of resilience for organizations and employees to thrive.
Gallup conducted a global meta-analysis of 62,965 business units and teams, finding that favorable job attitudes have a stronger relationship to organizational outcomes in bad economic times than they do in normal or good times. The study examined how key cultural attributes predicted profitability, productivity, customer perceptions of service, and employee turnover from the mid ‘90’s through 2015. This period included two major economic recessions (2001-2002 and 2008-2009).
The recently published meta-analysis reveals that the relationship between employee engagement and performance changes during crises. During the past major recessions, employee engagement has proven to be even more important.
According to Gallup, if employee engagement is strong, business units are at an increased advantage and more resilient than their peers. They are also at an increased disadvantage and less resilient if employee engagement is weak. The opportunity – and vulnerability – is magnified during a recession or crisis. As a conclusion, thriving and resilient cultures endure through good times and bad.