Business as Us: Prioritizing People in Time of COVID-19: The E&C Pulse - April 22, 2020

April 22, 2020
Ben DiPietro

April 22, 2020

Business as Us: Prioritizing People in COVID-19 World


After more than a month of people being asked to stay in their homes, there is talk of businesses set to reopen in a number of states, in the hopes of getting life restarted and bringing back “business as usual.” 


One thing: that’s very unlikely to happen, based on comments from three ethics and compliance leaders last week during an LRN webinar that I moderated. 


“As ethics professionals we need to help our companies understand why we are in business--not for the profit but for the impact to society,” said Jim Massey, a sustainability and wellness leader at pharmaceutical company Astra Zeneca. "That’s all that needs to be maintained.”


Before the pandemic, Massey said he viewed business continuity as how could the business keep going and profit. “If people were involved, we needed to protect them,” he said. “But it was always about the business.”


Now, what Massey is trying to get leaders in his organization to focus on what he calls “business as us,” shortening the usual because “usual is no longer in existence." It’s all about people now, he said. "I’m really bringing the societal conversation into the business continuity of why we’re in business.”


But some people and some companies are more ready and more prepared to conduct business now than others, and each situation must be evaluated on an individual basis, said Lisa Beth Lentini Walker, founder of consulting and wellness firm Lumen Worldwide Endeavors.


This also is an opportunity for ethics and compliance officers to really be of service to their company, their community, to the people they work with and for which they are responsible, she said.


“It’s a Tale of Two Cities, almost. There’s groups of people that are not embracing that, and are so stuck in the grieving process for what was that they can’t function well, and they’re not providing value,” said Lentini Walker. 


Then there are people who are pivoting and learning about other areas, such as cyber, where many organizations are struggling to get employees safely connected and working together from their remote locations. Some CECOs are deciding what can be put on a lower priority to lessen stress on other units, or figuring out what must be elevated and given a higher priority, she said.


“It’s all over the board but really very individual,” said Lentini Walker. “You have to look at all that risk profile, and then decide what’s really important.” 


Samantha Kelen, chief ethics and compliance officer at Cardinal Innovations Healthcare, said she and her team are trying to figure out what the balance is, and looking for ways to reduce burdens on others. 


“Maybe now is not the time to do that audit,” said Kelen. “How can we be supportive? How can we handle reminders about how to handle personal health information from home? Because most people haven’t had to do that. Ask how you can help.” 


It’s vital to use your time well, but not to annoy people, as that comes off as tone-deaf, said Kelen.


“That I think can be really damaging to all the work we’ve done to this point to build relationships, to build trust and credibility. It’s a really fine balance," she said. "We have goals, we have work plans, we have things we have committed to, but rushing ahead to complete those versus respecting where we are at right now, it won’t serve us well in the long run.”


                                                                                                            BEN DIPIETRO




After COVID-19, every organization, in a sense, will be a healthcare organization.


Laura Sherbin of Culture@Work, a recent guest on LRN's Principled Podcast, writes in Thrive Global about her life as an economist during the pandemic, using numbers to illustrate the range of her feelings as a wife, mother, and executive.


The head of the Centers for Disease Control says a second wave of COVID-19 is expected to strike, and likely will be worse than what's happened so far. 


With oil so cheap, should climate activists buy up wells and shut them down?


Will companies take a "pause" on compliance to help boost business after COVID-19? Richard Bistrong wonders what that might mean in the FCPA Blog.


Kritsy Grant-Hart writes about the art--and the necessity--of the pivot.


Workers have never been so emotionally vulnerable as they are now, working from home, LIz Fosselin writes in First Round. 


Africa is likely to suffer the most as the world economy recovers from COVID-19.


There's no room for corruption in the COVID recovery, WEF says. 


Forbes offers up an article on the importance of managing disruptive people.


The pandemic prompted the postponement of the fraud trial for Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, Reuters reports.

About the Author

Ben DiPietro

Joined LRN in October 2018 after 30 years as a journalist, including seven years at The Wall Street Journal, including Risk & Compliance Journal and was a creator of the WSJ Crisis of the Week column. In 2015 was named one of the 100 most influential people in business ethics by Ethisphere Institute. Spent 14 years as a reporter in Hawaii, 11 with The Associated Press.

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