The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a disruption to the global economy that will shape organizations for years to come. On the front lines, employees of essential organizations face uncertainty and fear as they work to deliver services and products to their customers. Employees of non-essential organizations work in isolation from home or face furloughs and the anxiety of unemployment. We all await the unknown end of the crisis.
Our goal as the Wheaton Center for Faith & Innovation is to participate in God’s redemption and restoration of a broken world. The COVID-19 crisis is a moment for action rather than despair. Light shines brighter in the midst of darkness, and in the face of fear and tribulation, love and peace become more radiant.
There is much to be done. Business leaders seek guidance on navigating investments, cash flows, HR, performance, and profitability (or lack thereof). Christian business leaders seek wisdom as they discern how to love their employees, serve their customers, and bear witness to Christ in these uncertain times.
CFI recently reached out to Christian business leaders with the following questions in mind:
- What are the current implications being felt by leaders within the CFI network?
- How are they navigating the disruption of the COVID-19 crisis to integrate faith and wisdom as they discern the way forward?
- What are prayers and concerns that are being felt by leaders around the world? In our exploration of the Christian leaders’ responses, we discovered that the COVID-19 crisis presents an unprecedented opportunity for social innovation and cultural transformation. We are in the midst of a pivotal moment where the gospel of peace can be spread and positive innovations can emerge.
All respondents are professing Christian business leaders. We explored how they are leading within their organizations during this crisis by asking the following questions:
- How is the COVID-19 outbreak impacting your business?
- As a result of your faith, wisdom, and the Holy Spirit’s guidance, what changes are you making in the company?
- How are you supporting your employees at this stressful time?
- How are you supporting your customers at this time?
- What sources of spiritual input and wisdom are you relying on to discern changes you need to make?
- Finally, how can we pray and support you?
Impact of COVID-19 On Business
The number one impact discussed involved revenue. Although a few respondents reported record sales, most have experienced the loss of sales. All of the respondents reported that they had employees who were working from home, and a few essential businesses still had some employees coming to work every day. Whether employees work from home or the office, the way that employees work has changed. Most leaders anticipate that these changes will remain intact in the future. Organizations that are in the essential business category find that business is steady. One organization reported little impact. The rest of the organizations have faced decisions about employee furloughs and financial challenges as they look to the future.
In the midst of the felt impact on revenue and sales for many leaders of organizations, many responses focused primarily on the need to care for employees and customers. The value of communication was emphasized as a critical factor for meeting the challenges of the new workforce norms. As leaders discussed caring for people, they also mentioned praying for and with them. This is a part of relational engagement.
Relational engagement with others flows from our spiritual engagement. Ultimately, all internal or external engagement is based upon the trust that exists between you, the company, and its stakeholders. At times of uncertainty and change, trust is questioned and vulnerable. Trusted relationships of the past are scrutinized, and change is considered. This is a prime and unique opportunity for leaders to strengthen and reassert the foundation of trust among stakeholders.
Trust is based upon shared values between people and organizations. Those values morph into a shared vision, which leads to assumed responsibility and results in consistent delivery on one’s promises. Values are the bedrock of trust. At times of crisis and loss, “nice to have” desires, or negotiable values, are postponed and core life-preserving values of health, stability, and security become primary.
As Christian business leaders, this is a prime opportunity to articulate (communicate) and demonstrate (act) our confidence in the one who created the universe, whose purposes are everlasting, and who holds all things together (Col 1:15-20). This period of abrupt change, uncertainty, and time of loss due to COVID 19 is a moment to reinforce your care for those within your sphere of influence, articulating core beliefs and values of eternal worth and each individual’s value to a loving God. While the path forward may not be clear yet, we know that he is in control and drawing every employee, supplier, and customer to himself through this global pandemic. He will make your paths straight (Prov 3:6).
What does a shared vision look like? Our prayers for clarity regarding priorities, stewarding of resources, managing employees, customers, and supply chain relationships lead us to new dependencies upon God’s grace and provision. It is equally an opportunity to promote the Kingdom by reassuring employees and customers of your faith in God’s purposes and confidence in his redemptive, loving action through the COVID crisis. While loss is painful and can cause great grief, we know that he is using this global crisis for good. In Genesis, we read where Joseph used great wisdom to manage Egypt’s resources in a time of global loss and famine, and we see his faith in God’s purposes and redemptive action revealed in his statement to his brothers who caused great loss and harm to him personally. “What you intended for harm, God intended for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many
lives” (Gen 50:20). We share a vision of people, nations, and communities who flourish in the abundance of God’s love and care for each. This is social innovation with an eternal purpose.
For more on this project see our COVID-19 resources page and check back next week for Part II of our COVID blog series.