When Presented With Lemons…Make Lemonade

The COVID-19 pandemic is a unique moment in our collective human history. Not even the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic compares. It was possibly more tragic in terms of deaths and lack of proper healthcare and services, but COVID-19 is proving more of a challenge for our modern world and economy. Naturally, people, specifically employees, are the ones hurting most.

Most people respected the government’s initial shutdown of their economy for the sake of protecting the collective health and lives of their populations. As a result, many countries took a huge hit to their economies, resulting in significant job losses and bankruptcies. Naturally, decisions of this magnitude are not taken lightly and the people directly affected recognize this short-term effort was for the greater societal good. Living in socially-minded countries, as I do living in Canada, the government provided a safety net for those who have fallen victim to the pandemic.

Government support is not just for those who lost their jobs but it also provided support mechanisms for employers to retain staff and offset operational fixed costs, such as wage and rent subsidies. Quite generous but, considering what we’ve been facing, probably expected.

Now that we’re well into the pandemic and even into a second wave, what are the employer’s responsibilities to employees especially those who’ve received government support? Being an idealist, you’d think they would seek to rebuild and restore the economy for everyone’s benefit. Like I said, this is an idealistic perspective. In reality, employers are largely opportunistic and will usually capitalize on people’s desperation.

Then what’s actually happening? Well, the current COVID employment market has become every employer’s dream. Even though most organizations don’t want to see an economic slowdown, when it happens, they will make lemonade with the lemons they have.

One economic lemon is high employment. High unemployment for employers is the golden opportunity for being exceptionally selective in who they hire, hiring only the best, and often desperate, employees at bargain salaries. This is good news for small businesses, as it offers them hope and a chance to compete equally and more effectively. For large companies, however, it is an opportunistic strategy meant only to satisfy stakeholders’ profitability through significant salary savings. It also offers indirect benefits for innovative capacity, hiring qualified people at a low cost.

This situation probably doesn’t sound that bad to you and saying, « look, everyone wins…what’s the harm? » The harm is from the employee perspective and chances are you’re most likely an employee, not an owner. Owners and stakeholders benefit most with little to no consequences. These stakeholders convince employees into believing that this is the way it is supposed to work and it promotes authentic market capitalism and greater personal wealth. But greater personal wealth is for them, not for you.

Developing A Strong Employee Environment

This opportunistic premise sounds like a broad generalization, however, the belief is deeply embedded among leaders, employees, and society. The propagation of this false premise does more harm in the long term than good. I believe in responsible capitalism. This requires a collective approach to developing a strong employment environment and free-market society to the benefit of everyone.

There are, however, many leading organizations and leaders that believe otherwise, who believe in responsible capitalism. They believe in the welfare and growth of their employees and the health of their environments. Seek these organizations out; work for them; and ascend to lead them. These are the ones who believe in responsible capitalism and will do right for every stakeholder.

4 Ways To Secure Your Employment

Naturally, individually we won’t change the world overnight but there are 4 things you can do now to present a positive example and secure your employment.

1. Do Unto Others…

Every religion states the Golden Rule in some form which is « do unto others as you would have them do unto you. » The simplicity of this rule is about reciprocity, cooperation, and collaboration, something lacking in our society today. Understandably, business is seen as a competitive, survival of the fittest environment. While there is some truth to this, there is also tremendous power when business, government, and society come together.

2. Be Curious…

Learning is inherent to every human on this planet. We’re hard-wired to learn. Learning is fundamentally about survival. We learn for two reasons: 1) to avoid repeating past failures and 2) to improve our current state (read: The World’s So Bright, Gotta Wear Shades!). Both points apply to your personal and professional development. Learning is never a « one and done » activity, it should never be; and being human, it can never be. You are only as good as your last learning interaction. It is incumbent upon you to learn from past mistakes and to become better than you are today. Never stop being curious and always be factually informed.

3. Take Control…

Too often our instinct is to fall victim to what’s happening around us. Blame is usually our first reaction. Successful individuals condition themselves to take back control. Even when they fail or are adversely affected by certain situations they discover opportunity rather than wallowing in what was lost. In a work environment, success comes to those who practice internal entrepreneurialism. Before you say, « my boss would never allow that, » actually, they would and they want it and expect it, within context. Doing so actually helps and relieves the performance pressures they must answer to. Take control and initiate new ideas, sometimes it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.

4. Dare To Be Different…

As stated previously, the pandemic presented us with the opportunity to change, become wiser, become better, more relevant, and innovative. Current times demand innovativeness and a different way of thinking and addressing problems. This your time to express your uniqueness and to share the most creative, and dare I suggest, the wildest ideas you have. The world changed and it now expects ideas and approaches once ridiculed, discounted, or discarded. Again, you may say, « this won’t fly with my boss »; I say, they are desperate for new approaches but don’t know how to ask. So, share.

A New Day, A New Way

Granted, there is tremendous economic volatility, especially in this exceptional time of unpredictability we are currently living. This is more reason to see this moment in time as an opportunity to control your destiny and seek out opportunities where you can share your intrinsic value. You will demonstrate value to your employer and take back control of your value. You will be an indispensable asset in the most volatile environments. If not for your current employer, it will be for another.

Share your thoughts and feedback with us. We’d enjoy hearing about your efforts. And who knows, it may be the topic of our next eLearning Industry article. Follow me on Twitter for more valuable developmental resources. My handle is BizLearningDude. Please enroll in our LinkedIn Learning courses to learn more about developing your business credibility for your learning efforts. Please share your thoughts and remember #alwaysbelearning!

Please be safe and please stay healthy.