Coronavirus Pandemic! Inclusion to the Rescue?

13 March 2020
Latest Insights From Symmetra


The outbreak of Coronavirus is now officially a pandemic; it has spread across the globe. Italy is in total lockdown; in Iran political leaders have died; and the United States has banned all travel to and from Europe.  Virtually no business is immune and therefore almost all employees are potentially affected.

Unprecedented Impact

In Australia, the Federal Government has called upon employers and business leaders to take whatever steps are possible to protect the interests of employees and to ensure that they are retained on the payroll. This is  a worthy exhortation. But more than this, now is the time for leaders of organisations and businesses to show inclusive leadership.

Dramatic and far-reaching changes are happening literally overnight to the way work is and will be conducted. Businesses are already cutting services and in some cases, central locations of employment have been shut down or deserted. Group gatherings are banned. Executives, managers and employees are scrambling to adapt.

People are in a state of significant anxiety regarding their and their family’s health; the prospect of quarantine; that they may lose their jobs; that their savings and superannuation will be depleted and that their lives may generally be disrupted.

How will inclusion help?

In times of crisis such as this, we believe inclusive leadership and behaviours will be invaluable to both the organisation and its employees:

  • Inclusive organisations are adept at leveraging diversity of perspective – which means they can identify risks more quickly, adapt more responsively, and identify innovative solutions more effectively in a rapidly changing and ambiguous context.
  • If the great toilet paper crisis teaches us anything, its that people are desperate for a sense of control and self-determination. Inclusive organisations excel at giving people a voice, a sense of ownership and creating a sense of trust between employer and employee that is desperately needed now.

What can you do?

For several years Symmetra has been exploring with its Australian and global clients the features of inclusive leadership and the methods which inclusive leaders adopt to deal with small as well as major challenges.

And here are some of the ways that inclusive leaders might respond:-

  • Be open and transparent: give your employees all the relevant information about the state of the business and the challenges it faces
  • Show employees that they remain valued and in fact their contributions will be essential to help the business remain on course or indeed survive. Invite employees to express themselves openly and forcefully about ways to address the crisis
  • Empathise with employees and acknowledge their fears and apprehensions. Ask them what is important to them during this time.
  • Treat this as an opportunity to experiment with flexible working practices! Where team members are dispersed, keep regular contact with them and encourage them to have regular contact with each other.
  • Ensure that information between teams, divisions and geographies continue to flow – champion diversity of thinking across all boundaries to counteract the tendency to ‘bunker down’ in silos.
  • Provide reassurance, in a way that is realistic to the effect that the business and its employees will emerge on the other side ready to go on
  • Continue training and education remotely as a way of assuring employees that operations will continue and that their future with the business remains intact.

Keeping People Engaged

Showing people you continue to invest in their development is a strong signal right now that you are confident in the resilience of the organisation. Virtual learning experiences have come a long way in recent times. Symmetra for example offers many programs in a highly interactive and engaging virtual format:

  1. Virtual Instruction Led Training (VILT): Today’s VILT is a highly effective substitute for classroom style and learning and can be attended by anyone from anywhere with an internet connection, webcam and headphones. We leverage best practices and proven research in VILT design to ensure maximum participant activity and engagement. We structure our programs so participants are actively “doing” something at least every few minutes. Activities might include small group breakout rooms and discussions, online whiteboarding, polls and tests and chat rooms.
  2. Online Learning: E-Challenge is our online learning platform that delivers 10-15 minute bite-size learning combined with discussion guides, toolkits and action plans. Together these enable team leaders to translate the learning into practical behaviour change in teams.
  3. Fearless Teams: Fearless Teams is a revolutionary new program from Symmetra which builds psychological safety at scale. It combines digital delivery with leader-led, team based activities in the real workplace (which can of course be done in a virtual environment as well), supported by a group of internal Mentors coached by Symmetra.
  4. Video Coaching and Nudge Coaching: Symmetra has a highly experienced and diverse team of inclusion coaches who can support your leaders to lift their inclusion game – especially now when the pressure is on and it is needed most.


The Symmetra Team wishes everyone good health over the coming months as we collectively tackle this new global challenge.