COVID-19 has thrown the world into a tailspin. Amid government-mandated shutdowns, 2.5 billion people largely isolated in their homes, volatile financial markets and the world's most extensive work-from-home movement, we are collectively in uncharted waters. Employers and employees are wary of what the next several months may look like.
For the many challenges this pandemic poses, it also presents opportunities – new ways of thinking and working, new approaches to business and a greater emphasis on community-focused solutions.
Many of these opportunities require listening to the needs of others and delivering new solutions to help our communities confront the pandemic in unique and innovative ways.
For example, brands like Gap, Zara and LVMH announced a shift in their manufacturing from consumer goods to much-needed medical protective equipment, providing remarkable support for healthcare workers on the front lines. This is what we at Mercer call taking a people-first approach.
The pandemic has prompted a new mantra for my team - ‘No colleague or client left behind.' This means listening to what is needed – internally for our colleagues and externally for our clients – and applying creative solutions to solve problems.
While business continuity is an imperative and shareholder confidence is important, colleagues and clients will remember our response during their time of need long after the crisis is over.
At Mercer, our people-first approach has seen our teams around the world hosting virtual events, hundreds of webinars and videos with clients relaying actionable information to help them during this time. Topics have ranged from how to drive inclusive efforts in a moment of isolation, how employers can steer their employees through the uncertainty of COVID-19 and how to manage investment risks during extreme market volatility. In the last three weeks of March alone, over 4,000 clients throughout Europe joined our conversation in virtual events across our 15 European countries. It’s not enough to host a webinar. The real partnership comes afterward through one-on-one outreach and follow-up conversations.
Our clients need more support than ever, especially as they experience different waves of the pandemic on different timescales. The content and programs shared with them speaks directly to where they are in dealing with COVID-19, ensuring any information shared is relevant and actionable to what’s affecting them most.
The world has moved online at a scale we never imagined. Our colleagues are no longer able to meet our clients in-person, requiring a different way of thinking and working when it comes to traditional client relationships, especially in countries where culture and custom expect face-to-face meetings, like Japan.
Our colleagues are also checking in with clients more often. The crisis has broken down many barriers and has enabled stronger, more personal relationships to develop as colleagues get to know client challenges on a deeper level and better understand them as individuals. The days of formal meetings and corporate boardrooms are sidelined. Now we may get glimpses of home decor, squeals from children playing in the background and introductions to 4-legged companions.
Through this, our relationships are deepening, our curiosity and creativity are sharper and we are finding new ways to innovate and help clients in their hour of need.
Globally, many universities and learning institutions have entered their second month of online classes now conducted via livestream. This change prompted many schools and colleges to evaluate the tools available to ensure continuity and provide online exams in a secure manner. We have taken our talent assessment technology to provide academic institutions with an online examination platform, which includes identity validation and video proctoring to mitigate cheating. In doing so, we are helping hundreds of universities and their students complete their semesters and continue their education for a brighter future.
Employers are scrambling to find the best ways to support employees during this difficult time. From ensuring business continuity to providing access to mental health services for employees who may be struggling, employers are navigating and evaluating what level of support is needed and how best to provide for employees.
Given the 'novelty’ of this disease, coverage of treatment varies from insurer to insurer and country to country. To bridge this gap, we worked with insurance companies to create plans to provide specific COVID-19 support to employees. Within the first three days of launching the solution in one European country, 300,000 individuals from hundreds of employers were covered. Three weeks later more than 1 million employees are now covered with launches planned in at least 30 countries worldwide, underscoring the need for agility and specific COVID-19 treatment coverage.
The speed at which our lives and work changed was unimaginable only three months ago and forced us to quickly build new muscle. We must remain agile and continuously flex our new muscles so we can support each other in new ways. This requires constantly challenging the status quo, thinking and working differently, creatively navigating challenges and embracing the opportunities the pandemic will continue to present.
The situation in general will likely get worse before it gets better. We’re in this together with our colleagues and our clients. If we pull together at pace to weather the storm, businesses and their workforces will come out stronger and more resilient than ever before.