For Gallop the situation has shone a light on the haves and the have-nots, on the plight (and opportunity) of the ‘others’.
“The pandemic has exaggerated and demonstrated income equality like nothing else,” she said, pointing to New York as a dramatic case in point. “Rich and poor live side by side, but it is extremely easy to tell who has the house in the Hamptons because those people have left. Behind are the people who can’t afford to go anywhere else, the essential workers having to take the subway and interact with customers.”
She warned that this would have an effect on consumer markets globally: “This is going to result in a querying in the base of capitalism. It all adds up to fundamental lasting rethink of who has money and who doesn’t and that will have an impact on consumers in the future.”
Yet such a situation could help reset society, she said. “Right now it is clear that the world will never be the same again, and that’s great for those who are ‘other’. There is an opportunity for funding by demonstrating that women, people of colour, LGBTQ+, that all of us ‘other’ have the disruption we need today,” she said, stressing the difficulties those ‘others’ have had in accessing business help today. “There is a opportunity to rebalance the equation of who is valued, who gets paid and deserves to be funded,” adding that the frontline workers fetishised during the pandemic deserved more than handclaps.
“I’ve [often] said only one thing will make the business world change. Complete utter disaster. And now we have it. This pandemic is a huge opportunity to blow it all up and start again,” Gallop concluded.
Koblinger also agreed drastic change was needed, calling on governments to change the way they operated. “There is another remedy,” he said. “It’s not only about [giving or loaning] money, but trust.
“Most of our problems are that leaders are paranoid to fail or to lose control of their people, especially so in Europe. If leaders trusted more, if this trust would grow, we’d see a lot of innovation. Trust is one of the most undervalued remedies.”
Johnson concurred that trust and innovation went hand in hand. “There’s a big opportunity in looking at everybody in every company. We all know we need to change. Employees are ripe for change. I’m optimistic about what comes out of this and I think we’ll see incredible change in business and commerce, increased expectations of how people communicate. Companies are now seeing why purpose matters, even if they sat on the fence before.”