Leaders Must Mobilize the Company’s Hidden Influencers to Fight the Strains of the Corona Virus

As the Corona virus endures, its impact on corporate work life becomes increasingly profound. In this new “virtual” reality, leaders must now switch from their initial survival mode to a model that releases the energy, creativity and motivation of their workforce. How can a sustainable post-Corona business model be developed?

One answer: Leaders must connect to the hidden social structures of their organizations to thrive.

Innovisor together with its long-term Houston-based partner Savage Brands has analyzed work life consequences of the past weeks in more than 50 teams.

After the initial weeks of reacting to the spread of COVID-19, as we all started to work-from-home, the prevailing sentiment was ‘survival mode’. Our mindset was that the situation was temporary and getting the daily job done was the core focus. This included an extreme desire for leaders to deliver work flexibility, as employees were juggling with home schooling, quarantines and other related issues.

As working-from-home has become more routine, the demands on leadership are shifting. Now, leaders must be transparent about a Post-Corona ‘new normal’ business model. The work life data of Innovisor reveals that the influencers that exist within the hidden social structure of the company are the most trusted source of information. The chosen way for employees to make sense of “what is actually going on”.

And, as the water cooler chats are now taking place virtually, these hidden social structures are even more invisible than before.

Bethany Andell, President of Savage Brands: “Visionary leaders that have accepted our current circumstance and now seek to unlock the creativity, energy and motivation of their teams need to have a true understanding of what is really happening within their virtual organizations. The best way to get the truth, the whole picture, is by tapping into the company’s hidden influencers – typically this 3% has influence of 85–90% of the company.”

According to Edelman’s Trust Barometer, overwhelmingly leaders are not trusted by their employees – especially in difficult times like these. So how does a leader know what to communicate? How does he know what’s really on the mind of his employees that’s not being addressed – or even worse, what rumors are taking root as the truth? Through a research tool, known as organizational network analysis, this informal network of influencers can be uncovered. Once influencers are identified, leaders need to engage with them to understand what employees are experiencing, how employees are feeling and importantly – what they are thinking. Those conversations and resulting insights can be used to:

  • shape what, when and how to communicate
  • create relevant and specific messaging that address real issues
  • develop effective ways to motivate and enable the team.
  • ideate ways to unleash the passion and potential of employees in service to the mission

And, when influencers are engaged and part of the process, they will carry the flag for the company, and deliver the right message in the virtual room (or water cooler) you aren’t invited to.

About the Authors

Jeppe Hansgaard

Jeppe Vilstrup Hansgaard is the CEO Innovisor – the world’s leading Organizational Network Analysis company. His research helps organizations to better connect to their people by identifying their influencers and uncovering hidden social structures that exist in every company. Jeppe has over 20 years of experience in change and transformation programs in Asia, Europe, and the U.S.

Bethant Andell

Bethany Andell is the co-author of Get Your Head Out of Your Bottom Line: And Build Your Brand on Purpose. Her company, Savage Brands, help executives on values-alignment, culture building and change management communications – especially in times of major flux and transformation.