This is an unprecedented moment in human history. And how we respond to the coronavirus pandemic will shape our lives—and our society—for years to come.
This crisis has compelled us to change, seemingly overnight, virtually every aspect of our daily lives and livelihoods. And companies like ours—which empower humanity through technology—will have important roles to play in helping people everywhere adapt to new ways of living, working and learning.
At the same time, this pandemic is also accelerating an important conversation about the role of corporations in our society. As business leaders, it’s a powerful reminder of our responsibilities to the communities we serve. And we all need to be thinking about what it means for a company to act with purpose and in the best interests of all our stakeholders.
In a crisis of this magnitude, there is no playbook. So, the first thing any leader must do is go back to their organization’s core values, and let those values guide them in everything they do. One of our values at HP is drawn from something our founders famously said: “The biggest competitive advantage is to do the right thing at the worst time.” That spirit is what all of us need to embrace right now—and it’s what will ultimately help us beat this pandemic.
As we have navigated this crisis, we have relied on three key principles that I believe can also guide other corporations and organizations during this extraordinary time.
First, we must prioritize the health and wellbeing of our employees and their families above all else. During this time of uncertainty, companies should be doing their best to offer employees a sense of stability. That’s why, in this first phase of the response, HP has not only deferred workforce reductions, but we are also ensuring hourly employees who are not able to work remotely are still paid their usual wages.
Our care for our people is not confined to the walls of our company. We are taking action to protect the entire HP ecosystem, including a variety of relief initiatives to help our thousands of channel partners globally weather the operational and financial challenges they face.
And as we move forward and begin to better understand the full impact of the crisis, we will carefully balance the needs of our business with continued support for our people. Tough decisions are unavoidable, but they can always be made with care, empathy and respect for others.
Second, we should direct our efforts where we can make the biggest impact.That’s why HP has used 3D printing to produce more than 35,000 parts for distribution to hospitals, including medical-grade face shields, safety clasps for face masks, and hands-free door openers—while our digital manufacturing partners have stepped up to produce tens of thousands more. We are also partnering with medical research institutions in clinical trials for 3D-printed nasal swabs that can be used in COVID-19 test kits. Once approved, HP and our partners will be able to produce millions of these swabs every week to assist in large-scale coronavirus testing.
It’s important that companies harness all our resources to deliver goods and services where they’re needed most. We’re seeing that happen in a wide range of industries—from Delta offering free flights for medical professionals, to Unilever making €100 million in soap, hand sanitizer, and bleach available free of charge to those in need, to Dyson designing a new ventilator in just 10 days, pushing the limits of what anyone thought was possible. At HP, in addition to our 3D Printing efforts, we are leveraging the scale of our global supply chain to source and distribute face masks to medical facilities facing shortages.
Third, we must collaborate to overcome this crisis. This pandemic is too great a challenge for any single corporation, organization or country to solve on their own. It’s in our collective interest to work together on shared solutions. At HP, as we collaborate with research partners on medical trials, we are sharing information with other companies and posting many design files online for anyone to use. And we will continue to pursue this kind of collaborative approach in the weeks and months ahead.
As business leaders, we all have crucial roles to play. The challenges we are facing transcend companies, industries, and international borders. We have to keep stepping up, always remembering the doctors, nurses, and first responders who are risking their lives on the front lines. They are the everyday heroes among us, and we are profoundly grateful for everything they are doing to keep us—and the communities we call home—healthy and safe.
But we need to offer them more than words of gratitude. We need to offer them action. We need to be there for them, as they are there for us, and support them in every way we know how.
That’s what leadership is all about. It’s about rallying together around a larger purpose—and doing the right thing at the worst time. That is the task facing us all right now—and it is one we must accomplish. Because while this global pandemic is challenging all of us in new and profound ways, overcoming it requires harnessing the very thing that the virus itself seeks to exploit—our common humanity.