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6 things I’ve learned from Intel’s response to COVID-19

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Human behavior in response to a crisis can vary widely from person to person. While adversity builds character, it also reveals it.

From when Intel’s leadership team first heard about the events unfolding in Wuhan, China to today, I learned six things that ultimately defined Intel’s response to this crisis.

Confidence is contagious

Our top priorities will always be ensuring the safety and well-being of our employees while maintaining our commitments to customers. When China issued limited movement orders, we immediately assembled our Pandemic Leadership Team and formed Emergency Operations Centers around the world to ensure we had a good sense of what was happening at our sites and address the multiple scenarios, decisions, and actions that would need to be made.

Sound chaotic? It was surprisingly calm. Our CEO Bob Swan set the tone. His response said it all: “We got this.” And his confidence was contagious. With that three-word sentence of resolve, we were reminded that we’ve experienced crises before and emerged stronger. We were confident that, though this would be a big challenge, we would pull together as a team to drive our great company forward.

Communication succeeds when it’s transparent and leaders are visible

We thought we were prepared for essential communication. We were only partially right. It became evident that we needed to step up our capabilities. We swiftly established channels to make sure employees were being heard – and hearing from us as directly and as quickly as possible.

I learned that during times of crisis, managers and employees alike look for direction. That meant our leadership team needed to be more visible than ever, and as transparent as possible. And that was especially critical for managers – we didn’t want them blindsided, not knowing the answers or where to find them. So, we increased and aligned our manager communications to ensure consistency in employee guidance and support.

Creative thinking required

As stay at home orders expanded, we suddenly needed to enable secure remote work for 100,000 employees – along with contingent workers and ecosystem partners. We asked only essential workers to be on site – keeping product development and silicon manufacturing moving forward, while making sure the site services teams could safely do their work.

These rapid changes required new policies and new ways of thinking. We reimagined the way we work – becoming open to doing work remotely that we historically thought not possible. We’ve shown we can do things differently, and successfully. We’ve been able to keep our customer commitments, stay on track and on time with shipments, and maintain our manufacturing volume.

Compassion and empathy are actions

Turbulent times call for compassion and empathy. I aspire to lead by example and have tried to set expectations for how our teams treat each other during these most challenging of times.

It’s important to be a generous and active listener, assume good intent, and appreciate that people want to do a good job and drive the business forward. We may have different perspectives for how best to achieve our goals, but we’re all on the same side. This crisis has also reminded me that everyone struggles in different ways – we can never know exactly what someone else is going through. If we start by assuming others are trying their best, we’re already ahead.

Crisis is the birthplace of resilience

One of the main things I’ve learned through this pandemic is that we are far more resilient than we think. I’ve been absolutely amazed by the resiliency of our employees (and our families) who are keeping their work and personal lives moving ahead by using creative and fun ways to stay socially connected.

I believe we will come out of this a bolder, stronger, more agile company. Already, employees have let me know they’re feeling a new level of empowerment. People are coming together to raise an issue, address a need, and take action without waiting for permission. They’re coming to decisions in one meeting. When there’s a setback – they iterate quickly to find another way forward. Now that’s resilience.

Caring is in our DNA

Coming together to support our communities has been a deep part of Intel’s culture DNA from the beginning. Alongside the investments Intel has made to help in the global effort against COVID-19, our employees across the globe are helping too – from creating masks in virtual sewing circles, to 3D printing face shields, to teaching classes and tutoring online, to donating and delivering food to those in need.

Our sense of responsibility to use our time, talents and energy to have a positive impact in the world has never been stronger. We have leaned into our values as One Intel. We’ve shown up for each other and our communities in a way that taps into everything that makes Intel unique – our desire to do good in the world and live into our purpose to create world-changing technology that improves the lives of every person on earth.

About the Author
Sandra L. Rivera is executive vice president and general manager of the Datacenter and AI Group at Intel Corporation. She leads Intel’s development of leadership data center products for a cloud-based world, including Intel® Xeon® and field programmable gate array (FPGA) products. She also drives the company’s overall artificial intelligence (AI) strategy and product roadmap. Before assuming her current role, Rivera was Intel’s chief people officer, leading the company’s Human Resources organization worldwide. In that role, she was responsible for greater business results through a culture that embraces diversity and inclusion. She also previously led the Network Platforms Group of over 3,000 employees that drove the transformation of network infrastructure to Intel-based solutions and enabled breakthrough ways to integrate Intel’s silicon and software portfolio to create greater customer value. Rivera joined Intel in 2000 as a marketing director after the acquisition of Dialogic Corp. Before joining Intel, Rivera co-founded and served as president of The CTI Authority and served as president of the computer telephony division at Catalyst Telecom. Rivera holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Pennsylvania State University. She sits on the Equinix board of directors; she is a member of Berkeley’s engineering advisory board and a member of the Intel Foundation Board; and she is part of Intel’s Latinx Leadership Council.