With the search for coronavirus vaccine still being continued, many countries across the world have already started to ease the lockdowns. People are slowly getting back to regular life, but are witnessing a plethora of changes. The global economy has collapsed, with hundreds of the world’s leading companies shutting down their businesses in multiple countries, laying off many of their employees, and revamping their business models. As we plan to restart the global economy and settle down into a completely new way of life and work, one question certainly arises. How are companies going to cope up with this sudden global shift? How will this unforeseen pandemic change the centuries-old methods of work, as well as force the new generation to come up with innovative work-practices? Amid a global recession, how will companies churn smoke out their factory chimneys once again and buckle up for the challenging road ahead?
Leading experts and strategists have been on a relentless expedition to chalk out how companies all around the globe are likely to evolve once we all restart our lives in these new living conditions.
More priority on the people
For companies to fully transform and successfully operate in the new normal, experts believe that they must address the needs of their workforce. Boston Consultancy Group has outlined a few key traits that companies must embrace to complete their transition to the new work culture –
Introducing smart workspaces. One major thing that the pandemic has directly finger-pointed to the entire world is that it is that brick and mortar offices have become relics of the past. Since the majority of the global workforce has access to a reliable internet connection, digital payment systems as well as mass digital conferencing tools at their disposal – the time to take the leap from physical offices to the one inside our laptops or desktop computers. Plus having to accommodate fewer workers in the office premises will also assist companies in reducing their operating costs during these troubling times. Therefore, this transition has certainly stemmed out from companies’ survival needs rather than merely a knock for innovating.
Shedding more light on employees’ physical and mental health. As the world crawls out of a lengthy break from everyday life, people are likely to take some time until they adjust to their new realities. Add to that the constant sense of uncertainty of economic downturn or worse, getting affected by a coronavirus. All these will eventually end up affecting the employees’ physical and mental health. Hence, it is about time that companies will have to address and take proactive actions to ensure employee wellness. An expert has also stated that “sanitation stations” filled with wipes and hand sanitizers on every office floors shall not become a privilege; but rather a right to every single employee in the new normal.
Equipping employees with new skillsets. Employees not only need their enthusiasm to turn the wheel of progress once again but also need to be equipped with newer skillsets. With veteran conglomerates and startups laying off numerous employees every single week, the job market is destined to be insanely competitive in the next few years. And to enhance companies’ progress, employees also need to put new skills to the table. So while companies cut down on the other essentials, investing in companies’ talents to re-skill and up-skill them is a must-do if they intend to succeed and survive in the long run.
Improved leadership style. It’s not just the ships that need to be redesigned, but also the process by which the captains lead the crew. In other words, leadership styles also need to change to wade through the challenging scenario. Leaders will need to empathize with their co-workers, lead the entire organization with purpose, and align their companies’ purpose, vision, and values with their actions.
Rise of digital transformation in particular industries
Certain industries have decided to not go against the coronavirus, rather utilize their weaknesses to create areas of strength. Hence, they are currently shifting some of their core operations into the digital space. In case your company belongs to any of these industries mentioned below, it is about time that you also buckle up and take the ‘digital leap’.
Telehealth services. The global pandemic has acted as a catalyst for the rise of telehealth services. With limited options of stepping out of the homes, many people had no other alternative but to either call or digitally connect to medical staff for emergency health support. Many of the hospitals have also stepped into the scene and have done their fair share of experimenting with this alternate offering for their pool of internet-enabled customers.
Online fitness classes. With a high risk of being contaminated via physical contact, gyms are likely to be risk-prone zones in the days to come. But the good news is that many of the gym franchises have already begun to work on solutions and have thus started offering online sessions. Take the case of Planet Fitness for example. This American fitness franchise with more a thousand clubs throughout the US has already started offering free classes via Facebook LIVE which has proved to become runaway hits. In case your business belongs in the fitness and wellness niche, you can also opt for the following contingency and explore possibilities via social media platforms.
Virtual Events. Physical events are also very likely to face backlashes like gyms. Seminars, concerts as well as exhibitions have high chances of being organized less in the upcoming months. Therefore, there is a high possibility that the events might have to organize in the digital space. The coronavirus pandemic has already pushed some of the most renowned conferences to completely shift into their digital versions. Google Cloud Next ’20 has now become Digital Connect and has promised that the 3-day conference will fully transform into a “free, global, digital-first, multi-day event”. Some of the event management companies are trying out these new versions of programs by inserting components of live discussion and video content to ensure that the elements of networking as well as the dissemination of knowledge remain the same.
Online education. In developing countries, online education was previously perceived as a privilege rather than a transition to a more convenient process. But the lockdowns have already forced many of the universities to resort to online teaching practices. As students and teachers both are getting acquainted with participating in online classes, it can be perceived that this particular user behavior will continue in the days to come. Therefore, digital learning will prevail in the long run, and platforms like Udemy, Coursera, and Skillshare are likely to get a high inflow of new learners in the days to come.
Online grocery sales. The Online Grocery Sales industry is expected to massively increase in the days to come as the disruption of COVID-19 dramatically reshapes the way people shop for groceries. In response to the pandemic, people are having to stay in home quarantine for more than two months. A result of such isolation and social distancing will incite a shift to online shopping, particularly groceries. While supermarkets are considered essential and will remain open, many consumers are expected to convert to online grocery shopping to reduce their risk of exposure. Online searches for grocery delivery services increased by over 300% in March 2020, although this result isn’t expected to fully manifest in the industry’s revenue growth. The largest major market to benefit from online grocery sales is expected to be the elderly population. While this age group initially represented a challenge for online retailers, the demographic is among the most at-risk of severely suffering from COVID-19. As a result, many consumers in this age group are anticipated to use online grocery shopping to minimize their risk of exposure.
Courier Pick-up and Delivery Services. The boom in online shopping has supported the expansion of the Courier Pick-up and Delivery Services industry over the last five years. As the COVID-19 pandemic persists and social distancing measures increase, demand for grocery delivery services is anticipated to increase industry revenue by 7.6% over 2019-20, to total $5.5 billion. In addition to the increased demand for delivery services due to the COVID-19 outbreak, structural changes caused by changing conditions in downstream markets have supported industry revenue growth over the past five years. In particular, strong growth in online shopping has increased demand for industry services. This trend has also led to increased competition and spurred the proliferation of multiple web platforms both locally and globally such as Pathao Tong, Menulog, and Airtasker. These web platform-based operators have supported industry revenue growth and are well-positioned to continue expanding business operations after the COVID-19 outbreak passes.
Ensure a new beginning
Despite all the changes that the companies are adopting, a strategic framework needs to be put into place so that companies can operate in the new circumstances in a more structured manner. Multinational professional services company Accenture has outlined some key approaches that companies can easily follow to ensure that they come out of this crisis strong –
Adopt a systematic approach to solve the issues. Accenture believes that companies should not come straight off the home quarantine and jump to solve all the problems at ones. Yes, companies will be bleeding across multiple business functions but it is necessary to start with the core business strategy. The current scenario must be aligned with the core business strategy of the company and then the possible action plans should be derived.
The execution phase should involve a mixture of key output from both man and machine. The day-to-day operations should be made as digital as possible, therefore freeing the company employees to work on the plans and projects that will require innovative and critical thinking.
And to build a truly resilient and global workforce, Accenture advises that companies should now introduce a global service model, whereas companies will have to recruit skilled teams from several parts of the globe to ensure that if one part of the world is affected by a certain disaster, the team on the other part can work to mitigate the damages. A robust, virtual control center should be necessary to ensure the feasibility and successful execution of such a globally dispersed team; provided that the center routinely assesses quality, productivity, compliance, and other key performance indicators.
Rebuild the cost management system. Companies should now need to shift from protecting their balance sheets to focusing on long-term investments; thus establishing a mindset of resilient cost management. Complexities arising in the SKU level should be reduced to streamline cash management. Several other elements like technology, outsourcing, and contractors should become variable from here onwards. From the investment aspect, Accenture suggests balancing short-term protection of liquidity with long-term investment and M&A needs. It should also be identified how M&A can improve cross-industry ecosystem capabilities that will eventually improve holistic resilience and agility.
Embracing new organizational capabilities. Embracing holistic change in such a short time shall be undoubtedly challenging for any company that wishes to overcome the current obstacles. However, it is about time that companies pursue better business practices to gain better economic performances. Key suggestions in this aspect will be to truly understand and empathize with customers, putting them in the epicenter of the company’s business objective and interact accordingly. Companies should move away from the transactional approach of consumer interaction, but should rather focus on a more personal, candid approach. Investments in AI and other analytical tools can also help understand consumer behavior better in this time of psychological shift.
From an internal viewpoint, organizations should look into the risk factors and develop better disaster recovery strategies. Managers should look into supply chain weaknesses, cybercrime threats, and work on the bottlenecks. Plus, individuals and teams should also be empowered, supported by greater delegation. To encourage the building of agile work culture, revised performance management metrics should be introduced.
Reach out to society. Organizations should not only focus on getting their operations in order but should also reach out to other vulnerable stakeholders. While work may restart sometime soon, schools and elderly care might also need assistance from the organizations to gain momentum. Therefore, companies should also restructure their CSR policies and chalk out ways by which they can help the groups that require dire assistance, e.g. temporary workers, single parents, people with disabilities, etc.
Instill a sense of Trust
Truth be told, it is not just the business world that has been affected by the coronavirus crisis. The global pandemic has affected every aspect of society. It has not only disrupted our everyday lives and processes, but is also assessing the adaptability of businesses, institutions, and governments in away. Management consulting veterans have stated that “Trust” is vital in ensuring a strong economic recovery. This sense of trust will establish the fundamental pillars on which systematic coordination and cooperation will be achieved. It is essential in the realm of employment as well. Employees need to go back to work, but they may not immediately trust the safety of their business environment. Measures such as temperature checks and social distancing in workplaces can help. But trust is also crucial to drive customer demand. Places linked to contamination risks—such as theaters, restaurants, and planes—may be avoided for some time. Booking systems that take into account social distancing can provide help. Finally, the trust will be crucial to enable certain orchestrating institutions to function again. Consider, for example, public transportation, which is so essential to many people’s commutes. With typically crowded systems, people may be hesitant to return to old habits. Systematically checking temperatures and reducing capacity can help maintain commuters’ trust.
If all the key lessons are to be combined, all we can see is that the entire world needs to take a leap of faith in ensuring a new beginning. As businesses open their storefronts and workers rush back to the factory floors, we all need to cooperate to adapt to this new normal. Digital transformation processes have already scaled up, leading to better business possibilities in the days to come. Some of the legacy industries will witness slow, painful deaths while the new business models like gig economies shall require some massive revamping to ensure operational success in the days to come. Businesses should not only stress over their financial numbers but should also look at how their surrounding environment is doing. Thus, the role of CSR shall be even more in the days to come; sparking meaningful collaborations between company-run charity organizations and NGOs.
The world will not be the same anymore. As soon as the lockdown ends, we are about to begin our lives in a completely new one. But now it is up to us to ensure that we will be living in a much better, healthier, and safer one than before.
Farhat Chowdhury Zishan