When it comes to COVID-19, it seems we’re nearing the light at the end of the tunnel. With this sense of calm comes a conundrum, however: Executives have been laser-focused on simply keeping afloat — but priorities that were less pressing through the pandemic are coming back into focus. Here are some organizational approaches partly popularized during COVID-19 that should still help organizations succeed on all fronts well into the future.
The scale of tumult brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic was unprecedented in our time — but paradoxically, it offered clarity amid the chaos. Business leaders who were used to juggling dozens of priorities suddenly had just one: keep the business afloat.
But as vaccine distribution gains momentum and case numbers begin to dip in parts of the world, all the priorities that were eclipsed by organizational survival have come rushing back into focus. So what’s next?
COVID-19 catalyzed business transformations, and at least a few of them seem likely to last well beyond the crisis. For instance, in a report from IBM, 55% of executives said some of the strategic organizational changes they made to stay afloat during the pandemic would be permanent. As you look for strategies to help your own business successfully navigate life after lockdown, these three recently favored approaches can help:
- Make sure your people can keep up with new technology. Today’s pace of technological innovation might be staggering, but the pace of tech adoption within many organizations can be glacial. When the Economist Intelligence Unit looked to pinpoint the obstacles keeping businesses from using the latest technologies, employees’ skills were a major hurdle. Even if your organization has the budget to hire pricey technologists, a global study from McKinsey found that 87% of executives are already experiencing the effect of workforce skills gaps or are expecting to in a few years.To improve your tech adoption outlook in the face of a pressing skills gap, it’s important to look at how you can reskill your existing workforce. Helping these employees learn new tech-driven skills can be cheaper and more effective than trying to hire externally. Likewise, an agile, tech-savvy workforce will help your company readily adapt to future business changes, resulting in a more resilient organization overall. Seek out ambitious and curious employees, and encourage both self-directed learning through online courses and more formal training and mentorship programs to inculcate new skills into your workforce.
- Focus on becoming a data-centric company. What defines a data-centric company? As Dan Conner, partner at micro-VC firm Ascend Venture Capital, explains: “In data-centric companies, data is the business model. Data science is a core process, and that department runs parallel to every major line on the organizational chart. If a company is genuinely data-centric, data drives overarching strategy, not just individual decisions.”The results of a data-driven company speak for themselves, according to a study by Collibra and Forrester Consulting. Organizations that embraced data intelligence were found to be 58% more likely to clear revenue goals, and insight-driven decisions also provided an 8% boost in trust and a 173% improvement in compliance objectives. Data-driven decisions helped many businesses make major pivots to survive the pandemic, but even after COVID-19 is contained, these numbers offer compelling competitive advantages that your organization can’t afford to ignore.
- Align with your customers’ values. Companies often choose to stay quiet on issues they care about, perhaps worried they’ll make a gaffe. Unfortunately, this approach might be harming them in the long run — as it seems not taking a stand at all could indicate indifference to consumers. Data consistently demonstrates that modern consumers prefer to buy from brands that support their values. Among Millennials, for example, 83% say it’s important the companies they buy from reflect their values. It’s not just younger generations, either: 60% of respondents over 55 said the same thing.With customers choosing to patronize businesses that have been acting responsibly throughout the pandemic, the importance of taking a stand has only been solidified. Start by taking action, whether that means forming a partnership with a group that’s advocating for your company’s favorite causes or making donations to charities that resonate with your company and your audience. To connect the pieces, make sure you’re communicating your values and your commitment to those values effectively. Doing good for its own sake is great, but you can make an even bigger impact by getting your customers on board.
Of course, not all of the trends brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic will prove to be permanent. Zoom fatigue is real, remote work can be lonely, and it’s much easier to buy sourdough at the grocery store than dote on a starter culture at home. As some of the trends that characterized the COVID-19 crisis begin to fall by the wayside, the horizon appears hazy. Fortunately, the business strategies above were gaining steam well before the virus — and there’s little doubt they’ll stand the test of time in a post-pandemic world.
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