As the COVID-19 pandemic took the world by storm, companies were forced to halt all activity within a matter of days. More recently, though, restraint measures worldwide have been easing, and businesses are being asked to get back on track at unprecedented speed. However, there remains an uncertainty, even after almost a year has passed – uncertainty about how the pandemic will evolve and what social, political, and fiscal measures will be promoted, and if they will ease or further complicate things.
Resuming activity does not imply a return to normalcy; since this unpredictable period has brought important changes in the economy, cultural standards, and the values and behaviors that govern the society. Businesses need a foolproof reinvention plan to cope with reopening and overcoming uncertainty.
This is the opportunity – also a necessity – for many companies to develop capabilities in which they wish they had invested before: to be more digital, data-driven, and cloud-dependent; have more variable cost structures, with agile and automated operations and be strong in e-commerce and security. Managers must view reopening their businesses as the beginning of a journey towards a broader transformation.
Here are a few important things managers and owners should consider as they strategize rebuilding their businesses during and after the pandemic.
Prepare for different scenarios
CEOs have to resume businesses without knowing how the pandemic will progress. Several scenarios are possible, depending on the evolution of the virus and the social response that occurs.
4 Ways the Pandemic Might Progress
The infection seems controlled in the initial foci but spreads to new ones and resurfaces in old ones. Social distancing ends up ending people’s patience and generating social fissures.
Efforts to control the virus seem futile. Governments and society are in tension and close to fracturing. The economy is limited to what is necessary, and inflation shoots up.
The disease is controlled, and life returns to normal. Actions taken by governments work quickly and stabilize the economy.
The infection rate slows down but does not subside. The economy is contracting almost permanently. Society is damaged, but not bankrupt, and joins forces to support the measures of governments.
An active reinvention
An active reinvention plan to overcome uncertainty starts with these four areas:
These days, we see how, by demonstrating humanity in the workplace, we can make a difference in the face of the crisis. To create long-term, rewarding, inclusive, and productive work environments, companies must move beyond the existing practices to begin understanding their employees.
Communicate with compassion and confidence
A consumer survey on COVID-19 found that more than 64% of workers globally are currently dealing with anxiety about their work situation. Others are concerned because they believe that regular social interaction will no longer be possible.
As a manager, you should proactively seek the opinion of your employees and give them a voice. Apart from that, you should find the perfect blend of leadership, delegating when appropriate, but coordinating and guiding centrally.
Build trust in your employees through purpose
Living the purpose motivates employees to continue persevering in the face of this new situation marked by changes.
Worry about the needs of the most insecure employees
This practice converts workers “on the bench” into flexible workers, retraining them in those areas that allow them to refocus on areas of greater demand.
Worry beyond the work problems of your employees
Start offering coaches, mental health support, and wellness programs, with the aim of helping employees in their periods of grief or stress. Also, take into account those who have to care for the elderly and your key workers’ partners. Make sure managers share their own experiences with COVID-19.
Design spaces that work
Create a safe environment that gives employees the confidence to return to business and enables them to adapt to a new hybrid way of working: virtual and physical.
Support new digital workers – redesign the job
49% of people who had never worked from home now plan to do so more frequently. It is essential to redesign work so that it can be carried out effectively while being remote. Train managers to learn how to manage hybrid, virtual, and physical teams and expand technological support.
Rethink the physical space and reformulate the needs
It is not only necessary to create a safe but also a comfortable environment to prevent stress.
Start with limiting physical contact and allowing more flexible use of space (by taking turns). It separates workers who must be physically present from those who may work remotely.
Help your partners’ work environment to be safe too
Companies must think beyond their employees. Seek to quickly meet their legal obligations as well as the expectations of their supply chain partners. They should consider appointing a Medical Director to implement health protocols in the organization and coordinate with the rest of your ecosystem.
Make safety a fundamental part of the workplace design
Extend protocols for data, network, and security systems to manage personal devices and new collaboration tools.
Plan the phases
Plan a gradual return with the ability to react to unforeseen events, delays, or setbacks. Take this opportunity to rethink, redesign, and improve operations for the future.
Determine your operational dependency
- Separate planned waves by key milestones to be achieved
- Set temporary and financial goals. Monitor the early warning signs for different scenarios (e.g., cyclical outbreaks) and prepare to act accordingly.
- With governments reviewing measures every day, it is essential to combine local decision-making capacity with central coordination.
Prioritize actions that provide extra growth
- Try to reopen the business areas that generate liquidity or profits more quickly to open lines of growth.
- Secures the business in each phase of the reopening
- The reopening of the business should not precede the ability to maintain the security of physical systems and environments.
Rebuild your management team for reinvention
For the reopening and to face the future, new managerial skills and leadership styles are necessary. Now is the time to identify and empower the most entrepreneurial and inclusive managers.
“If we make the right decisions now—informed by science, data and the experience of medical professionals—we can save lives and get the country back to work.” – Bill Gates
Prepare for the future
Long-term success with the reopening depends on developing new capabilities. Begin a deep business transformation taking advantage of new technologies at scale.
Listen to customers and respond quickly
Try to understand and empathize with customers by placing them at the center of the design and constantly developing new experiences for them. Build more personal and less transactional experiences. Invest in artificial intelligence and other tools to manage customer interaction and analyze customer behavior. It provides front-line staff with the information they need to personalize their experiences.
Establish technological scalability through the cloud
Go beyond using the cloud to drive efficiencies across certain cores. Migrate applications to the cloud at scale, and then look for new ways, within the cloud environment, to drive innovation in the use of data and applications.
Reinvent security so that your operation is agile
Manage the risks associated with large fluctuations in the workforce. Look for supply chain weaknesses, counterfeits, and new cyber threats in a less secure industrial environment.
Build agile autonomy
Support all areas of your company with agility and experimentation, clearly empowering people and teams, delegating and reviewing performance management metrics in a way that rewards autonomy.
Goodbye, reopening; hello reinvention
Resuming activity is more than starting over. It is the beginning of a new era for business. The rules have changed. The behavior of our employees and customers, too.
This is an opportunity for companies that, with courage and anticipation, make changes beyond the demands of their immediate needs. Those companies capable of reinventing themselves with one purpose in mind – their processes, customer experiences, employees, and contribution to society – will benefit.
Overcoming uncertainty – reducing immediate impact and building a better future – will see the resurgence of organizations, that will one day look back and see this crisis as the darkness before dawn.
Some courses that may help you develop your skills in this area include:
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