The global pandemic of COVID-19 has forced businesses to change the way they work and operate with employees working from home and unintended consequences that have occurred with supply chains, customers and employees.
Earlier in the year, many thought these changes would be temporary. Businesses pressed pause in making strategic decisions. However, as we continue to operate in a way very different to the ‘old normal’ it is becoming clear that these new ways of working are far from temporary. Who knows if there will be other pandemics or disasters to come so now is time for businesses to press reset and not pause.
Learning to Learn
Lockdown was and still is the biggest learning experiment any of us have ever witnessed with office based employees all working from home and companies reviewing how work, businesses processes and relationships should be conducted and managed. Initially, it was an urgent scramble and for many a ‘make do’ attitude to carry on but a few months into this unreal situation it is time to make it real. Businesses need to take this opportunity to discover what works and what doesn’t and to make changes accordingly to their strategy.
Time to get Creative
Some businesses have seized these extraordinary times to get creative and devised new processes or steps within them either with employees, suppliers or customers. They may have even discovered new product or service areas, and of course entrepreneurs have set up new businesses to thrive in this new world.
It has at long last forced many employers and employees to enter the 21st century by using digital technologies to communicate and collaborate and working at home has now become the norm as a result of lockdown and to stay safe. The old adage of ‘we don’t have a working at home culture’ or ‘this is how we have always done things’ has disintegrated and now Senior Managers need to adopt new ways of working and review all processes.
Brave New Strategy
The prospect of a reset is naturally overwhelming for many businesses but it is compulsory to survive and grow. It doesn’t need to be so daunting and it is advisable to work with consultants to guide you in the process.
For a digital transformation strategy, have a vision of where you want to get to but also have an open mind. This is a learning process that will evolve with continuous reviews and adaptations so therefore the final solution maybe different to what you originally envisaged. Let’s face it we are all learning at present and will continue to do so going forward.
A reset is a huge undertaking but it can be simplified by de-constructing it into manageable chunks. The first step is to go back to basics and review the outcomes that you want to achieve. Next, consider barriers and identify any problem areas. Then break it down even further whether that’s the employee or customer’s journey. Study how the process works and then re-design it in a more efficient way adopting a user centric approach. Along with efficiency you also need to ensure that the process is resilient and you have the capability to be flexible and iterate, to keep evolving and learning from your mistakes. The key to strategizing at this time is focusing on resiliency, flexibility and agility in all areas.
The Need for Speed
An entire enterprise digital solution takes a long time to deploy and is often expensive and complex, but digital solutions such as automation can often be designed and deployed in days. They can make a big difference to your operations and customer service, as well as showing a rapid and real return on investment. Cloud solutions are essential at this time because they are cost-effective, agile and provide the flexibility to add on new technology and make amends when necessary.
Agility is vital in customer service because expectations have grown exponentially. Customers expect a 24/7 superior service, even more so when everyone is locked down in their houses. So, getting creative in re-designing processes and your technology solutions enables you to streamline processes and increase the effectiveness of customer engagement with disruptive technologies such as automation.
Digital by Design
COVID-19 has bought technology to the forefront and businesses are designing technology solutions that are user led, easy to use and produce results quickly. Human centred design assesses what technology employees need and how it will help their roles, blending technology and humans together to improve communications and customer service.
Automation solutions will not replace humans but will augment services, for example, the daily mundane tasks can be handed over to automation enabling the humans to focus on a high value or complex enquiry that requires a chat with a human. Alternatively, if a company is swamped with digital interactions they can be managed and prioritised to be either answered automatically or by a human.
During the crisis there has been concern that more companies will deploy automation technology to cut costs that will take over human jobs, but technology will never be able to replace the softer human skills such as empathy. The goal is to blend the two together and free up your employees’ time so they can be upskilled in other areas.
The pandemic has forced many businesses to adopt digital technology solutions that they have not previously used, and this has highlighted gaps in skills. The digital skills gap is well known but the pandemic has demonstrated even more the urgency of closing the gap.
The issue is that it is not just about recruiting people with digital skills it is about recruiting the right type of people in IT. They should be able to understand the connection between the business’s needs and the technology requirements and translate them in plain English, be creative with technology and have a passion to carry on learning and evolving the strategy and the solutions.
On the flip side many people have acquired digital skills during the crisis because they have had to learn them to do their job, 59 percent said their digital or remote working skills improved during the pandemic which has created an appetite for more reskilling (Adecco Group).
Managers will need to acquire skills and training to learn how to manage and optimise remote working employees and discover what works and what doesn’t. During the pandemic softer skills have been important to get the balance right between the needs of the business and the pressing demands of lives turned upside down. Managers have needed to understand employees’ circumstances better and the challenges they may face.
Remote working also provides companies with a wider recruitment pool providing them with the flexibility to recruit from different areas or countries and to add the talent they require.
A New Dawn
Every business will now face a change in culture where employers will most likely have to provide a hybrid model of working from the office and working at home. Senior Managers will have to ascertain which jobs are suited to work from home and which ones aren’t.
They will have to create a culture of trust and transparency. Spying on employees working remotely is not the way to go. During the crisis employees who have been trusted will enjoy the autonomy that they have been given and in turn will be more productive as they are enjoying a better work-life balance. During lockdown 47 percent of UK employees worked from home (ONS data) and more than 50 percent stated they would like to continue working from home or more flexibly as lockdown eases (Survey The Times).
Trust is earnt and if anything, COVID-19 has demonstrated how people have pulled together. This will have occurred in many businesses where employees have come together (virtually) to solve problems that the crisis has brought.
Ironically, this crisis is an opportunity for businesses to reset their strategies, operations, people and culture. Something that they may never have done if it weren’t for the global pandemic. Focus on the positives that can come out of this and design and manage a strategy that is resilient, flexible and agile while setting a culture that is transparent and trusting. We are all in this together and this is an opportunity to reset, learn and evolve.