HINDSIGHT IS 2020 (ESPECIALLY FROM THE YEAR 2020)
Last year gave us a lot to complain about, but it also provided some valuable learning opportunities we should all work to identify and remember.
The world as we know it has been changed by COVID-19, but most of us have very short memories, and the lessons that 2020 provided can be forgotten far more quickly than you might think. Let’s examine the top 10 things we can take from 2020 in relation to organizations and businesses.
1) Flexibility is necessary. The ability to adapt to what the situation calls for is necessary when it comes to managing all the aspects of a business. Companies have to be flexible to ensure the effectiveness of their actions. For example, evaluate the situation of your company. Is remote work possible and more efficient? Will the company be able to continue generating revenue even if it loses its physical workspace? Business agility is the capacity of an organization to adjust rapidly to changing market dynamics, customer demands and industry standards profitably and cost-effectively, without compromising quality. Last year proved we have to be agile to adapt and respond quickly to changing events.
2) Prepare for hard times. Preparedness is one piece of business advice that you may have heard before, but last year made it more crucial. Today, companies must do business while considering the possibility of another shutdown. Companies need to prepare their business and staff to ensure that they can withstand a crisis so when or if another disaster strikes, enough cash is on hand. Look for ways to cut expenses and save money. Stay on top of all accounts receivable to make sure there is always cash available. Consider looking for other revenue streams. Companies also need to make sure that members of their team have access to necessary resources. One way to do this is to digitize important files and make them available online. Having backup copies of documents also helps. It is ideal to have spare laptops in case a you must shift to a remote work setup. All companies should prepare for situations similar to past lockdowns and quarantines.
3) Adapt and continue to develop more robust strategies to meet the needs of customers. 2020 led to a reinvention of consumer behavior. The question of how it has changed, not only in terms of the basic attraction of a product and service but the real sense of need, has pushed businesses to rethink how they engage these end-users and to develop creative ways to sell products. And with new barriers put on shopping in brick-and-mortar stores, an additional question arose: How can organizations use the platform of online “shopping” in new ways to not only enhance the experience but find avenues to create a singular relationship between the product or service and the customer?
4) Realize we have far less control over our work than we think we do – especially considering pandemics, natural disasters and more. People often believe chaos is a bad thing. Many times, better efficiency, effectiveness and innovation come from chaos or change. This is a painful, yet important, lesson in humility about our position in the world. Think more about sustainability (and your lack of control) when living in the good times.
5) Explode communication efforts and initiatives. Interaction with others changed in 2020, and we have been forced to find new ways to establish human bonds. Strong, clear decision-making and communications, both within organizations and externally with clients and stakeholders, has been fundamental to successful reactions to the pandemic. From moving physical site visits to virtual walk rounds to bids being submitted via microsites instead of in-person, new initiatives are saving time and allowing clients to move at their own pace and time. During the pandemic, many organizations have realized their communications are lackluster, and crisis management was non-existent. Start thinking now how communication is essential to your business and build a contingency plan.
6) Reset and reimagine. While the pandemic is still very much with us, we are starting to see a shift in organizations moving from a reactive mode into a proactive mode. They are considering their next moves with the benefit of having been through the pandemic, which has enabled them to look at things differently. We need to retreat to reset and reimagine new dimensions and a refreshed path to reach our vision.
7) Work as a highly effective team. Cultivating relationships is the key to success. Make a concerted effort to meet with other colleagues and employees. It is important to discuss the direction you are taking, why you are taking it, and why it will ultimately benefit you and the business. Then, it is just as important to hear the team’s ideas and input. Create new relationships and develop your current team bonds to ensure the relationships are trusting, accountable and committed when you hit tough times.
8) Examine productivity. The true nature of workforce productivity came to the forefront during 2020. According to several research studies, many respondents found themselves more productive in their home environment without the interruptions they had in a physical office. Some of these practices that will remain with us post-pandemic include: businesses being more trusting and empowering of employees (53 percent); managers increasing flexible working hours (49 percent), virtual teams working across locations and departments (38 percent); and agile teams forming and disbanding around specific activities (37 percent). Working remotely will remain too. (62 percent). It is very apparent that people can be productive when not in a typical office. Productivity and performance depend on the organizational culture you currently have.
9) Invest in technology. Having technology in place with employees trained to use it may have been the difference between seamlessly shifting to remote work and lagging. Many smaller, local retailers and restaurants were caught off-guard by the pandemic. When they should have been ready to serve online customers and provide delivery and curbside pickup services, they instead had to play catchup. Prepping for the future includes making sure your organization is ready to meet demand.
10) Ingenuity wins. Organizations able to reconsider their business model or rethink to quickly adapt to market conditions have a better chance to survive and even thrive. It is always important to encourage innovation within your organization, but the pandemic has illustrated just how beneficial it may be. Allow employees to hold focus groups where they can work through innovative ideas on how your business can be sustained during tough times. We are looking back, but we’re not yet out of the COVID-19 woods, so learning these lessons will help your business excel in 2021. Do not let your experience gained in 2020 go unused. The greatest indicator of future success is past success.
MEET THE EXPERT:
Sharleen Smith is the Director of Continuing Education and Outreach of Troy University. She has more than 30 years of experience in organizational consulting and training. Her training includes more than 250 topics, and she has presented to more than 300,000 people at 15,000 conferences, workshops and seminars.
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