“Be fast, have no regrets… If you need to be right before you move, you will never win,” WHO Executive Director Dr. Mike Ryan told the world in March 2020. And so the big pivot began for the business world, spurred on by a novel coronavirus that continues to disrupt supply chains, the workforce, and bottom lines.
But what’s gone right? Which changes should become permanent and which ones should fade away with an eventual close of the COVID-19 era? The answer is subjective, says The HT Group Advisory Partner Russ Finney, who was back with us in person this past month, leading the first installment of our Strategic Thinking Series. Finney, who is a lecturer and director of MIS undergraduate programs at the University of Texas McCombs School of Business, opened the series with a look at strategic actions businesses are taking as we work through the COVID-19 era.
As we’ve learned by now, pandemic recovery isn’t linear. Finney suggests letting go of the “new normal” concept, in fact. Because of the rapid and constant change happening right now, he prefers the term “today’s normal.” Many of the business lessons we learned in the past couple years won’t exist the rear-view mirror. At least not for quite some time. We’ll be relearning them and building on them as we ebb and flow toward some sense of pre-pandemic normalcy.
Finney categorizes these experiences thus far in three stages: sudden transformation (survival mode), new policies (adjustment period), and new strategy (execution stage).
The shutdown that occurred in March 2020 was so jolting that it created sudden transformation in ways we never thought possible. Out of the blue, we were all remote workers (and remote learners, patients, shoppers, etc.,), for instance. Even those of us who always preferred to be in the office. As the weeks wore on, we created new policies surrounding these transformations. It started with work-from-home and social distancing policies and now include hybrid work plans and vaccination policies. Now, well over a year into the transformation, long-term strategies are developing—new business models, processes, and hiring initiatives are taking shape.
Finney identifies four questions that can help you determine how resilient your organization has become during this time. Have you moved far enough along from reaction mode to strategy mode? Let’s see:
Is your business enabled with smart technologies?
If you were forced into 100% remote work again, could you do it seamlessly? Many of your competitors now can. Consider your organization’s technology hurdles for employees. Are devices, internet access, and processes universally accessible to your workers? Finney says it’s time to fine-tune remote work technology and continue cloud migrations and co-location transformations.
Have you refreshed your marketing strategy?
It’s time to refine what was thrown together when it comes to electronic marketing—and that includes marketing to customers but also marketing for the purpose of recruiting top talent. Now with Gen Z (those born after 1995) solidly in the workforce, there are four dominant generations within the adult work and consumer worlds. Each expect digital communication, but their preferences on how they receive those messages and what they want to hear from you are vastly different.
Do you have your security defenses fully deployed?
Digital attacks on businesses large and small are growing. Consider the high-profile hacks of Colonial Pipeline, JBS, and Solar Winds, as examples. No business strategy is complete without critical data security, protection, and storage policies. It’s time to sort-out temporary versus permanent processes and to strengthen security perimeters and monitoring.
Are your HR policies ready for the future?
You need to balance listening to your workers’ preferences while controlling what works best for the company. Finney brings up “the Wednesday problem” to illustrate this point. A recent study found that, when given the choice, only 18% of workers would choose Wednesday as a day they’d work from home (as opposed to widely popular Fridays and Mondays). “That imbalance is an obvious problem for companies that reduced office space as a way to offset some of the pandemic’s economic effects,” Inc. comments. In the end, the organization must choose what works best for everyone, even if that means some workers stay home on hump day.
Finney covered more in-depth approaches for profit, sustainability and momentum in the second part of the series, which we’ll summarize for you next. Chances are that your organization has been in reaction mode for far too long. It’s time to put legs under the transformations you’ve made so that your business can withstand what’s next. You can access smart advisors including Finney to help you create that roadmap through our HT Group Advisory Services including technical, operational, financial, and HR focuses.