The new normal is truly a new beginning for businesses. The future is not predictable, at least for the foreseeable future, and the world may not revert to pre-pandemic business-as-usual operations. As firms strategize for the future, sustainability means becoming more flexible and finding ways to quickly adapt to a constantly changing business landscape.
Traditionally, strategic planning provided a road map for a future that was fairly predictable. The pandemic changed that in a dramatic fashion. Today’s business landscape is fraught with uncertainty, yet we are finding ways to deal with a new normal that is still a work in progress.
Businesses went from just-another-day to crisis management literally overnight. The resiliency businesses showed needs to be part of strategic plans going forward.
Changing Business Strategies
Businesses understand that some of the shifts will be permanent and others transient, such as:
- Decision-making. Consider how quickly businesses adapted to lockdown orders. Literally overnight everyone shifted to remote operations. Retailers pivoted to online within days. Restaurants adapted their menus and offered pick-up and delivery services. Manufacturers sought new sources for raw materials. Many businesses made changes in a matter of days, and they happened because there was no other choice. It was adapt or perish.
- Remote work. As employees switched to working remotely, companies had to adjust. Productivity was a particular concern. However, remote work, aka telecommuting, has been around a long time and productivity of remote staff has been measured. A 2018 study of 500 patent examiners who could work from anywhere showed a 4.4 percent increase in productivity. A 2013 study of 1,000 workers found that remote workers were 13 percent more productive.
- Mental health. The dramatic change in daily life and activities coupled with uncertainty about the future and pressure of political and cultural climate caused a lot of stress. Keeping employees safe and mentally healthy became an important issue, and companies responded by initiating policies like frequent “check-ins” to help monitor employees’ mental well-being.
- Talent pool. Remote work has a hidden benefit: companies realized that top talent could live anywhere. This widened the pool of potential hires from those in the company’s geographic area to anywhere in the world.
- Customer experience. In-person contact has always been a top method for maximizing the client experience. This changed with COVID-19 when companies had to forego bricks-and-mortar operations and find new ways to digitally meet customer needs and wants, ranging from ease of use to personalization to security.
- Technology. Companies are using new technology to automate processes and make them more efficient. Technologies focusing on inventory optimization solutions, integrated planning and execution, improved forecasting and greater collaboration are being implemented. The move to cloud-based services has accelerated as well.
- Cybersecurity. As businesses shifted from on-site to online, the safety and security of company and customer data and communications became a higher priority. Companies responded by implementing dynamic security measures that constantly monitor new threats.
- Innovation. To meet the demands of the crisis, companies became more innovative. For example, they learned to use technologies like 3D printing to manufacture needed parts.
Sustainability and Flexibility
These changes are far-reaching and businesses strategizing in this environment should address each of these areas.