Mary Wong, Associate Partner at PEN Partnership, shares practical tips for adapting to uncertainty and succeeding in a post-COVID world.
If there’s one thing that the first half of 2020 has taught us, it’s the need to be comfortable with uncertainty in completely new ways. From adapting quickly to meet your customers’ needs, to acting decisively to protect your business and your people.
For those leading the industry, the pandemic has been a time of opportunity and a chance to showcase their ability to rapidly innovate in ways that meaningfully help their customers during this difficult time. For those lagging behind, it’s been a time of learning, highlighting the importance of investing in infrastructure and digital capability.
When it comes to platforms, change is a matter of course, with the continual movement of assets and regular news of acquisitions and consolidation. In this increasingly competitive and margin-driven industry, survival is predicated not only on the ability to attract and grow assets, but on your business’s ability to develop cost-efficient and resilient business operations.
When it comes to effective operations, there are two topics at the top of the agenda for the vast majority of platform providers that we’ve been speaking to: Location Strategy and Operational Resilience.
A recent O2/ YouGov poll showed that 45% of workers expect a permanent change to their company’s approach to flexible working in the UK. Whilst a recent Gartner survey of CFOs suggested that nearly a quarter of companies will move at least 20% of their on-site employees to a permanent remote position.
Taken together, this adds up to a huge shift for your business. One that if managed well, could see you accelerate your business, reducing your operating costs and dramatically increasing your profits.
But without the proper thought, or worse, if completely ignored, these changes could cause serious issues for your business. Leaving you with a pre-COVID business no longer fit for a post-COVID world.
To help you succeed through this period and come out as one of the winners, there’s five areas that you will want to focus on to ensure you’re prepared for what the future holds:
Strong leadership has been critical to maintain focus and morale, as well as to accelerate decision-making in the early stages of lockdown. Going forwards, effective communication strategies will be required to ensure that your team feel as connected to you as they have during the crisis and continue to reflect the changing ways your employees work. Ad hoc stand-ups or informal conversations in the office need to be replaced with more inclusive comms, that don’t disadvantage people who aren’t in the office.
The risk management of COVID-19 needed to be agile, dynamic and flexible. Changes to business practices and operational controls had to be swiftly risk-accepted with a shift in working practices to manage risk ‘at a distance’. It is worth continually checking in on whether your risk capture and escalation processes are appropriate and recalibrating impact tolerances as circumstances change.
While remote working was initially successful, that early optimism is beginning to erode and fatigue is starting to set in. While many organisations have benefitted from a more responsive workforce, it is important to be proactive to help employees prevent burnout. It is harder for managers to keep an eye on this with a virtual environment, with the typical indicators of late-night working not as apparent. What has become clear is that protecting wellbeing is vital to effective operational resilience, including flexibility to meet each individual’s needs and circumstance.
In a post-COVID world, you need to give your employees choice as to how they work and not just make decisions based on how you think your people should work, or where they should be working from. You may want to think about reducing your stand-ups, instead replacing them with more informal 1-1 check-ins on employee wellbeing to inform your approach.
The ‘workplace’ has undergone a seismic change this year. The purpose of the physical workplace is evolving from somewhere your team spend their entire working lives, into a place where people can come together to collaborate, share ideas and be creative.
Long-held assumptions have been challenged, creating long-term implications for the setup of working spaces and offices to reflect their changing purpose. Now is the time to consider whether you still need a city centre HQ, multiple offices around the world, and whether the offices you do keep are set up for the changing needs of your workforce.
As remote working is now becoming a long-term option for your employees, you need to ensure that your infrastructure is robust enough to handle this. From ensuring systems are accessible outside the office, to implementing effective collaboration tools and ensuring everything remains secure, these considerations need to be top of your IT agenda.
Those individuals who previously preferred the more traditional ways of working and communicating with clients have now been forced to adapt – it will be important to keep up that momentum and not allow your team to fall back into old habits by embedding these new practices into your ways of working for the future.
While every organisation will face their own individual challenges, one thing is certain – the pandemic has changed the world for all platform businesses, and shifted the way we will work for ever more.
By acting now to develop a business plan that’s fit for the ‘future workplace’, starting with your Location Strategy, you will be able to avoid the pitfalls that this new world presents and set your firm up for success.
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