Just weeks after winding down their operations, now, at unprecedented speed, I see companies are being asked to restart their engines, to quickly bring national economies back online. The challenge is complicated by uncertainties about the progression of COVID-19 and the social, political, and fiscal actions that it will drive.
Reopening requires more than a return to normal. However, because the unpredictable and long-lasting period that follows this pandemic will feature fundamental changes to economic activity, fast-changing cultural norms, societal values, and behaviours. To reopen and to outmaneuver uncertainty, reinvention will be necessary.
This is not simply reopening, this is a new beginning.
So, what needs to happen?
If organisations and companies want to successfully navigate uncertainty, the following should focus on 5 key areas:
Knowing what really matters to your employees in this new environment is essential. Technology, policy, and process will need to support and enable people in a truly human way. Leaders will need to take responsibility to understand the needs and concerns of employees if they want to create productive, inclusive, and rewarding working environments to drive long-term business success.
For an employee, returning to work will not necessarily be easy. It will not be determined by market demand alone, but by readiness and confidence of employees in their employers. Companies must create a safe working environment that gives people the confidence to return to work safely and to adjust to the new virtual/physical hybrid way of working. Support for employee well-being and mental health is a priority. The future workplace will also need new approaches to security.
Reopening is just the start – companies need to be able to reopen and stay open and this will not happen overnight. Companies should plan for a phased return with the ability to respond to unforeseen events, slippage, and reversals. Leaders should see this not as a time to return to “normal”, but an opportunity to rethink, re-engineer, and improve future operations. The key is an intelligent operating model―one that’s accelerated by automation, makes data and insights readily and rapidly available, and is delivered by an agile workforce.
After securing short-term liquidity, companies will need to focus on the longer-term financial health and affordability of the business. That means building a resilient cost management mindset, coupled with a clear view of key areas for long-term investment. The aim is not to arrive at a final cost level destination, but to create an elastic cost structure that can meet changing needs. This will require a culture that embraces data analytics and agile ways of working to effectively balance savings with investment in new opportunities to unlock new areas of value creation.
The secret to the long-term success of reopening lies in building new capabilities: fresh approaches to innovation, supported by more holistic technology strategies that support this innovation at scale. Purpose, empathy, and agility must be at the center of new customer growth opportunities. Understand how your customers have changed and rapidly respond and reposition your organisation as required.
Reopening will be much more than a restart. It will be the beginning of a new era of business. The rules have changed. Employee and customer behaviors have changed. This creates new opportunities for organizations with the courage and foresight to adapt and respond to more than just the immediate change in customer needs.
For example, many companies have moved partly to the cloud. Having used this to reduce costs in some parts of the business, now is the time to reinvent and scale cloud adoption across the enterprise, creating variable costs and increasing resilience. Those that can reinvent themselves — across processes, customer experiences, employee, and social contracts — will be successful.