Then is now. Certainly not the end and definitely not the beginning of the end but it’s in there somewhere. Those who think the imminent reopening of their business will be the defining moment of their recovery may be surprised.
We have all been preparing for this moment and our inboxes inundated with handy, easy step processes (Ok, OK, yes we guilty too) designed to help orient thinking and organize priorities, but when the proverbial rubber does its thing we will find these to be not detailed enough to respond to the myriad of daily challenges many of which will be unique to the organization. The latest Conference Board pulse survey reported 8% of respondents completely prepared for reopening – we were surprised it was that high!
The return to sustainability will be marked with a series of significant defining moments (e.g. realization that we have a new customer base, acquiring the staff and skills to respond, the end of support programs, the easing of safety precautions, and of course, the wide distribution of a vaccine). There will be a new external environment to navigate, plus a changing internal culture. The formula for success is going to be different than previously and in responding to these “moments” we should not be fixated on returning the business to what it was.
Do not assume that these are minor disruptions requiring a band-aid until the business returns to “normal”. Work on the basis that the change is permanent as each will signal the new, emerging business; new markets, business practices, and culture are working towards a new business model. Adopt a holistic perspective and ensure the principles trickle-down and embed in linked activities, practices, and policies. “Pivot” is the word de jour of the pandemic, which means for a reason, doing what you did, but differently.
Some examples of what we mean:
- Our RECOVERY series touched on some of the many people issues that are going to arise but suffice to say distributed working here for the foreseeable future, will require empathy and concern to be forefront in leadership.
- Equity and fairness considerations will expand to include employees at home, those in the office, and those on different work schedules. Training, onboarding, pay and benefits, expense reimbursement, and travel time allowance will require a refresh. According to a recent Aon survey, more than half of participating companies provide special programs to help distributed working.
- Be prepared to rebuild the sales program. Reaching potential buyers, respecting their safety protocols, and distributed selling will require new techniques and training, plus closer integration with marketing to develop acceptable terms for cash-poor customers. Sales incentives will need to be reviewed.
- Plan on employee and stakeholder communication expanding in volume and medium and on topics previously taken for granted such as business continuity, methods, and model.
- The safety of staff will be job one but workplace measures will make it more difficult for customers to find you, for you to work with partners and may create productivity hold-ups or bottlenecks. Reinventing supply chain and customer service models will deliver benefits.
Rationalize, communicate, and build as if it were a new organization. The next few weeks may signify not the end but a bright new beginning and one in which the adaptable will endure.
Need a Yoda? We can help. We have seen a downturn or two. In the great recession, we worked without fees supporting clients through difficult times. We are doing so again through telephone consultations, The Recovery blog, The Business Health Council, and our Advisory Board on Demand; a service to CEOs facing challenges, that don’t have their own.