Had you predicted a year ago the events which have unfurled in the last few months, you would have been met with disbelief. Nonetheless, the business world has been irreversibly impacted in ways that many thought impossible. And the ramifications of the most significant pandemic in a century continue to be felt right across the globe.
To help business leaders make sense of what has happened, we’ve identified seven key leadership and crisis management lessons for a post-COVID-19 world. If you are in a position of corporate responsibility, whether as an owner, manager or self-employed freelancer, or even if you’re just beginning a career in business, these tips will help you form an effective strategy for moving forward.
1. Tested Contingency Plans Are Essential
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted a general lack of preparedness among large swathes of the global economy. Few corporations reacted immediately when information about the seriousness of the virus began to circulate. And many found themselves in difficult positions, unable to avoid laying off staff and closing premises when governments implemented lockdown measures.
Contingency planning for all types of eventualities, from pandemics to natural disasters, should form a key part of your ongoing business processes. Companies that know how to react within a tested and thorough framework, one that is understood by all employees, are well-placed to weather any storms that may strike.
2. Workforce Flexibility Has a Myriad of Benefits
National lockdowns forced the majority of companies to let their employees work from home. Initially business leaders were reluctant, fearing that productivity levels would decrease. The results, however, have been quite the reverse.
Many organizations have seen significant increases in employee productivity, wellbeing and work quality. Furthermore, not having to maintain offices has resulted in substantial savings. In the future, it is worth asking how you can foster greater workplace flexibility and create opportunities for remote working.
With the increased prevalence of out-of-office employment, you should also keep in mind that this makes it possible to broaden your candidate pool. The ability to recruit in other countries or even continents gives you the best possible chance of finding the most qualified and talented individuals.
3. Digital Transformation Is a Priority
Since the beginning of the pandemic, businesses of all sizes have had to rely heavily on digital infrastructure. This is in part because remote work is only possible when employees have access to an array of project management, video conferencing and time tracking apps, among others. Similarly, customers have increasingly turned to digital channels to communicate with businesses and make purchases .
These trends are likely to continue well into the future, with higher levels of online shopping, digital communication and remote working already forecast. Now is the time to ensure that your tech stack, the set of software products and IT services which power your business, is complete and up to date.
4. Businesses Must Be Willing to Diversify
According to a report by McKinsey and Company, customer behaviors and preferences have changed significantly in the last several months. Among other things, consumers are more concerned about convenience, hygiene, value-driven purchases and the ethical stance of the brands they shop with, especially in regard to employee treatment and sustainability.
Businesses that have survived the initial throes of the pandemic, and in some cases even thrived, have all demonstrated a willingness to diversify. Examples of this include placing greater focus on ecommerce, introducing new products, emphasizing health and safety practices and setting up employee support initiatives.
To ensure success in a post-COVID-19 world, business leaders should think about how they can integrate ongoing diversification processes into the heart of their organizations.
5. Unified Communication Can Help Allay Customer Concerns
Throughout the pandemic, communication from both government and corporate entities has been fragmented, confusing and subject to short-term changes. As a business leader, it is vital to recognize that customers are feeling generally uncertain about everything from national health and safety rules to the opening hours of the local store. What’s more, disruptions are still likely to occur at very short notice.
This is why a unified communication strategy is essential. Ensuring consistency across all customer-facing channels and sending timely alerts about unforeseen changes will limit confusion, put your customers at ease and help your messages and marketing materials reach the widest possible audience.
6. Strategic Partnerships Can Create New Opportunities
A large number of companies have been unable to cater to the sudden and significant shift in buyer needs prompted by the coronavirus. There are many reasons for this. Often, supply chains and logistics networks are simply not in place. For others, a lack of digital infrastructure makes it impossible to take advantage of increased online traffic or communicate with customers through online channels.
For businesses in this position, strategic partnerships can be a viable solution. Forming complementary relationships enables companies to quickly offer new products, services and fulfilment options while also leveraging engaged new customer bases.
7. Build Cash Reserves
While contingency planning is essential, implementation is reliant on adequate cash reserves. It is absolutely vital to ensure that your company is building and maintaining emergency funds. It is also good practice to research both short-term and long-term financing options from banks and lending institutions, as loans may become necessary. The longer-term ramifications of the pandemic remain to be seen and setbacks are likely.
As you move forward, you should also keep abreast of government aid packages and initiatives. You may need to take advantage of these at a later date, so it’s important to be aware of all entitlements.
Prepare Yourself for a Leadership Role With EU Business School
The world needs creative, forward-thinking business leaders now more than ever. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the global economy, companies need to adapt if they are going to survive. And for the right individuals, this shifting corporate landscape presents many opportunities to do meaningful, important work.
If you are thinking about a career in business, EU Business School offers a range of courses that will provide you with all the skills, experience and expertise you need to thrive in your chosen field.