If there’s one insight from the events of the last several months that stands out more than any other, it’s that “normality” can never be taken for granted. Few businesses were able to predict the immense economic and social upheavals that have occurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
More and more companies, both big and small, are closing their doors indefinitely. There have been numerous announcements of large-scale layoffs and closures from well-known brands. And while there are many reasons for these unfortunate developments, a failure to account for future uncertainty, to build “resilience” into core business operations, was likely present in most cases.
In this post, we’re going to take a look at how companies have successfully shown resilience in the face of COVID-19, either by relying on existing systems, or by building new ones.
What Is “Resilience” in Business?
The term “resilience” is often used loosely in discussions about business. As a result, nuances of meaning are easily lost.
“Resilience” refers specifically to a company’s ability to adapt quickly to unforeseen negative events while protecting its various components and interests, including financial assets, employees and market share.
In terms of the COVID-19 pandemic, resilient businesses have been able to adapt to a range of potentially damaging circumstances – such as reduced revenue, government restrictions and shifting customer behaviour – with limited damage to their “assets”.
Corporate shifts that exemplify resilience include, among other things, transitioning to remote work, focusing on online sales, opting for alternative supply chains and leveraging new advertising mediums. In all cases, fast and efficient changes like the ones just described have been made possible by systems, processes and “company mindsets” which allow for a high degree of resilience.
With all that in mind, let’s take a look at how companies have adapted to the ongoing and ever-changing COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Implementation of Speedy Decision-Making Processes
Corporate decision making, especially as it pertains to high-level strategy, is typically an involved process, requiring multiple meetings, evaluation of alternatives and forecasts, and outside consultation. Internal checks and bureaucracy can further add to the time it takes to reach a resolution.
In crises, when companies need to change direction in a short space of time, this approach can be counter-productive at best and severely damaging at worst. That’s why many businesses shifted to alternative processes that allowed high-level managers and C-suite executives to act quickly outside of usual constraints. This has led to many notable corporate pivots, particularly in the events industry.
The ways in which expedited decision-making responsibility is allocated within a company should be explicitly outlined in contingency plans, thus allowing for a fast transition when the need arises.
2. Creation of Up-to-Date and Flexible Digital Infrastructures
Throughout the pandemic, many companies have discovered a direct correlation between resilience and digital “maturity”. Companies that could rely on already-established, up-to-date digital infrastructures, or were able to build them quickly, transitioned to remote working practices much more effectively and with little training required.
Technology enables businesses of all sizes to respond to unforeseen situations with a level of speed that simply isn’t possible with legacy systems. Everything from hiring new staff to establishing new supply chains to processing important documents becomes easier with access to an up-to-date, integrated software suite and cloud-based computing hardware.
3. Renewed Focus on Ongoing Crisis Planning
While the broader economy has been detrimentally affected by COVID-19, with rising unemployment and corporate layoffs, certain sectors of the job market have grown. One such example is crisis management, where skilled individuals are facing increased demand. And this growth is indicative of a renewed focus on crisis planning.
A crisis management plan is an established protocol within a company that is designed to be implemented whenever an emergency arises, whether that emergency is societal, environmental or organizational.
Crisis planning is a critical component of corporate resilience because it enables action to be taken promptly and without extensive deliberation. Many companies are allocating resources to ongoing crisis management in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes outlining possible scenarios and warning signals, defining employee responsibilities and practices, stipulating access to emergency cash reserves, identifying alternative supply chains and more.
4. Emphasis on a Workplace Culture Designed to Support Employee Resilience
A company’s workforce forms the backbone of its success. And employee resilience is a major component of broader corporate resilience. There have been numerous examples of initiatives designed to foster employee resilience throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Human resources departments have been quick to respond by providing tailored employee training, often delivered virtually, to help them transition to new technology and work-from-home practices. This has proved instrumental in enabling companies to adapt efficiently to sudden restrictions.
Along with training designed to facilitate the transition to a new working environment, many companies have also introduced wellbeing measures to help overcome the potential pitfalls of working from home. Google, for example, gave employees an extra day off to focus on their mental health. And Shopify offered its workers a $1000 bonus to kit out their home offices.
Are You Intrigued by the Prospect of Helping to Build Resilient Companies?
More than at any other point in recent history, the world needs innovative, committed business leaders to steer companies through the uncertain business landscape that lies ahead. If you are excited by the prospect of helping companies become more resilient, then you could be suited to a career in the corporate world, either working for an established enterprise or at the head of your own company.
At EU Business School, we offer a wide variety of foundation, Bachelor, Master and MBA programs, across an equally diverse array of topics, including international relations, sports management, entrepreneurship and more. As a student, you’ll also have the opportunity to study on campus in one of Europe’s most exciting business hubs.