Consulting Services • Published 2/08/2021 Reimagining Your Organization in a Post-Pandemic World
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By now, organizations across the globe are all too familiar with what has been deemed the “new normal.” The pandemic forced change and adaptation at a breakneck pace. Now, we are working in an environment that is part crisis-management, part mid-length sustainability stopgaps. There are obvious downsides of the current market state, such as revenue volatility and the idling of business development, but there are upsides, too. Many businesses have the opportunity to try out new strategies that, if assessed and implemented effectively, will jettison them into the modern era of business management.

At this point, it’s important for organizations to shift attention away from the 12- to 18-month timeline of temporary strategies that support and protect, and focus on long-term strategic overhauls that we now have the insight to understand and execute. This article will identify key structures that are poised for reimagining and the critical change management strategies that can put organizations at the forefront of the new business era.

Supporting team members in the new era

Most companies have been in an aggressive social distancing stance or remote work environments for close to a year now. Living rooms have turned into workspaces, classrooms, and nurseries. Many team members are juggling more than just their day-to-day duties and have taken on new roles at home and in the workplace. This is the time to reconnect with your people. Employee communication and trust are going to be key.

Are your employees facing any issues – family, health, childcare – that may hinder their work? Are they able to unplug at the end of the day? Does the workday now start when they wake up and end when they go to bed? Do others now have more time and can take on added responsibilities? Think creatively on ways to connect. A weekly virtual lunch or daily 5-minute phone call can go a long way. Open up the lines of communication in a safe space so that your employees feel comfortable telling you what they need.

The “new normal” that develops this year will continue to challenge organizations to keep employees healthy, involved, and motivated. Mental health should be a high-priority topic for business leaders and HR professionals. Anxiety and feelings of disconnect may increase as the world adjusts to this new phase of recovery and return. Keep these discussions front and center and be available and open to answer questions and create new guidelines for the workplace. It is a win-win for both sides.

Education is key to competitive edge

As we approach a full year in this new work environment, some employees may feel that they have a good grasp on their current role and see the opportunities for growth on the horizon. This is an ideal time to focus your team on building skillsets that will assist in the long run. The remote environment has certainly uncovered new challenges. The desire for additional or expanded skillsets may now be a necessity. Encourage your team members to take advantage of online learning platforms and allow them the time to invest in their future.

  1. IT and cybersecurity: It’s no surprise that this skillset will continue to be useful throughout this year. No matter your employees’ current experience level, focusing on IT and technology security will bring advantages.
  2. Video and audio production: Advertising has taken on new meaning in this remote world. The way companies are reaching consumers is evolving through podcasts, Instagram, and TikTok. Developing video and audio production skills within your team can dramatically expand reach.
  3. Foreign language and translation: With an increasingly-globalized economy, staff may need additional language fluency and translation skills. Apps like Rosetta Stone and Babbel are making this possible without ever leaving the living room.
  4. Data analysis and statistics: Data analytics have becoming a top priority in this digital world. Many colleges and universities are offering free courses in these areas.
  5. Individual creativity! Creativity is consistently an in-demand skill as employees often need to think outside the box to solve new problems and challenges. Encourage them to participate in activities that spark their imagination and spend time sharpening their creative skills.

While some employees will stay remote, others will begin to re-enter physical offices and facilities.

Rethinking the workplace

With the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines on the rise, a question looms in the minds of many business leaders and employees: To what extent will remote work persist? Most organizations will retain a degree of remote work through a hybrid workforce.

"More than 20 percent of the workforce could work remotely three to five days a week as effectively as they could if working from an office," the U.S.-based consulting firm McKinsey & Company reported in November, after an analysis of workforces in nine countries. "If remote work took hold at that level, that would mean three to four times as many people working from home than before the pandemic and would have a profound impact on urban economies, transportation, and consumer spending."

Related article: The Benefits and Challenges of Taking Your Company Remote

As we look further into the pandemic recovery phase, it is time to reevaluate and recommit to work-from-home policies. Consider these key tips for maintaining remote work:

  1. Utilize the proper technology.
  2. Ensure a secure internet connection.
  3. Implement communication programs across the organization.
  4. Set clear expectations in the work from home policy.
  5. Test the “work from home” program and make adjustments when needed.
  6. Trust your employees.

While some employees will stay fully remote, others will begin to re-enter physical offices and facilities. There are a few things to keep in mind as workplace expectations have changed to ensure safety and cleanliness.

  • Health and wellbeing: The workplace must include a sense of health and wellbeing. Do employees feel safe at work while their loved ones may still be social distancing at home? What programs are in place in case stay-at-home orders are enforced again and employees must juggle two workspaces?
  • Sharing the workspace: Cleanliness will continue to be a high-priority factor. What are you doing to safeguard the workplace and how can you help your employees maintain a germ-free zone? Privacy may also come into play here. At home, your team members may have had the privacy and focus to knock out key tasks in their day. Can they expect the same when they come back into the office?
  • Touchless digital solutions: We are all hesitant to touch an elevator button these days. What creative solutions can be implemented into the workplace to keep activities hands-free? Is it time to order “germ keys” for everyone in the office? Can an app be implemented to print copies and send faxes? Now is the time to limit exposure to everyday surfaces at the office.
  • Outdoor and open-air workplaces: Is there an option at your office for employees to spread out in small meetings? Open-air spaces allow employees to interact with each other and clients outside the confines of a conference room.
  • On-site eateries: With the return to office life comes the return of the lunch hour. This creates the opportunity for companies to offer innovative options for their employees. Open-air food trucks, pre-packed lunch deliveries, and alternative kitchen spaces can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and help your employees feel safe.

How and what should an organization digitize to stay competitive in the long run?

Digitization and automation

Along with people and workplaces, overall organizational processes are experiencing a massive overhaul that will inform the future of business. With the onset of COVID-19, organizations did in a matter of weeks what they would otherwise have done over the course of the coming years: They majorly digitized internal processes. The upside of this unprecedented event was the rapid mobilization of remote work, but the question lingers – how and what should an organization digitize to stay competitive in the long run? In order to support a working world that is going to become more and more “hybrid,” organizations should consider identifying those internal processes that are:

  • Paper-based processes: Does a process rely on paper documentation that is scanned and uploaded to close out the loop on the deliverables? If so, automating this system, whether it requires client-facing inputs or employee execution, may streamline an often bogged-down process.
  • Manual processes: If an employee must move data or documentation from one location to another (virtual or otherwise), it is important that organizations start working out how to automate this process and remove as many manual tasks as possible from the workflow. This has the upside of reducing human error and increasing accuracy and efficiency.
  • Processes requiring a meeting: Does your organization require meetings to sign off on work or come to a decision? Team-based software platforms continue to advance and offer a real alternative to in-person meetings with documentation repositories and tools for editing and updating work. These software options also offer ways to manage, track, and prioritize work as it moves through the organization.

To adapt, companies need to rethink the client journey and the employee work path and accelerate the development or adoption of digital solutions. Implementing new software and automation will require integrating businesses processes, incorporating data-driven decision making, and implementing strong change management.

Related Article: Cloud Software Plays an Important Role in Crisis Operations and Recovery

Agility and collaboration

This is the time to empower your organization to be nimble, responsive, and resilient. Supporting and implementing agility in your business strategies will help create an organization adept at facing challenges and able to pivot quickly in response to the risks of the future. Agility represents the ability to reshape strategy, structures, processes, people, and technology to quickly take advantage of opportunities that create and protect value.

Agile organizations tend to be more decentralized and depend less on top-down, command-and-control decision making. These organizations create agile teams, which emphasize autonomy and accountability for day-to-day decision making. Team and employee outcomes are precisely stated and tracked through the workflow, with regular check-in opportunities that are extremely team-oriented.

Organizations that have implemented an agile approach have worked to flatten decision-making structures and emphasize speed and flexibility. Does a decision need to go up the chain or can the answers be identified within the team environment? The agile approach supports autonomy, levels the structure of decision-making, and requires collaboration and flexibility. In an increasingly digital business world, this is often a particularly welcome change.

Agility is grounded in the discipline of data management and observation. Organizations that aim to become more agile will need to create or accelerate analytics capabilities to establish the basis for decisions. This also requires the ongoing training of employees to take advantage of these capabilities. Supporting your employees’ learning is a great strategy to support growth and the ability to change with the needs of the market.

Celebrate the outcomes of change

A turning point as far-reaching as COVID-19 will inevitably inspire long-term adaptation and serve as the catalyst for organizational change across industries. Businesses must develop a change management approach that serves to evaluate and implement the best strategies that came out of this period of crisis and ensure that lessons are not lost. While organizations have worked quickly and thoughtfully to protect their employees and maintain business operations through the current crisis, it is just as important to step back now, assess what worked, and figure out how to bring these policies into a new era. Contact us for assistance adapting crisis lessons for long-term change.

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