2021: The year of continuous reinvention
It is very hard for anyone to forget 2020. It was a year that came bearing gifts that none of us expected. A pandemic caused by the newly discovered coronavirus shook the world upside down and impacted almost every individual. It also placed governments, companies and businesses into a situation that they were never prepared for.
The pandemic, which is still ongoing, also made a huge impact on the global economy as it forced many businesses–both small and large–to shut or make significant changes in the way they work. With homes turning into office spaces, there was a fundamental shift in how organisations conducted daily work affairs, always keeping in mind the prescribed safety norms for their workforce.
There are five factors that have increasingly become the cornerstone of how organizations are trying to stay ahead of the learning curve. The reinvention that we are discussing today revolves around the ability of organizations to ADAPT (Agile, Digital, Acclimatise, People care & Thrive).
Conventionally, agility is one's ability to respond quickly. In context of our current situation, the change that we are talking about has been fast paced and unpredictable - no playbooks existed to help us navigate this. Each country, each company has done what they thought was the right thing to do.
As we speak with key leaders across the globe, some anchors that companies have relied on to navigate new situations with agility include - keeping the overall brand promise and purpose at the realm of key decisions (for example employees first or customers first); understanding key stakeholders better with increasing use of analytics and dashboards, incorporating a 100% tech driven approach to doing business - in fact technology isn't a support function anymore, it is an organization's core. Further, de-centralization became the need of the hour where local leadership teams were empowered to take decisions that may be specific to their country or region of operation and lastly, managers were equipped with new skill, knowledge and tools to create a productive culture in the teams that they led.
2020 catapulted the world towards adoption of technology at a giddy pace. As offices were shut or asked to operate at minimum workforce, employees were asked to work from home. This led to accelerated adoption of digital tools and technologies including digital file-sharing, video conferences, digital whiteboards and chat groups amongst others.
With the need, came innovation. growth in technology enablers in the past year has surprised the most tech savvy of us. The use of technology to aid decisions has been the central focus of leadership teams. For example, AI driven dashboards, industry 4.0, emphasis on analytics in driving everything from manufacturing to marketing, sales, to name a few. Use of virtual reality has been another idea which has taken the centre stage of many conversations - it has helped overcome the limitation of travel - for example, virtual exhibitions, market weeks, fairs etc have ensured that organizations have developed newer markets and customers despite the situation that they found themselves in.
Acclimatization or change management is a process that needs a 360 degree effort and enablement. While the role of leaders and managers in ensuring acclimatization has always been critical, in this situation, however, their roles have been game changers for many organizations. From providing support and stability in the present, to ensuring inspiration and vision for the future - leaders have had to play a more visible role in order to navigate their organizations. The acclimatization has been on an external front as well - customer preferences and needs may have changed which has resulted in faster GTM strategy for organizations. The philosophical thread of acclimatization that leaders have referred to in this past year has been more action-centric than ever before - progress has been better than perfection, the idea is to fail fast, learn and move on rather than get caught up with inertia.
As boundaries between work and personal life thinned, pressure and pandemic anxiety also accumulated within the workforce. It was here that companies took steps ranging from offering additional stipends (for setting home offices) to conducting mental health workshops for their employees. Several companies took steps ranging from providing financial or medical assistance to employees impacted by Covid-19.
At a local level, managers have increasingly learnt and accepted the big role that they play in ensuring team alignment, engagement and productivity. The term manager- coach couldn't be more relevant as it is today.
Wellness and well-being were the other dimensions that companies and businesses focused on during the pandemic. As almost every individual felt some level of discomfort, companies made sure the stigma around mental health was decreased and encouraged employees to come forward or seek professionals. Values such as empathy, compassion and inclusivity also found their way in talks delivered by managers and leaders.
The coronavirus pandemic forced organizations to transform their business models as part of their disaster recovery response which somewhat helped in adopting the new economic reality at a faster pace than expected. As technology helped in meeting the market’s demands and staying in touch with those who matter, businesses somehow learned to thrive even in the pandemic situation.
The good news is that both at the individual level as well as at a business level, the idea of a resilient workforce was put to test and brought to life. Maybe as a generation, we learned to value things that matter and ignore things that don't. The fragility of life and its uncertainty have definitely put some humane-ness back in the system that has for the longest time been more or less a marketplace of exploitation and greed. We are all guilty of that. Force of nature bought back some force of good, and for that we can all be thankful.