By Eman Al-Hillawi and Peter Marsden, directors and co-founders of business change consultancy, Entec Si.
The old adage that change is the only constant has certainly rung true in 2020. In order to keep up their continuity and performance, businesses have been forced to react quickly to fast-changing government guidance by transforming their processes and ways of working.
It’s likely that this period of rapid change will have altered organisations’ priorities and goals, making now the perfect time to conduct a full business health check. This will allow them to realign their strategies with the ‘new normal’ for their marketplace, ensuring they are ready for the road ahead.
The pandemic has seen companies having to shift from office to home working practically overnight, something that has created a variety of challenges for business leaders to overcome. Examples include finding new ways to keep up communication with employees, ensuring that staff are properly set up for remote working, and making sure people aren’t left struggling when working remotely – whether with new processes or systems or due to feeling isolated.
There has also been the issue of navigating the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Assessing who to furlough and when has put a considerable amount of pressure on leadership, and with the scheme having just been extended again, these difficult decisions will still be required over the coming months. As a result, maintaining employee morale and trust continues to be one of the biggest challenges that many businesses face.
To adapt to this ‘new normal’, priorities regarding where to invest time, energy and money have had to alter. As the second wave of COVID-19 takes hold, carrying out a business health check can ensure the correct processes and systems are put in place to mitigate disruption, whether that be making sure the Cloud is being used to its full potential or that employees have the equipment needed to work from home effectively.
As demonstrated by the second national lockdown, reactive transformation should still be high on business leaders’ agendas. However, organisations also need to consider longer-term strategic change. By assessing their current systems, processes and company culture, leaders can identify areas for improvement, both in the short-term and the long-term. Some challenges could require a quick fix, while others may need a more carefully considered approach. Either way, taking a holistic overview of business operations can lead to improved efficiency and a happier workforce.
An ideal place to start is considering the lessons learned from the first wave of the pandemic. Reviewing which processes work and which need improving or updating is a vital first step on the transformation journey. From here, a top-down assessment can be carried out that highlights any underlying problems that could cause problems over time. If any are identified, then businesses should consider whether their existing strategy will address them, and if not, what needs to change.
The main areas of strategic transformation that should be considered include the improvement of digital infrastructure, to ensure everyone is able to access the information they need remotely, the redesign of the home working model, to make sure everyone has the equipment they need, and training to support the workforce with new processes and systems. Overall, organisations need to take a more agile approach to business operations and decision-making, becoming open to undergoing transformation in line with market changes.
To implement these changes effectively, business leaders should look to the people around them and create a team of change champions. The pandemic will have highlighted those who respond well to change, and these employees are well placed to take ownership of internal transformation. Input from external experts can also ensure the correct processes are put in place and that everything is happening as efficiently as possible.
At present, keeping costs under control is a concern for many organisations, no matter which sector they are in. This may make some business leaders hesitant to start the change process, however, doing so can reduce expenses, both immediately and in the long run. For example, if a company is moving to a remote working model, then they could cut costs by downscaling their office or getting rid of it altogether. By carrying out a spending review, businesses can assess what is needed to sustain them and what they can live without.
Throughout any change project, employers must keep company culture at the forefront of their minds. Face-to-face conversation may not be possible at the moment, but by making the most of video conferencing technology, employees can still share their thoughts and feelings through regular meetings with their peers and with management.
For organisations unsure of their next steps, now is the ideal time to conduct a business health check. At the very start of the pandemic, it was difficult to know the best action to take in the face of unprecedented challenges to business continuity. However, now that it is possible to step back and reflect on the lessons learned from the first time around, a more resilient business can be created that puts people at the core of every decision.