It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since terms like quarantine, social distancing and remote working became part of our normal vocabulary. We’ve been through a lot in 12 months, and our organizations have become stronger, while at the same time, in some cases, have paid a steep toll.
Looking ahead the future looks brighter, dare we say even more certain, yet we cannot afford to pause to catch our breath. For many organizations, 2020 and the start of 2021 has been more about surviving and stabilizing than growing and optimizing. As the Rolling Stones told us, time waits for no one. And so here we are, with barely three quarters left in the calendar year, staring at an uphill road to get back on track in terms of growth plans and margin improving initiatives.
However, let’s not let the past 12 months pass by in vain. There are some learnings we can take and apply to our organizations to best position us for a post-COVID growth cycle. Our own research, combined with the transformation we’re supporting clients through at this very moment, has brought to light three critical lessons we believe are vital for organizations to incorporate, now.
Let’s be honest, these concepts were important pre-COVID; yet, as we look ahead, they are even more vital to organizations looking to differentiate and “win” post-COVID. They also are neither mutually exclusive, nor collectively exhaustive. Yet taken in part, or in whole, these lessons can dramatically change the direction of an organization, create competitive advantages and position an organization for sustainable success.
1. Agile Organizations Win the Race
The pace of change continues to accelerate. Organizations must be flexible and nimble, adapting and evolving at every turn. Simply adding head count to solve systemic process and technology issues is costly and inhibits your ability to quickly react. Agile organizations don’t happen by accident, however. Leading organizations are investing in the following areas to become more agile.
- Digitization. Digital transformation was a hot topic prior to COVID-19, and without a doubt the pandemic has pushed digital passed the tipping point. So, what does this mean for your organization? Just because your competitors are making investments in their digital maturity doesn’t mean you should, right? Well, yes and no. You will want to ensure you have a well defined digital strategy, vision and roadmap that appropriately supports broader enterprise objectives.
- Data Driven Decisions. Decisions are not difficult when things are predictable. There are patterns that we pick up on, and historic information we have learned and leaned on. But, what happens when tides shift, and the environment we thought we knew changes? Making decisions now based on gut instinct can put the organization at risk. So now what? Data-driven decision making, using facts, metrics and data becomes the new imperative. The problem for many organizations, however, is that much of their data is slow and unreliable. At the end-of-the day, how your organization leverages its data to make decisions can be an important differentiator. That said, you need not take an all-or-nothing approach. Rather, think strategically, yet start small and stay determined.
2. Businesses That Invest in Key Areas Will Win the War on Talent
Prior to COVID, unemployment was at an all time low. Fast forward 12 months, top talent is even more difficult to find (and keep). COVID in some cases has shrunk the labor market, due in large part of the complexities of keeping children in school and in child care. In other cases, roles are also changing and organizations must be proactive in understanding these fundamental shifts. Investing in the areas below can help your organization stay out in front.
- Training, Learning and Development. The skills we valued as little as five years ago have likely diminished in value today. This pattern likely will mean the skills we value today will show diminishing value in the next few years. Technological advances will be able to replace nearly half of our workforce’s day-to-day activities. This is a good thing. Although roles will be replaced, humanistic thinking, reasoning and values are more important now than ever. Leading organizations are adapting and evolving, creating new roles that optimally leverage their human workforce, and replacing the old with machines. This cannot happen overnight; however, and organizations will need to invest in retraining and developing resources to meet tomorrow’s needs.
- Talent Empowerment. Talent is your organization’s most costly, and scarce, resource. Therefore, maximizing talent is key to unlocking potential value. But how? In analyzing organizations, more often than not we find roles and expectations are misaligned with the actual day-to-day activities performed. There are a myriad of reasons that contribute to this, but often, quite simply, it starts at the top and matriculates downward.
3. Proactive and Purpose Led Organizations Find Success
Higher workforce and customer satisfaction — that is what’s at stake here. A clear purpose is everything to an organization. It is why it exists and why it is relevant. It’s not that purpose has not been important in the past, but current trends point to purpose being more important than ever. It defines why customers choose to do business with us, and why talent wants to be a part of our organization. What’s more, our customers and employees are more sophisticated than ever and can detect pure marketing from something that is engrained into the fabric of the organization. This doesn’t mean you need to have a century old history to lean on. But, rather, you must be able to effectively answer the question, “why do we exist?” And, further, you must have the vision, strategy and operating model that proactively supports and answers that question. These next few areas are critical to success.
- Innovation Driven Culture. Innovation is often inspired through purpose. When those in your organization can identify and align to the vision and direction, that can be a critical catalyst for innovation. A clearly articulated ‘Why’ — that promotes customers, society and the environment ahead of simple profit motivation — defines the culture, motivates and inspires talent. Creating an innovative culture doesn’t happen overnight, but it can be vital to not just long-term success, but survival. With quickly evolving digitally disrupting technologies that impact the business model, having an organization that can anticipate and harness opportunities, and be agile enough to quickly execute, is vital to expanding your market share.
- Meaningful and Sustainable Growth. Growth is typically synonymous with revenue, but purpose led organizations look at growth in a wide variety of areas and let revenue follow. Focusing on outcomes rather than outputs is a key change in outlook that can generate dramatic results. Products and services are more of a means to an end than truly value producing. Business models that focus on solving needs, putting customers ahead of profits, and employees who are incentivized to think this way has an infinitely better outlook than a traditional model that compares widgets sold this year to last year.
These three strategies are not necessarily simple nor quick to implement. However, making calculated investments and putting key components into motion now can help accelerate execution. In its most simplistic state, it boils down to driving toward greater awareness, agility and resource effectiveness. That’s how organizations will position themselves to win in the future.
Contact John Cavalier at firstname.lastname@example.org or a member of your service team to discuss this topic further.
Cohen & Company is not rendering legal, accounting or other professional advice. Information contained in this post is considered accurate as of the date of publishing. Any action taken based on information in this blog should be taken only after a detailed review of the specific facts, circumstances and current law.