Looking ahead, how must business and management change?
Posted on 13th May 2020
Our personal and business worlds have changed beyond all recognition in just a few months. At home, it’s about getting on with the family, if you have one, or if you don’t it’s about staying sane, especially if you are cooped up in a small flat with no garden. At work, if you are still working, it’s about getting used to the new realities of business life. Working from home, communicating by Zoom, being separated from the banter of the office; it’s all very different and we would be less than human if we didn’t find it a strain at times.
However, there are signs that we’re going to come out of this, albeit slowly and hesitantly at first. Those firms that do best will be those (like Be-IT fortunately) that are in a sector that has a decent chance of taking off again fairly quickly. However, being in the right place doesn’t matter a jot if you then do the wrong things. This is especially true when we look at how we manage our people and develop our businesses in the ‘new normal.’
Here are five things of the key things (there are others) that we’re going to need to focus on:
1. How we communicate
We have got used to working in individual silos. That may continue for many, so managers are going to have to get better at managing remotely. But for those who can return to their workplaces, everything will have changed. Managers and employees will need to adapt to new, socially-distant office environments. Dealing with breaches of a new office etiquette will be vital, as will seeking, somehow, not to destroy the previously normal interplay of office banter and team spirit that we’ve all worked so hard to foster. Our “modus operandi” are going to have to change, which brings me on to…
2. Adapt, or else
The Covid 19 crisis has seen a lot of businesses really struggle and lots will, I regret, go under, but it’s also seen many, especially SMEs, adapt and find new avenues to keep going. Bar, takeaway, deli and restaurant owners have found ways to keep in touch with customers, let them order online and then deliver their orders. Research by BT and Small Business Britain shows that over one third of small businesses have moved to online working, 27% have secured new customers and nearly 20% have moved to a new model of delivery. As an aside, this makes me wonder if there will there be a ‘high street’ to come back to? Companies’ survival instincts are driving innovation and adaptability. Away from the SMEs, in the big boys’ sandpit, video-conferencing tech has exploded, with the big players of Google and Facebook scrabbling to catch up with Zoom.
3. How we use technology
Following on from 1 and 2 above, managers are going to have to be conversant with all the different platforms (it’s not just Zoom!) that clients and colleagues use. More generally, everyone will be looking to make their industries more resilient and one way to do that is to increase the use of technology that can’t catch a virus, works 24x7 and costs less than the 30/40/100 people whose jobs it takes. Good for tech companies, less so for everyone else. Government and society have some big choices to make…
4. Change management
Following on from 1, 2 and 3 above, it’s obvious that project and change managers are going to play an (even more) important role in many industries, especially those which have been slow to embrace technological change up to now. At the SME level, it’s often the business owner who is the project/change manager, but in larger companies there will need to be a more structured approach. For example, in construction, I can see a drive to reduce costs and reliance on humans, who are susceptible to illness. There, the increased use of technology, admirably captured on this blog, is going to need talented people with industry specific and tech skills to introduce change into what is generally regarded as a very traditional industry.
5. How we treat people
Finally, following on from all four of my previous points, managers are going to need to ensure that their employees are flexible, adroit and adaptable, while also being aware of the human costs of technological unemployment and under-employment. The fact that some governments are thinking about things like helicopter money (a universal basic income) shows that radical changes are now being considered. I am confident that the tech industries will be in the vanguard of the recovery when it comes, but I’m also aware that others will suffer. Just as we are trying to minimise the human cost of the Covid 19 pandemic, we need to do likewise with the human impact of the economic fall-out that has resulted from this crisis.
Nikola Kelly, MD, Be-IT
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