With several economies gearing towards the end of lockdowns, it’s time for organizations to implement post-COVID-19 business recovery strategy. This may include a series of initiatives, including returning to the physical workspaces. Although it will let organizations restore balance to an extent, total recovery from the crisis is going to be a long and strategic battle.
The past few weeks have been challenging for businesses around the world. While some have managed to stay afloat by adopting business continuity strategies and agile mindsets, others have had no option left than to dissolve their operations. But everyone’s waited for one thing — restarting and reshaping their businesses once all this is over.
New beginnings will characterize the idea of the post-COVID-19 world. But, to be a part of this world, a holistic approach towards tackling the impact of COVID-19 on your business would be required. It implies that you would have to reboot your business — and carefully navigate through the next steps that follow.
Five-Step Strategy to Withstand the Post-COVID-19 World
Here’s a five-step strategy to come up with a plausible business recovery plan after the crisis. This strategy will help turn the chaotic business environment into a controlled one.
1. Compliance with Social Distancing & Hygiene Concerns
Transitioning from work-from-home to physical workplaces would be a significant shift for employees. It is likely for them to feel unsafe and unassured about resuming the old routine. Thus, it is the responsibility of the organizations to motivate them and reassure them of safety.
Acting on the following parameters will help:
a. Enforcing Workplace Safety
It should be a top priority to ensure good health and hygiene of your workforce. If you show care, it can restore the trust of the employees in the organization.
To start with, you could do the following:
- Screening employees and visitors by setting up employee health camps at the premises. Recommend work-from-home for employees showing fever symptoms.
- Redesigning workplace for enabling social distancing.
- Ensuring temporary closure of areas where physical contact with items is common (such as elevator buttons).
- Restricting conference room meetings and daily standups.
- Provision of sanitizers, masks, and disposable cutlery.
- Restricting entry and exit on a frequent basis.
- Ensuring that no food deliveries or eCommerce deliveries are permitted for the time being.
b. Implement Returning in Phases
Do not demand your 100% workforce to report back to the workplace immediately; instead, implement partial returning. It will help ensure social distancing by maintaining the appropriate distance between work desks and help overlook and monitor the pros and cons of returning to physical workspaces.
Recommendations for implementing partial returns:
- Continuing work-from-home for employees who have to travel for more than an hour to reach the office (minimizing commuting time should get priority).
- Continue work-from-home for the age groups that are more prone to the virus and for employees who do not work on critical functions.
- Implementing distributed work shifts to ensure minimal staff at any given point.
- Setting milestones for implementing new guidelines or considering 100% workforce return. For example, if there are no symptoms reported at the workplace for a month, you can ease down on the restrictions.
2. Faster Decision Making
To implement a post-COVID-19 business recovery strategy, you would have to speed up decision making. To begin with, understanding the ABCDs of categorizing decision making can be helpful.
This is a simple way to untangle the complexities of data at hand and implement problem-solving decisions.
The right way to go about it:
a. Embracing Agile Mindset
Agile implies speed & flexibility. If you have been applying the principles of agile, it is time to do it more rigorously. Try and break large tasks into smaller modules that can be completed in manageable sprints.
Here are some agile-driven strategies that can help recover business after the pandemic is over:
- Leverage agile analytics to plan for “what-if” scenarios that align with market predictions. When the road to recovery seems less foggy, the action plans around the scenarios can be implemented.
- Experiment continuously towards improving operations, welcome suggestions from one and all.
- Research, experiment, and implement new technologies in a one-week or two- week sprint. Once implemented, familiarize the teams so that they can start reworking towards the new goals.
b. Data-Informed over Data-Driven Decision Making
Data-driven decisions are solely based on available statistics and what the industry reports say; data-informed decisions are about applying your intellect, intuition, and experience.
Data-driven decisions may not be everything that one can rely on in these unpredictable times. You have to go beyond what the numbers say — give precedence to data-informed over data-driven decision making.
To enable such decision-making, focus on:
- Stay informed about the backward and forward of the respective market fluctuations. If you are aware of the market, your decisions are less likely to fall flat.
- Prioritize on decisions that focus on running the business over expanding the business. Do not waste time on decisions that will add to the financial stress with no gain in the long term.
- Conduct surveys or organize “digital suggestion boxes” that welcome recommendations across departments. Provide teams with data about the market dynamics so that their suggestions can be actionable.
- Revise customer journey maps to make decisions around changed customer priorities.
- Leverage data analytics to study the increase/decrease in demand for your business.
3. Shift to High Gear on Digital Transformation
Digital is a new buzzword gaining traction, and several businesses are relying on it entirely. And the noise around it will continue in the coming times too, which means — digital transformation needs to be accelerated for the overall growth of the organization.
Net Solutions’ Digital Transformation Framework (F.O.C.U.S.) is a good way to ensure that the digital transformation orchestrates a unified experience.
Think about the technologies that you can leverage as a part of the post-COVID-19 business recovery strategy. To begin with, draft a digital map that highlights your initiatives and plans for your business. Here are some areas where digital transformation is playing a critical role.
a. Digital Transformation for Continued Operations
The COVID-19 outbreak has made it clear — remote work is possible with the help of the right technology that can keep teams connected and productive. In the post-COVID-19 world, organizations can look for opportunities that focus on digitalization on a large scale.
Investing in these technologies for long-term should be considered:
- Reliable cloud service providers for IT infrastructure needs.
- Audio and video communication applications (enterprise or SaaS product).
- Cybersecurity products for maintaining data and information security.
- Platforms for running virtual events such as webinars and podcasts.
b. Digital Transformation for Customers Across Industries
After the COVID-19 is over, this world would be a different place altogether – most of the businesses will want to ride on the digitalization wave and experiment with new technologies. At the same time, some will rewire their business models to meet new market demands.
Here is a brief of how some businesses would be a part of COVID-19-led digital transformation for attracting new customers:
- Brick-and-mortar stores are investing in digital commerce platforms and will continue doing so in the coming times as eCommerce sales will ascend through the crisis. Net Solutions’ digital commerce survey report on fashion & apparel suggests that eCommerce sales will be up by 82% post-COVID-19.
- Automotive eCommerce is also taking some necessary steps toward the transformation as the virtual showroom concept is becoming a reality.
- Remote therapy would be driving the healthcare industry’s digital transformation curve. AR (Augmented Reality) would be the new way of visiting doctors as “holographic doctor visits” is already the new trend to look forward to.
- The on-demand businesses are transforming their business models to facilitate grocery deliveries through digital transformation. Post-COVID-19, the business will gain even more demand, which means investments in the arena would also accelerate.
4. Rethink Spending
Revenues have sharply declined due to the adverse impact of COVID-19 on businesses. This is especially true for small & medium-sized companies. And, for those that seem to stay afloat in these unprecedented times — the longevity of the economic downturn might make matters worse.
At this moment — expenditure reduction in non-essential areas and increase in most-essential areas should be articulated. That is, investments need to be distributed smartly by rethinking the entire expenditure model from scratch.
Here’s a business recovery strategy that could help:
a. Balancing Between Continuity & Innovation
Organizations that invest equally towards running business operations and innovation have higher chances of success. While this might be difficult in the current crisis, businesses need to allocate budgets equitably towards business continuity and digital transformation.
Some strategies to allocate budget towards innovation:
- Constitute a financial planning team that can improve budget allocation with regards to the crisis.
- Allocate a part of the budget (costs of managing the in-house teams) towards digital transformation initiatives.
- In-depth research into the disruptive technologies that suit your business and functional requirements.
- Invest in product development initiatives that could be launched as a SaaS product (for generating revenues) or could be used internally (customized enterprise software).
The role of technology has evolved from automating the business to actually being the business. — Satish Alapati, CIO, AT&T
b. Managing Organization’s Cash Flow
Redistributing a part of cash-flows towards digitization is necessary. So is managing the immediate cash-flow challenges to mitigate the impending business continuity risks.
Here’s a post-COVID-19 business recovery strategy that you can adopt:
- Maintaining a demand-and-supply balance by showcasing empathy towards the customers through waive offs, subsidies, etc and retaining their loyalty in the long run. If businesses offer benefits during this difficult period, they are more likely to gain dedicated customers over time. For instance, some telecom providers such as AT&T and Comcast in the US are avoiding cutting off connectivity over unpaid bills.
- Looking for alternative financing options for maintaining adequate cash flows (if the need arises).
- Pressing the brakes on variable costs (budget parameters) such as work-related travel, conferences, and meet-ups by sticking to videoconferencing wherever possible.
- Reducing costs in managing in-house inventories as a part of the business recovery plan.
- Looking for M&A (merger and acquisition) opportunities to refresh the value proposition.
- Reducing employee perks, such as free lunch and coupons. Google has already implemented this for its remote work employees.
Google employees won’t be able to expense food or gym costs while working from home — even if they have extra money from the unused event or travel budgets. — CNBC
5. Focus on Upskilling and Reskilling
The skills of employees have been challenged since the “where” and “how” of work changed. The workforce is now forced to familiarize themselves with new technologies overnight, leading to a major skills gap. As for the post-COVID-19 business recovery strategy, organizations can step up their game to nurture their employees’ skills so that they can prepare them for any kind of crisis.
Some organizations have already decided to work on a hybrid model by maintaining in-premise staff as well as work-from-home staff.
Almost three in four CFOs plan to shift at least 5 percent of previously on-site employees to permanently remote positions post-COVID-19. — Gartner
As an organization, the focus should be on upskilling and reskilling to bridge the skills gap. Yet again, digital transformation plays a role in revolutionizing learning and preparing the workforce for what lies ahead.
Focus around these paradigms to witness an increase in the L&D (Learning and Development) curve:
a. Build a Talent Strategy
All the employees should be digitally savvy to ensure that in the post-COVID-19 world, everyone can work in cross-functional setups.
Here are some strategies that can help:
- Introduce training programs for employees to develop new skills.
- Organize cross-training for employees so that they can be great at one thing, and good at many.
- Introduce training around remote-work best practices to keep employees healthy and productive.
b. Focus on the Skills Pillar
Employees should understand the changing dynamics of their respective roles. To help them stir productivity, working on the additional three skill enhancements would be necessary — cognitive skills, social and emotional skills, and resilience skills.
Here’s how this three-step strategy can help:
- Cognitive Skills: Organize hackathons for employees to encourage problem-solving, creativity, and enthusiasm. Such activities will help develop project management skills irrespective of where they work from.
- Social and Emotional Skills: Managers need to be good listeners and even recognize employee efforts from time to time. Adding inclusiveness in the work culture will decimate the silos. For example, you can include virtual chat rooms across teams for light-hearted, off-work discussions.
- Resilience Skills: Encourage and motivate employees to put their ideas on the table. Also, ask them — how are they managing their time? How are they adhering to the work commitments? How do they maintain their physical and mental wellness? This will help everyone learn from each other’s experiences.
As soon as your business resumes its normal operations post-COVID-19, strategies would need to be put in place to revive operations. It would probably be the same feeling of starting everything from scratch while making efforts to reclaim your competitive position. Even if the revival means modifying the business model, do not hesitate to explore the possibility.
The above-stated post-COVID-19 business recovery strategy will help embrace the new normal by setting your business on the road to recovery sooner than later.
See this change as an opportunity rather than a threat!