Post COVID-19: Preparing Organisations for the New Normal

As the economic and business impact from the lethal Coronavirus crisis mounts, executives in every industry are seeking innovative fronts to protect their employees’ health and build their companies’ resilience. At the same time, governments are open to new strategies to safeguard citizens and manage social and economic fallout. As frightening as the present crisis may appear, how business leaders respond will determine how well their organisations will thrive once the economy starts recovering.

Currently, companies have created policies and strategies to protect their employees, clients and partners from the effect of COVID-19. Here are some of the actions they have taken this period;

  • Forming Crisis Management Teams

Most organisations have created a committee to formulate policies and provide information to executives and front line staff on topics like awareness, prevention and great hygiene. This group also handles employee safety, alongside other future developments; covering issues like protocols for remote working, daily safety check-in etc.

  • Monitoring Business Impact

Senior leaders hold dedicated meetings to monitor business impact in efforts to protect or sustain business functions.

  • Business Support For Clients

Firms are developing strategies to communicate with their clients. Some organisations are proactively communicating with businesses and notifying customers to help them navigate the challenges and uncertainty generated by coronavirus. Organisations like Phillips Consulting have set up a business clinic to support key issues on people, cost management and business continuity.

  • Using Virtual Training

There has been a fast expansion of training opportunities within enterprises. A lot of organisations are making use of platforms such as Zoom, Teams etc. to render bespoke training to clients.

Given the nature of the pandemic-driven situation and the innovative strategies being implemented by various governments in flattening the curve for COVID-19, it becomes imperative to prepare business leaders and organisations for the ‘new normal’ — recovery phase for COVID-19. However, with business continuity in perspective, the actions that an organisation take during this transitionary period can set the foundation for it to thrive and achieve sustained growth and performance in a post-COVID-19 world.

Here are key insights into the new normal that lies beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, and considerations business leaders should factor into planning for the new normal today:

  • Rapid Acceleration of Digitalisation and Innovation:
  • Remote working has triggered a rapid spur in the adoption of technology. Many social distancing strategies have been deployed, hence the explosion of innovation around virtual meetings, video conferencing, virtual classrooms, digital learning, telemedicine and knowledge sharing. Also, the fear of contagion (and the unknown) is leading many people to abandon cash payments, thus embracing digital payments via digital channels. Various collaboration tools confined to tech-savvy early adopters have now become mainstream while many businesses experiment new ways of working. This acceleration of digitalisation and emerging technologies will generate efficiency gains, thus dominating the working world during the Post COVID-19 era and further drive remote working technologies, such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) systems.
  • Reinventing Supply Chains and Manufacturing Strategies:
  • The novel Coronavirus crises have revealed the dangers of relying heavily or solely on factories localised in single countries. The rate of vulnerability is alarming and thus, calls for re-thinking and reinventing of the present supply chain and manufacturing model. For instance, China has been the refining base of choice for emerging sectors such as cloud computing, smart grid, big data, renewable energy and alternative energy vehicles. Over the past 19 years, it has more than doubled its share of trade with the rest of the world and presently represents 16% of world gross domestic product (GDP). Despite this, many global companies are unaware of all locations and companies within their hyper-extended Asian supply chains and therefore are unaware of their risk exposure.

In the world, referred to as the ‘new normal’, resilient organisations will find a way to mitigate the negative impact witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic. They will do this by adopting emerging automation technologies, such as robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) vision systems. They will gain competitive advantage by building manufacturing industries locally and most importantly, move businesses from offshoring to near-shoring and even re-shoring of production.

  • Rapid Increase in Public Health Awareness and Civic Responsibility:
  • The international response to the Coronavirus has revealed the weakness and shortcomings of the global health care systems. To understand the implications of this change and how it should help prepare organisations for the ‘new normal’, we will look at the case of Hong Kong during the 2003 SARS outbreak. The experience was a traumatising one for Hong Kong as it resulted in long term behavioural changes. The use of surgical masks and disinfectants became common practice — even till today, including the use of tissues to open doors of public places. Unlike SARS, the traumatic experiences associated with COVID-19 are on a global scale, suggesting that the types of behavioural changes seen in Hong Kong and the associated business adaptions and opportunities will also become global in no distant time.
  • Significant Decrease in Business Travel:
  • The Coronavirus pandemic is attacking the travel industry’s economy hard, and it’s also hitting fast. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the effect of Coronavirus could cut over 50 million jobs globally in the travel and tourism industry. In the Post COVID-19 world, there will be a significant decrease in business travel due to the over-dependency on virtual conferencing, video-conferencing and other virtual meeting enabling tools.
  • Rapid Increase in Digital Learning (E-Learning):
  • With schools closing in over 190 countries all over the globe, home-schooling is already on the increase as many are presently leveraging the lockdown as an opportunity for self-development. Children are not left out too, as parents are encouraged to enrol their children in online academic activities, as this helps in developing their skills and discovering their talents. According to UNESCO, the world after COVID-19 will witness a surge in home-schooling activities which will disrupt the traditional schooling system. Phillips Consulting is among several organisations that offer tailored self-development programmes and courses. In these times of remote working, home-schooling and virtual learning, digital literacy is a requirement for everyone to develop optimally. pcl. offers thousands of curated videos, courses, and books on digital skills, in partnership with Skillsoft — the global leader in corporate learning, to ensure individuals and organisations are digitally literate in all aspects of focus.

Quick Wins for Organisations During the Transition Phase

  • Thrive Amidst the Challenges:
  • The best direction one can give business leaders during this challenging time is simple; deploy a futuristic strategy. Visualise the Coronavirus crises as a dress rehearsal for a new normal: a world of accelerated digital disruption, innovation, radical shifts and climate change etc.

Putting this into practice might be difficult, as the next few months are going to be extremely tough on businesses but thriving amidst the challenges will require determination and sustained effort on the part of business leaders.

  • Understand Your Business and Its Operating Model:
  • As part of any business continuity plan, organisations need to carry out a business impact analysis (BIA) for easy evaluations of priority activities. This is a great start — but following that action plan is a vital need to expand all activities and dependencies, including deep-diving right down into the supply chain and the organisation’s demand.

For an overarching business impact analysis (BIA), employing the services of a Consulting firm like Phillips Consulting can help in Organisational Optimisation. As the mapping of business changes, diagnostics and analysis across several focus areas such as Strategy, Structure, Policies, Processes, Governance and Performance Metrics are all required for the new normal that is to emerge.

  • Risk Management Systems:
  • In transitioning during the pandemic and the recovery phase, organisations must prioritise and ensure an overarching risk management framework and systems. In retrospect of the 2008 global financial crises and how resilient organisations responded during the crises, businesses must do the same today. Businesses should do this by leveraging lessons from the 2008 crises, especially risk management structures to the customer (e.g., credit risk) and extended supply network (e.g., supply risk).
  • Collaboration is Key:
  • As part of the critical action plans required to ensure organisational survival for the new normal, active collaboration through the convening of regular meetings with supply base and customer representatives for pooling ideas is very crucial.
  • Be Positive:
  • set up a team whose sole responsibility is to champion the development of the business post-COVID-19.

Conclusion

Presently, most organisations are just trying to get through this period unscathed, with little or no thoughts about the ‘new normal’ set to emerge. Setting up a business continuity plan optimised on reverting to old ways of working may look like the best strategy right now, but the aftermath — surely will not look good in the long run.

However, thinking ahead with strategies fully equipped to navigate the crisis appropriately will transcend to competitive business advantage, as well as great gain in efficiency and speed post-COVID-19 era.

Phillips Consulting Limited (pcl.) is a leading business and management consulting firm serving clients across Africa. www.phillipsconsulting.net/