The majority of businesses have had to adapt their ways of working during the pandemic, but why stop there? Having gained a taste for improvement, many companies will now be looking at new ways to update their processes, systems, and infrastructure. However, effective business change requires careful planning to ensure it is successful.
A switch to more remote working has arguably been the most lasting business change triggered by the pandemic. Many organisations have seen first-hand that it can improve employee wellbeing and cut costs yet result in high-quality outputs. As such, this working model is likely to continue.
In order to enable remote working, use of technology has altered, with greater use of laptops and mobile devices, video conferencing and virtual collaboration tools, as well as Cloud-based applications and storage becoming the norm. In some organisations, these changes were a knee-jerk reaction to the pandemic, but many are now considering how remote working processes can fit their longer-term business model.
Organisations that were already investing heavily in both their people and technology before the pandemic have found themselves on the front foot throughout this period of change. For these businesses, Covid-19 acted as a catalyst, accelerating uptake of their transformation agenda. This uptake has enabled these companies to evolve their approach, considering how they can mitigate the potential risks of working in the ‘new normal’. Employees have also used this time to re-evaluate their working preferences and how they would like to work more flexibly in future.
While attitudes towards change have become more positive, it’s important to note that there have been disadvantages too. For example, virtual meetings have made interactions more functional – no ‘water cooler conversations’ to check in with staff or develop stronger working relationships. Collaboration and mentoring have also become more challenging, as in person working can enable employees to learn more effectively. As a result, businesses must consider which aspects of flexible working best suit their overall business model and put in place activity to bolster any perceived weaknesses in this approach, from an organisation, staff and customer perspective.
When it comes to ways of working, customers, employers, and employees no longer accept what has always been. Questioning why we do things in a certain way is vital to continuous improvement, and the pandemic has opened up conversations regarding business practices. The world feels increasingly uncertain, so being able to adapt is essential. Ensuring organisational agility is perhaps the most key learning aspect of the recent period.
Companies need to look critically at their investment in technology, as it’s not just about enabling staff to work remotely, it’s also about investment in staff skills, engagement with customers and improving business processes. Data is a core part of this, and people should have the tools, skills, and capacity to analyse data from different sources effectively. Companies that have invested in analytics are able to make more informed decisions and adapt more easily. Improving accessibility to business data via the Cloud can also help to ensure staff have the information they need, no matter where they’re working from.
Businesses should also consider the lessons they have learnt throughout the pandemic, whether positive or negative. As well as looking inwardly, it is also wise to assess what other organisations and sectors have done in case their choices can act as inspiration or warning. This offers an opportunity to review the company’s strategic roadmap, considering whether it is still fit for purpose and has been adapted for the long-term.
Immediate impacts, such as a rise or fall in profits and quality of service delivery is a quick way to assess whether the current business model is effective. However, other impacts may take longer to play out, which is why communication with staff is vital. They see the advantages and disadvantages of change first-hand, so are in an ideal position to provide actionable feedback. Keeping communication open throughout change is essential, as employees’ views will likely evolve as the various stages of the transformation process are implemented. Effective communication is a core component in supporting employee wellbeing, a topic which is currently high on the agenda.
People are pivotal to the success of a change journey – they should be brought along for its entirety and help shape it. Collaboration and survey tools can be used to support engagement, enabling employees and customers to offer their views more readily.
Improvement is a continuous process, so businesses should prioritise the changes they want to make depending on their needs. A key question to help prioritisation is ‘Will this change make my business more effective and agile?’ By looking at the short- and long-term impact of the change, organisations can assess whether activity directly contributes towards the business.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to transformation projects, which is why a holistic approach to change is essential. Every business has its own strengths and weaknesses, and improvement is about identifying these and tailoring your approach to capitalise on strengths and address weaknesses over time. No one can predict the future, but if a company invests in its people and technology, and ensures alignment to strategic objectives, they are in a good place to tackle whatever challenges lie ahead.