The COVID-19 pandemic was the first time most of us experienced a crisis of that magnitude. It was clear that there was no one path forward – so much so that different countries responded in completely different ways. While Australia shut down entirely, for example, Sweden worked towards herd immunity.
Businesses responded differently, too. Retail, hospitality, healthcare, manufacturing, construction, support… These are all amongst the industries that were drastically impacted by COVID-19, and each sector – and each organization – took a slightly different approach to managing the difficult situation.
As the world begins to emerge into a new normal, it’s time to take a look back at those early emergency responses. Which parts of the different approaches were right? Perhaps more importantly, which parts were wrong? By learning from the business management mistakes made in 2020, organizations can ensure they’re better prepared to successfully navigate any unexpected events occurring in the future.
Here are 4 of the biggest business management lessons organizations in all sectors can take away:
1) People come first
It’s been reported that around 50% of employees have considered leaving their jobs once the world returns to normal. Why? Although there are many possible reasons, surveys have found that almost the same percentage of people were unhappy with how their employer responded to the pandemic, so it’s reasonable to assume that this is playing a role in the (potentially) upcoming mass turnover. The possible fallout from this could be catastrophic, leaving businesses struggling to fill essential roles quickly.
It’s become clear that people must come first. Business managers must make their employees a priority, supporting them through challenging times and providing them with the tools, knowledge, and autonomy they need to remain productive under uncertain working conditions. A good place to start implementing this lesson is in communication. The 2021 State of Shift Work report shows that 82% want better communication from their employer, with clear, transparent messaging of expectations and plans.
2) Flexibility matters
Business management has traditionally been quite a ‘set in stone’ sector, but those managers and those organizations that have emerged from the pandemic strongest are those that were open to introducing new levels of flexibility into everyday management processes. One area where flexibility has been vital is scheduling. Some business managers have embraced flexibility to adapt scheduling processes to meet changing demand, as well as to quickly and easily bridge staffing gaps caused by illness or isolation.
Another area where flexibility has been instrumental in navigating the crisis is in business offerings. Diversification has been an essential lifeline for those organizations operating within the hardest hit industries, and we’ve seen a number of great examples, like breweries supplying closed bars turning to hand sanitiser production. ‘Companies should consider making activities more diverse, even if it’s not the cheapest option’ says the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants’ 2020 insights report.
3) Digitisation isn’t voluntary
‘Companies that have executed successful responses to the crisis report a range of technology capabilities that others don’t’. That’s according to a recent McKinsey report which highlights one of the most important business management lessons to emerge from the pandemic: that digitisation isn’t voluntary. It’s not a ‘nice to have’; it’s a vital driver of business continuity. Technology has enabled businesses to facilitate remote working, communicate with customers, and ultimately remain relevant.
Today’s organizations should be using business management software, including quality management software, supplier software, HR and people management software, and corrective actions software which can not only help to build resilience in the long term, but also aid recovery in the short term. The overarching lesson to be learned here is that it’s imperative to take the time to design, build, and implement a strong digital strategy that can support organizations as they grow and develop.
4) Risk management shouldn’t be an afterthought
In 2018 – just one year before the COVID-19 pandemic changed the business world forever – it was reported that 69% of organizations didn’t have a comprehensive risk management process in place. At that time, risk was very much an afterthought; risk was something that was possible, but never actually became a reality. Now, it’s all too clear that the worst-case scenario can happen. And the lesson to be learned here is that business managers should be thinking of risk as a likely and very real possibility.
Today’s business managers should be working to design and implement strong risk management strategies and carefully created contingency plans that can help to protect the organization’s people, reputation and cash flow during challenging times. While this is a lesson that many businesses unfortunately learned the hard way, it’s a lesson that can help to minimize the impact of a future crisis, and ensure organizations are able to continue operating effectively following unexpected events.
If we could turn back time…
Research shows that around half of all business managers were dissatisfied with their COVID-19 response, and would do things differently if they had the chance to go back and do it all over again. Unfortunately, that’s not an option. The next best thing is to learn from our mistakes and ensure we’re prepared to act in the most effective way possible when we’re faced with future challenges.
About Author Derek Jones
Derek spearheads key initiatives at Deputy, a global workforce management platform for employee scheduling, timesheets and communication. With a focus on the workforce, Derek helps business owners and workforce leaders simplify employment law compliance, keep labor cost in line and build award-winning workplaces. Derek has over 16 years’ experience in delivering data-driven sales and marketing strategies to SaaS companies like MarketSource and Griswold Home Care.