Living with uncertainty: three ways to rebuild your business

For a short window it looked like there might be a somewhat predictable route to the reopening of global economies.

Living with uncertainty: three ways to rebuild your business

For a short window ‘ it looked like there might be a somewhat predictable route to the reopening of global economies. However, in many markets including the UK, these plans have been thrown back into uncertainty. Businesses are presented with a new conundrum: how to best plan for a range of potential opening scenarios while still feeling the brunt of an economic downturn.

How can businesses best prepare their operations for success in this new wave of disruption? For companies that are able to restart some of their operations ‘ or return to work in some geographies ‘ how should they ensure this is done profitably while continuing to plan for wider resumptions? 

In this uncertain climate, technology is the enabler. Indeed, 80% of businesses believe it will be critical to their recovery and a third are actively investing in it. It’s important for business owners to re-examine their operations and place a heightened focus on flexibility and agility. Success in the present is about prioritising what matters most to employees and customers, and ensuring it can continue to be delivered.  

Take a human-centric approach

If one lesson is clear from the COVID-19 crisis, it’s that people remain an organisation’s most important asset. If employees are ill or lack access to crucial data and systems while working remotely, business grinds to a halt. Ensuring they remain protected and supported should remain the number one priority for all organisations. 

To do this, it may be necessary for employees to continue working remotely for the foreseeable future. At the very least, allowing more flexible work schedules should be encouraged; the Monday through Friday, 9 to 5, desk-bound culture that has previously dominated may give way to more productive, ‘work when you can, where you can’ environment. Businesses shouldn’t fear this change ‘ contrary to the stereotype, 39% of remote workers put in more work than their office counterparts

Conversely, for companies that depend on the physical labour or close proximity of staff, plans to reoccupy their offices, workshops and factories should be drawn up responsibly. Some may choose to do so in waves, or gradually by week. However, more than ever, the personal needs and limitations of staff should be taken into consideration. Not every employee will immediately have access to childcare, while others may need to continue taking care of dependent relatives. 

Safeguarding staff requires a more individualised workplan, and a deep, real-time understanding of their circumstances. Yet this is difficult when HR, payroll and other pertinent information is siloed across the business. Utilising cloud-based tools to integrate enterprise data ensures businesses are making the best decisions for staff based on the widest possible insight.   

Level up efficiency with automation

When it comes to maintaining agility in the face of disruption and uncertainty, reducing the amount of basic admin is vital. Across key functions like HR and accounts, repetitive data entry and processing tasks like scanning invoices or updating forms only wastes precious time. Indeed, 70% of CFOs feel added administration is having a significant impact on team productivity

When the need for change next arises, businesses want their key decision makers to focus on analysing and interpreting data, not managing it. Automation tools like robot process automation (RPA) can liberate managers from routine, time-consuming tasks. By applying automation throughout core business functions, companies free up valuable time and supercharge productivity across the board.

Automation improves efficiency while reducing costs and the potential for human error. Three quarters of companies already automate many of their processes, with 86% claiming it has boosted their productivity. Automation can save weeks of work in an ordinary environment, but when facing the challenges of today it can be game-changing. Employees can focus on the big changes that will grow and add value to the business while machines handle the nitty gritty. 

Don’t stop evolving

The last few months have been difficult and disruptive, but they’ve also been extremely innovative for businesses. Brewers shifted towards making hand sanitiser, sit-in restaurants expanded into home delivery, gyms and professional services firms offered online meetings and sessions to stay in touch with clients. 

With the likelihood of a second wave and further disruption growing, it’s clear there’s no going ‘back to normal’. Companies shouldn’t fall back into old habits, but double down and expand on the digital channels and services that have served them well in recent months. 

The most important thing for businesses to keep in sight are the needs of their customers. As market conditions continue to fluctuate, customers will constantly be searching for new products and services. Identifying these needs early on and quickly pivoting to meet them will be where the new growth opportunities are found. Businesses should also be willing to look beyond their traditional hiring pool and cultivate new, digital talent. Innovation correlates strongly with profitability, so it’s important that organisations treat it as a constant process, even when times are tough.

It’s often said that disruption and opportunity are two sides of the same coin. There’s no escaping the fact that we’re moving through uncharted and difficult territory, but that doesn’t mean businesses should expect cut backs and contractions as a given. The path to success isn’t as predictable as it used to be, but that doesn’t mean it has gone away. By adopting a more agile, cloud-enabled and human-centric methodology, organisations can weather the disruption and even emerge stronger for it. The opportunity for success is there when you look to your people, customers and data.


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