By Laura Gordon from Vistage Chair
18 months down the road from the initial impact of the global pandemic, we have a greater understanding about the changing economic landscape and what may lie ahead for businesses. However the close we edge towards pre-pandemic normalcy it’s important to remember that we’re still not quite out of the woods yet. For most small and medium sized businesses much uncertainty remains – such as the ongoing logistical challenges around how and where we choose to work, as well as changes longstanding changes to consumption patterns. This leaves CEOs and other business owners in this continuous planning phase looking to predict the future.
That’s why organisations must accept that living with some degree of uncertainty on an ongoing basis is the new normal. In order to continue to survive and thrive, business leaders must evolve their pre-pandemic mindset and accept that the world of business will never be the same again.
So, what internal issues should all SME CEOs focus on in order to successfully navigate these uncharted waters?
Tackle Comms Head On
What people find most inspiring about leaders in times of uncertainty is good decision-making and clear communication; particularly when the business landscape changes so rapidly in today’s environment.
As we remain in a state of flux, if you do not continue to provide the same level of communications as you did in March 2020, employees will notice the difference and begin to feel out of the loop which could impact morale. There’s no denying the influence of Zoom, and other communications technology has had on our day-to-day work lives; it’s something the workforce has grown accustom to and have come to expect.
Beyond this, leaders must imbue confidence to reassure their employees that they are in control of the situation. This is what inspires further confidence and helps to combat feelings of anxiety and uncertainty.
Focus On Workplace Culture
2020 saw twice as many people work from home in the UK according to the Office of National Statistics. The trend is set to continue with many people across the UK preferring to work remotely, according to recent research from the Henley Business school (2021). But, the question remains how do business leaders accommodate for remote working while fostering a cohesive company culture in the long term?
Remote working or hybrid working is here to stay. To remain competitive in the labour market, businesses must adapt their internal processes and communications tools to take in to account remote staff. It is critical that you reimagine the traditions and rituals that create the foundation of your culture and introduce new initiatives to replicate all the great things about your culture remotely. For instance, develop an immersive onboarding process for new recruits working remotely.
Additionally, do not neglect your team’s continued development. Training and development can take place virtually, and employees can connect through online activities such as wellness sessions, games, and quizzes. This will go some way to bridge the gap between remote and physical workers and keep your organisational culture thriving.
Implement Robust Wellbeing And Diversity And Inclusion Programmes
The work required to maintain your culture also provides an opportunity for improving and refining it. Prioritising diversity, inclusion and making sure all employees feel safe and respected will not only have a positive impact on recruitment, but also on productivity and your bottom line. Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians, according McKinsey. Additionally, teams with a diverse gender profile are also 15% more likely to outperform the median.
A crucial part of pandemic leadership is showing dedication to the health and wellbeing of your staff. It’s been 18 months – and your employees still need to know that you care. Good corporate wellness practices aren’t only needed during the height of a crisis. Old habits die hard, so make sure to remind your staff to take breaks, regularly exercise, or create a work curfew (for instance, no emails after 7pm) can help prevent workplace burnout. Your employees need compassion and understanding more than ever before. If they believe you view personal wellness as a business imperative, instead of a short lived tick-box exercise you’ll boost morale as well as productivity. This will have a direct impact on retention.
Upgrade Your Team
The pandemic has created a business environment in which leaders need to focus on creating new demand, rebuilding sales pipelines, and authentically engaging with customers. The quicker you react to the new reality, the sooner you’ll fire up the growth engine. One of the most effective ways to do this is through recruitment and bringing in new talent that will bring new ideas
If you want to rebuild your business, you need the right people in place. The companies most committed to growth are already battling it out to secure the best talent, so don’t get left behind.
What we once knew has all gone out of the window. The sooner business leaders can accept that and begin embracing adaptation, instead of begrudging it, the better they’ll be able to thrive and rebuild in a post-pandemic world. But when the world looks so different, businesses cannot survive by going back to their pre-Covid-19 days. Rebuilding is about taking a fresh perspective, imagining what could be possible, innovating to create something future-proof, and seizing the opportunities this new landscape might present.