With ‘reopening’ on the horizon throughout Europe, and the 10th of May marking a shift in what lockdown will mean here in Denmark, many people are looking to what the personal and professional ‘new normal’ will look like.
In The Diversity Council, we have been in close dialogue with experts, politicians and business leaders and have noticed the recurrence of these 5 key attributes, when forecasting the kind of qualities that will be essential to business prosperity in the coming months and years.
Even as the huge human cost continues to be felt across the world, the changes of the current climate necessitate agile organisations to see the opportunities that can arise, while innovating, and responding to disruption.
KPMG, partner in The Diversity Council, has been covering the crisis extensively and in one article, emphasised that companies must be ‘agile and proactive to maximize value’. According to the May 2020 issue of Harvard Business Review, ‘building an agile enterprise means finding the right balance between standardizing operations and pursuing (sometimes risky) innovations.’ Many companies have had to adapt in the crisis: liquor manufacturers now producing hand sanitiser, car manufacturers delivering ventilators, and this kind of ‘blue-sky thinking’ is essential in uncertain times. According to research, innovation often thrive the most, when a company has a workforce with broad diversity.
In parallel with agility, is the necessity of a resilient mindset. Businesses will have to support and empower their employees, as they deal with unprecedented disruption. For years we have extolled the virtues of ‘thinking disruptively’. Now that theory is becoming a reality.
A recent report from Diversity Council founding partner, PwC outlined: ‘It’s important to ensure that your people have the right skills and a willingness to embrace change. The speed of technological advances has already created significant demands for upskilling your workforce, and post-crisis demands will heighten that need.’ This upskilling process could require programs that equip teams and leaders with the tools and mindset to manage uncertainty and give them the confidence that they are being invested in and retained.
Digitalisation and Automation
The pandemic has resulted in a seismic shift from the physical interactions to the digital world. Beyond the obvious dependency on technology, that has defined the past few months, with Zoom and Microsoft Teams now accepted parts of day-to-day life, the way we use (and depend on) technology is likely to become even more essential. Investing in IT systems, considering online ways to communicate with customers instead of flying and accelerating automation to ensure rapid response as the situation develops, should all be prioritised.
In late 2017, the McKinsey Global Institute estimated that automation could affect from 400 million to 800 million jobs by 2030, but this figure is now, due to the pandemic, likely to rise further. Accelerating business investments in digital systems, and reassessing how your teams best incorporate technology, will be essential.
Community Thinking and Cooperation
Full re-opening of national borders is likely to be one of the last steps and consequentially, the focus of many businesses, at least short-term, will have to be regional more than global. In fact, the World Economic Forum has warned that ‘it is entirely possible that COVID-19 will precipitate the “waning of globalization”’. The repercussions of this kind of statement are huge for trade, international business and the global economy, but the negative ripple effects may also result in an increased desire for connectivity and community, in a new and more localized way.
In statements from the Assembly of European Regions, the values extolled during this time are those of coordination, cooperation, sharing and solidarity. It is consideration for fellow humans that has defined this period of lockdown: people retreat indoors for the sakes of neighbors, elderly relatives and strangers. For businesses and their people, it is important to be attuned to this mindset shift, and work with a human-centric approach.
Alignment with UNs SDGs
A recurring global theme of the COVID crisis is that this ‘new normal’ gives us a chance to rethink the ‘old normal’ and top leaders here in the Nordics agree. It will no longer be enough for businesses to cruise on autopilot. New paradigms will dictate business success as stalwarts of the global economy reassess outdated business practices. Part of this ‘re-evaluation’ could result in the Sustainable Development Goals coming even more to the forefront of business conversations. The interconnection of the goals will also become apparent, given close relations between health, inequalities, the climate, global production and the economy.
We are already seeing the positive ramifications for the environment, even as inequalities and poverty are highlighted by the exponential level of illness and death rates in deprived areas. Companies may evaluate how they can reopen with a greater focus on a more holistic approach to business success, through e.g. SDG 17 ‘partnerships for the goals’, collaboration and communication is encouraged.