The 2020 global pandemic and the lockdowns that followed were by far the biggest challenge most businesses have had to face this century and a lot more profound than the financial crisis of 2008. Some businesses prospered, a lot collapsed and a slew of new businesses were born. And all those who survived the crisis emerged transformed in a sweeping process that the pandemic merely accelerated.
Here are 6 ways that Covid 19 turbo-charged the transformative impact on businesses:
- It pushed the fast-forward button on digital access
The 2020 global pandemic – and the stay-at-home mandates – made physical workplaces obsolete quite quickly. Traditional ways of doing business had to be thrown out the window, and new ways of supply-management, goods delivery and customer-connection became top priority. The pace of digitization, already occurring in a lot of businesses, suddenly went from ‘fast’ to ‘furious’. Everything was digitized; your laptop and your smartphone became the epicentre of commerce, health, hospitality and administration.
- It provided companies with the perfect opportunity to innovate
The rapid evolution of technology was disruptive enough. The pandemic turbo-charged it, presenting businesses with a unique opportunity to prototype their adapted ways of working in a relatively safe space. Customers were patient, understanding why things had to change and suppliers were understandably more flexible. Businesses had an opportunity to diversify, introduce new products and explore new markets, with little risk of resistance. This period of instantaneous innovation helped to build confidence among businesses, to introduce change boldly and fearlessly. A slow process of change, that normally involved years of decision-making, had been accelerated to months, and often, weeks. Nike’s famous slogan, ‘Just do it’, was becoming every business’ mantra.
- It highlighted the importance of training and upskilling
Remote working was only one aspect of the transformation happening in the workplace, and which the pandemic accelerated. At the heart of it was rapidly evolving technology. As businesses integrated new technology into their processes and systems, their assembly lines and supply orders, laboratories and hospitals, the food supply and logistical chains, the very nature of work began to change. Old job descriptions were being cast aside, new descriptions were being added. At the heart of this change was the discarding of traditional work descriptions such as building of ‘careers’ in a particular discipline, in favour of hiring ‘specialists’ in one narrow area of that discipline. Specialised, and most often much higher paying, professional contracts were replacing employment contracts. The ‘generalists’ were being pushed aside by ‘specialists’ all over the business world.
This new work order called for training and upskilling in brand new ways, but traditional academia, given its rigid hierarchy, was slow to change course. Smaller, more nimble educational schools like SSBR moved much faster, innovating quickly, tuning training, upskilling and specialisation to the new ways of doing business by making the student the centre of everything, from technology to curricula and making all research and dissertations, real-world and practically relevant to each student.
And since higher education is inherently hierarchical, business schools like SSBR encourage expanded and more focused levels of specialisation not just at the doctoral level, but right through bachelor’s and master’s programmes to cater to business professionals in career development to either attain higher management roles or pursue an entirely different career path. SSBR’s innovative business programmes are fully digital, innovative, and taught by professionally active faculty who teach business principles through real-world examples in a digital setting.
- It’s allowed businesses to save money
Due to the unprecedented nature of the pandemic and the lingering uncertainty around the lasting effects, leaders and leadership teams took a hard look at their books, reevaluated spending and made adjustments to their cash flows, in order to prepare for any potential financial impacts from COVID. In the short term, it was safe to predict that at the very least consumer spending patterns and purchasing activities would alter significantly. For the long term…well, it was near impossible to call! For many businesses this triggered a ‘spring clean’ of the company accounts and a pull back on spending. Although installing new ways of working hasn’t come without cost, including investment into new digital systems, communication platforms and home set up for staff. Many businesses experienced vast savings from not having to pay daily operating costs of offices or travel expenses.
- It’s seen a rise in productivity levels
The combined effects of point 3 and 4 has resulted in a rise in productivity. Prior to the pandemic, the idea of offering a ‘working from home’ option to employees was often viewed as unfavourable and if granted, would often come with strict conditions. The idea that employees would be too relaxed, become lazy and be distracted by things around the home as opposed to fulfilling work obligations was overlooked by the time saved travelling, commuting, reduced distractions and the effectiveness of virtual meetings. Although faced with challenges, working from home, and communicating digitally have produced better productivity results than anyone could have expected.
- It encouraged a stronger sense of community
In some instances, working remotely and being situated away from the traditional office has been a positive experience. Socialising virtually with colleagues has become more accessible to those who may have commitments outside of work, or live in a remote area. Many employees feel their work-life balance is healthier and their general well-being has noticeably improved. Being more presence at home has encouraged people to establish or enhance relationships with neighbours and others in their vicinity. Being part of a community is essential for good all-around mental health.
In conclusion, it can be seen that while the pandemic accelerated the transformation of business, the way businesses reacted to the pandemic was instrumental in taking that transformation forward. How we, as individuals and institutions, react, adapt and change along with business will determine not just the future of business, but our own futures as well.