Recently I was speaking to my Grandma who is a little over 80 years when she exclaimed in our local dialect of Yoruba, ‘ I have never seen this sort of thing in all my years!’. Her comment made me pause and think, truly the COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented event that no one has ever experienced in modern day history, whose impact has caught many off guard.
As I write this, the pandemic has now spread to over 200 counties around the world, affecting millions of people and leaving societies and governments devastated. Business, are not left out, as they too find themselves in an uncommon situation that hardly any one was prepared for.
However, as the saying goes, good things come out of bad circumstances, and businesses must commit to seeing the silver lining in all of it. They must take the stance of opportunity, growth and innovation, this is one way to ensure that they come out better than they went in, even with the impact the pandemic will have on most companies worldwide.
As varied as the different countries of the world are, the impact of COVID-19 on businesses is more or less the same, companies majorly are facing problems such as interruption in supply chains, sudden drop in traffic, customer demand and leads (this is especially for physical or brick and mortar businesses), digital businesses somehow either got more busy or are running as is this time, for obvious reasons; sudden separation of staff, team members had to work remotely. This had to be quite challenging for people who hadn’t done this before. With remote comes the inevitable challenge of communication and then collaboration.
If any company is facing at least one of the above listed challenges, it at least has to prepare and plan for the new world post COVID-19.
In seizing the unexpected but welcome changes the pandemic has ushered in, companies must consider them an opportunity to look into their operations to improve on processes, reduce waste, costs, increase efficiency and performance and postively impact the overall business.
A Harvard business review article on operational innovation quotes, “Innovative operations can result in direct performance improvements (faster cycle time and lover costs), which lead to superior market performance (greater customer satisfaction and highly differentiated products). And improved market performance yields a host of strategic payoffs, from customer retention to the ability to penetrate new markets,” yet sadly “no more than 10% of large enterprises have made a successful effort at it”.
Innovative operations can result in direct performance improvements (faster cycle time and lover costs), which lead to superior market performance (greater customer satisfaction and highly differentiated products). And improved market performance yields a host of strategic payoffs, from customer retention to the ability to penetrate new markets,” yet sadly “no more than 10% of large enterprises have made a successful effort at it”.
That’s why this circumstance will force many to not only take a second look at their operations, but also see gaps and areas for change and innovation. Here are a few evident areas where companies can start looking into for change:
Reevaluate your business is offering and ways of delivery
This pandemic, has no doubt, caused us to have a foretaste of the future of work and team collaboration, as well as internal and external customer-facing processes as well. With increasing technology advancements such as cloud computing, riding on trends of globalisation all in an age where the customer has more say than ever before, companies have an opportunity to reevaluate the status-quo.
One way is by simply asking the question, ‘how will we leverage technology to enhance the value we’re providing, grow opportunities, solve problems we are challenged with? Now many will say, this a question we’ve asking for years now. However, with the abrupt change in how we work, it is clear radical approaches to answering this questions have not been explored, if they had, things like remote work or even reducing overly costly physical channels would have been adopted long before the pandemic.
This leads me to the final point which is the cutting down of extra resources. There used to be times when if you’d visit some top companies, you’d find someone in every elevator that helped you press the button to the floor you were going to. Now this person sat on a stool (taking up space that could’ve been used for another 1 or 2 persons, and often read a newspaper while keeping busy as he did his job, which was to press the button of the elevator for each one person that walked in. Certainly, it is not needed for someone to stand in an elevator to push the button for guests, however, some companies have that role, I illustrate this story to show the ludicrousness of ‘having too much’. The entry of the pandemic and its effect on economies worldwide should force many businesses to rethink their use of resources, and not just human resources, but things like using paper for communication versus just sending a digital message. Or reducing teams’ carbon footprint by reducing their physical presence in the office and turning some of the work days to remote. Or even going further to see how your team can be completely remote, allowing you to either remove your overheard costs of rent and similar costs, or moving to a smaller space since you’ll only need the space on rare occasions or client meetings.
Answering to employee wellness and happiness
Before the pandemic, I had spoken to a few individuals of various business sizes and there was a resonating point of view on the global transition to remote work, not just for efficiency, but for employee wellness also. Bringing it down to our context of Lagos, Nigeria, where an individual could spend an average of 20 hours commuting to and from work every week, remote work stood out as a choice option. In the age of globalisation where the world seems much smaller, we find people hiring and collaborating across nations and continents, how much less within a city? Companies that practiced remote work have reported higher levels of productivity, much happier employees with a general higher performance rate. Sure remote work is not without it’s gaps, however, once teams are able to build remote work cultures that work for them, the return makes it worth it.
Surely, this time has offered us all opportunities to stop and rethink the status-quo, hopefully companies take intentional steps to leverage this time and event in history to evaluate their processes and birth new ways of doing things that will benefit them.
Looking to embark on change? Some questions to ask are:
▪ What part of our internal or customer-facing processes can we improve on to increase customer and employee satisfaction while decreasing costs, time costs?
▪ Who can perform certain tasks to increase efficiency and productivity?
▪ Can we change where work is carried out or locations where customers are provided solutions?
▪ Can we leverage the times and how work is carried out to further business goals?