What are the new challenges facing businesses in the post-Covid-19 crisis?
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about an almost total halt to social and economic activity around the world. Restarting is a defining challenge. The challenge for companies in many industries is to survive in the short term, while securing long-term prosperity. They will have to adapt to a post-Covid world, which is likely to be very different from the one before. There will be no return to normal. Companies will then venture into uncharted territory and will have to develop an adaptive reopening strategy, adjusting as events unfold.
No business, regardless of organization, size or industry is spared. How can these companies, SMEs or multinationals, best prepare for a post-crisis world, rather than turning in on themselves and waiting for an illusory return to the past? What are the new challenges for leaders?
We have identified five priorities that leaders must set to make this transition a success in the post-Covid era.
Priority 1. Successfully restart in the wake of Covid-19
To be successful in a gradual restart, companies must first understand and then adopt new distancing or protective equipment requirements. As long as there are no treatments or vaccines, companies need new approaches, new models of risk stratification and new guidelines in the event of a recurrence of infection.
Reassuring employees is their second challenge. The virus does indeed generate fear and anxiety, especially if employees think they might be exposed at work. Concerned about the risks to their health, but also about the needs or the risks incurred by their families, they will have the greatest difficulty in meeting the demands of work. Many employees are also worried about the economic disruptions that their company may undergo.
The leader must then show empathy and recognize these fears and stress. It is up to him to eradicate the pressure of being present in the office and to allow flexibility, beyond the possibilities of working remotely. To support employees, he must also be as transparent as possible and highly communicative, as the way he supports his employees has a significant impact on their engagement and productivity.
The third challenge facing many sectors in this recovery is to restore consumer confidence. Walking into a restaurant, going to a store, taking a plane, or attending entertainment will all lead to high anxiety levels, which may well inhibit demand. Companies must therefore quickly implement a strategy to restore confidence, both individual and collective.
Priority 2. Make a post-crisis assessment and establish a continuity plan
The emergency having passed and in order to prepare for the future, each company must take stock of its reaction to the crisis and identify both its strengths and the weaknesses that the latter may have revealed. This crisis has undoubtedly exposed the need for greater preparedness, resilience or agility in certain areas. These weaknesses can also signal opportunities to renew products or the business model, and thus better serve customers.
This assessment must also concern the human capital of the company and in order to prepare as well as possible, it is necessary to identify the key commercial functions, to prioritize their relations with customers and subcontractors, as well as to identify the roles, activities and key skills, in order to establish a continuity plan to deal with a possible resumption of the pandemic.
Priority 3. Move from crisis management to establishing a new strategy
In the event of a crisis, such as Covid-19, the necessary focus on the present should not crowd out thinking about the future. Businesses need to integrate and adapt to the new emerging reality. Faced with the crisis, only companies that will master responses that are both transient, but also organizational and transformational, will reap long-term fruits.
It is therefore suitable for managers:
- detect critical changes, then distinguish transient changes from those likely to be permanent,
- seize these opportunities to establish strategies responding to these new purchasing behaviors and these changes in social and societal attitudes,
- to adapt the organization to these new needs.
Priority 4. Encourage innovation
The companies that capitalize on new emerging models the fastest will be able to reap the most benefits. We still need to move from a crisis management mindset to a more creative and imaginative mindset. In a context of high uncertainty, however, employees can become risk-averse. There is a natural reluctance in times of disruption to be afraid of new things that create change.
Paradoxically, it is during these times that innovation and risk-taking become even more important for the engagement of employees, especially those with high potential, and for the success of the organization. It is therefore up to the leader to encourage and provide opportunities for innovation or process improvement. It is also responsible for enabling the sharing of successes or ensuring the safety of employees in the event of potential failures.
Priority 5. Accelerate digital transformation
As businesses adapt to the post-Covid world, one of the big challenges is to accelerate their digital transformation. Long before the crisis, many companies had started this transformation, to take advantage of the agility, productivity or personalization offered by these digital business models.
But what has been a discretionary transformation, at a free pace, has become a priority and an emergency. Just as SARS accelerated the adoption of digital commerce and the rise of Alibaba, the Covid-19 allowed businesses and consumers to try and get used to digital shopping, work and collaboration, this times globally.
In this context, traditional businesses need to ensure that they participate fully in the digital transformation, rather than risking a detrimental delay. And all organizations, even those that have experienced a first wave of digital transformation, must ensure that these changes are focused on value creation, not technology, and that they will not be constrained by processes or by existing offers. They will also have to focus on the human side of digital transformation at least as much as on the technological side. It will not be a choice offered to the company, but a necessity for its survival.