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AND THEN WHAT?
Over the past two weeks we have been creating resolutions with an entrepreneur mindset to adapt and conduct business during the COVID-19 lockdown. We then created ways to lay the groundwork anticipating reopening. Now that the reopening is beginning to happen, it looks like it will not be “business as usual” – in fact, many refer to this as our “next normal.” Are we being proactive in building capabilities for our return to business?
PROACTIVE RETURN TO BUSINESS
Being proactive means anticipating, planning and staying ahead of challenges with solid capabilities rather than reacting after the fact.
The first key for a proactive return with capabilities in place is creating a high priority for the health and safety of employees and customers with, among other things, social distancing, safety, and sanitation/disinfection. Unless a business can operate while safeguarding employees and customers, it will not have long-term viability and the risk of another shut down will be high. Anticipating new physical layouts, reduced occupancy rates, merchandise stored behind counters away from public contact, PPE – in fact, contact-free as much possible from ordering, payment and delivery.
Another key to a proactive return can be to stabilize every aspect of our business including our workforce, supply chain, distribution, sales and operations. We can also plan for contingencies such as a future lockdown or other de-stabilizing event. A diversified business model can minimize the risk of another complete shutdown and may incorporate a mix of on-site and remote employees with critical employees continuing to have completely operational home offices. Products and services can continue to be sold and delivered through contact-free diversified channels. Creating different shifts can reduce the number of on-site employees to accommodate safe distancing.
The workforce is critical for a proactive return. Rehiring former employees may not increase capabilities. During and post-COVID-19, the attributes and skills of a successful employee may be very different for your business. For example, your business may now require tech savvy employees, digital sales skills, and the highest productivity. One approach is to first determine the capabilities of a successful employee in each position and then identify the capability/skill gaps in your current workforce. This is a great time to recruit high performers with the desired capabilities rather than rehiring mediocrity.
Another key to being proactive in our return is to anticipate major shifts in customer behavior and preferences. We already know that consumers want digital, contactless transactions. We have seen dramatic increases in the use of multiple digital channels and changes in consumer behaviors. For example, nobody anticipated the demand for jigsaw puzzles and the return to simple family activities during COVID-19. Nor did anyone anticipate the preference for personal health and safety. Sales and marketing personnel who collect and analyze consumer data may become critical to help your business determine how to improve the customer experience by incorporating these new preferences.
Let us know how you are going to proactively return to business in this next normal.
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