“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” – Leon C. Megginson, Civilisation Past and Present (1963)
THE BEGINNING OF A DECADE OR THE END OF A DECADE
The year 2020 was highly anticipated for all and sundry. Individuals had grand plans, businesses had begun developing strategies to build on past successes effectively, and the Nigerian economy seemed to be looking forward to a monumental year as experts predicted GDP growth between 2.6% and 2.9% .
2020 was full of potential – many businesses were thriving, appraisals were conducted, and people were up for promotions. Markets were bustling, and the economic capital of the nation continued her journey as the city that never sleeps. Even though we could see a crisis building on the global front, we did not believe it could get to us. Until it did.
Not long after the devaluation of the Naira from $1/₦360 to $1/₦380 due to depleting foreign reserves and the strain caused by the dip in oil prices, the outbreak of COVID-19 dealt a major blow to the destabilised economy. As the number of active cases rose, so did panic and the fear of infection. Amidst all these uncertainties, one key observation was the responsiveness, and in some cases unresponsiveness, of Nigerian businesses to the situation and the speculations of a lockdown.
Although Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa, many businesses are still learning to integrate technology and international best practice with their daily operations. While some organisations have begun to focus on collaboration, employee engagement and learning and development, many are yet to adopt the use of technology and digital tools to aid these processes. The concept of working from home is also foreign as business owners, some with good reason, do not trust that their staff would be productive without being physically present.
As a result of this, many organisations were not prepared for the remote work environment that COVID-19 forced upon them. Business strategies and plans became outdated overnight, and many businesses have completely halted their activities while waiting for the pandemic to end.
I could talk about the COVID-19 work environment; however, there is a need for us to look towards recovery post-COVID-19. One question we need to ask ourselves is “what happens after COVID-19?” Looking at the current state, is “business as usual” the answer? The answer to this question is a resounding NO.
IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED
Howard Schultz, former CEO of Starbucks said, “In times of adversity and change, we really discover who we are and what we’re made of.” If I choose to relate this to our current situation, I would say “the strength of your organisational strategy is tested in a crisis.” Looking at how your company is faring, would you say you have the best strategy to face the volatile world in which we live and work?
Depending on your answer to the question above, you may want to consider the following in preparing your business for the post COVID-19 future of work.
- First, Look Within
In light of COVID-19, organisations must re-evaluate their strategies and ascertain that it can still carry them into the future. Many organisations were ill-prepared for remote working and crisis management. Thus, the development of an agile strategy that accounts for this is the first step to future-proofing your organisation.
- Step into the Digital Age
The global lockdowns due to the COVID-19 outbreak have highlighted the importance of efficiently integrating technology in your organisational processes. It is essential that you assess your level of digitalisation and identifying gaps in organisational efficiency to determine which technologies and digital productivity tools you would require for success.
For real change to happen, it must start at the top. It is therefore essential for executives and managers to adopt the right leadership behaviours to move the organisation forward. These include clear communication, empathy, thinking long-term and decisive action.
- Embrace Flexibility
One of the biggest things to hit the world of work was the lockdown that in some cases, completely stopped productivity. Post COVID-19, there is a need for organisations to develop more flexible work environments to ensure business continuity in any situation.
- Learning and Development
With the rise in digital technology and an ever-increasing knowledge bank, organisations must assess the capabilities of their workforce and provide them with learning opportunities to fill the skill gaps.
- Employee Welfare and HR practices
The global pandemic and the speed with which it spreads has shown us that the health of one member of staff may affect the health of everyone. In the post COVID-19 workplace, HR policies must take into consideration not just employee performance but the wholistic welfare of all employees.
Company culture influences the way people act within an organisation. Today more than ever, a well-defined and harmonised company culture has become essential to an organisation’s success. The culture determines the way leaders and employees act  and as such, deliberate attention should be paid to designing the right culture for your organisation.
- Implementation and Tracking
Wrong execution kills the best strategy. It is important to implement and track your decided strategy for success properly. This could be done by establishing or outsourcing a project management or product development unit equipped with the skills and knowledge to see the implementation through from start to finish.
In conclusion, every company must prepare itself for work after COVID-19. The world of work has faced a significant blow, and the businesses who survive will be those who learn to adapt.