The COVID-19 pandemic has been raging for more than seven months now, but astute business leaders are thinking about how to rapidly recover.
The bottom line—yes, in addition to that bottom line—is taking the lessons learned during the coronavirus crisis and adapting them to the workplace to ensure that companies not only survive but excel.
In the third installment of Fast Company‘s “Growth in Crisis” series, Arizona State University president Michael Crow, Mercer CEO and president Martine Ferland, and Infoblox CEO and president Jesper Andersen talk about the strategies businesses must embrace going forward.
Here are the top three:
Up your tech game. Now is the time to make sure your team and your clients have the digital tools needed to thrive. ASU, for example, added a third platform for classes, so students could learn and professors could teach the way that suits them best. (Crow estimates that ASU has used 1 billion minutes of Zoom.)
This revolution means companies need to have the tech—and the people—in place in order to tackle the challenges that have emerged since March.
“This pandemic has shown the haves and the have-nots,” says Andersen. “There are a lot of conversations going on in boardrooms around the world with companies that were not really ready for this, so what we’re seeing is an acceleration of this digital transformation.”
The underpinnings of the modern workplace have remained unchanged for decades. COVID-19 put an end to that, but leaders of companies both small and large have to lean into it. The overhaul can mean anything from going all-remote to repurposing physical office spaces post-pandemic as collaborative spaces to instituting health and safety guidelines that were previously unheard of.
“We have 21st-century flexibility derivative of organizational and technological changes that overcomes the rigidity of the industrial models of the past,” Crow says. “We think we’re going to have a better workplace as a result of what we’ve learned through COVID than we’ve ever had before, because now we’ve added flexibility to everything we do.”
That ability to make fundamental changes to a workplace or a workflow is only possible if the leadership’s approach adapts too. A new philosophy has to arise or all the COVID-19-era learnings wither away.
Ferland pointed to a scenario where a company is considering making its call center remote. In the Before Times, they would’ve analyzed the option for two years and then decided against making the change. In contrast, during the pandemic, a switch like that would happen in 24 hours.
“It was mind-blowing to see the level of resilience, creativity, and adaptability that was shown,” she explains, citing research that finds at least 55% of executives pre-COVID didn’t think remote working was possible. “Think about the mindset shift that just happened there and the possibilities of this.”