After a turbulent 2021, along with the emergence of new COVID-19 variants, 2022 looks to be another year full of disruption, challenge, and uncertainty for businesses. Leaders in all industries and areas of the world are looking ahead and considering their next move.
No doubt, the lessons of the pandemic for business will take time to fully emerge. We don’t yet know who the winners and losers will be, and even if they are the same ones we saw during the early lockdowns and the initial rush to remote working tools and digital platforms.
So as you consider how to move forward, here are five mistakes to avoid in 2022.
Push your people to get back to ‘normal’
Let’s be clear: There is no “normal” to get back to anymore. We are now in the midst of a paradigm shift in how people work, and what employees expect from their employers. Many of the features of the pandemic will stay in some form, and every organization will have to navigate the path to a new way of working.
Your people need care, and time to adjust. We have all been through tough times and challenges during the pandemic–some more so than others.
As the Great Resignation continues, competition for people will only grow, and companies that truly put the well-being of their employees at the heart of their strategy will prosper. The best way to do that is to ask them what they need, and co-design the way forward with your people.
Expect your customers want the same as 2020
Just as your staff have changed, so, too, have your customers. They have new needs and expectations of the companies they buy from or work with. Businesses that fail to reassess this relationship and their offer will struggle; those that listen, sense, and respond will thrive.
This applies not just to the many impacts of the pandemic, but also other key trends–notably sustainability–where expectations have moved considerably and irreversibly over recent years. These issues are no longer a sideshow, and are a key consideration for every organization.
Maintain the old playbook
Any seasoned business owner knows context is key. The business environment has been upended by the pandemic, and every company needs to reconsider how it plans for long-term success and strives for growth.
As the owner, asking the question of how to design and create an organization that can blossom in today’s new business environment is critical.
At its heart, strategy is a design process where, as leaders, we craft our response to challenges between us and our ultimate goal. If you’re hoping to rebuild your customer after a tough few years, challenge yourself to think out of the box and leverage new tools. No matter how much one method of outreach has worked for you in the past, now is the time to try walking down that out-of-the-way path you never considered before.
Ignore the growth of digital
While digital transformation as a key driver is nothing new, it has rapidly moved from being an important issue for most businesses to an essential one for all. An organization that considers folding digital strategy into their business plan is likely missing out on lucrative opportunities. Using social media and online advertising shouldn’t be an “add-on” to how you currently operate; reassess your business model with digital in mind from the start, not an “either/or,” but a “both.”
The speedy response of many organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic to embrace digital opportunities and find new ways of serving their customers should act as a catalyst to laggards. Change can happen quickly where there is clarity and sufficient will.
React to everything
While no one could have predicted the COVID-19 pandemic, a leader overseeing a company’s workings and responses knows that change is constant and inevitable. Therefore, when the public health tsunami finally came crashing down, many organizations were left with the realization that they hadn’t left time to properly plan for a crisis, including anticipating what scenarios may emerge and investing inside their firms to manage an uncertain period.
As a result, many organizations were left with operating models unsuited to weathering change.
These firms were not planning to be resilient in the future. Therefore, in this new position, leaders shouldn’t feel their organizations are hostages to the future. Don’t forget: Every business can realign and take on a new strategy to cope with unexpected change. As a leader, no success will meet you if you’re only waiting to react to external forces; examine your business model now and think about how you can become more resilient and agile.
There is no “going back to” anything that existed pre-pandemic; now, small business leaders have a chance to rethink and rebuild their organizations in different ways. This, 2022, is the year that we will see which companies have learned these lessons, and which are ignoring reality and the challenges that still lie ahead.
Matt Spry is a consultant and founder of Emergent, a strategy and consulting firm.