As if business owners did not have enough to worry about, hit them and the rest of the world with a pandemic. This is the unexpected on a grand scale.
His biggest concern is the power of business continuity and remote work practices. Together, they help companies to rapidly respond to today’s crisis and capture new business opportunities in the future.
“The gravity of what’s happening today has thrust the challenge of business readiness into a whole new light,” said Meghan M. Biro, analyst, brand strategist, podcaster and chief executive officer of TalentCulture.
She and Minahan took a hard look at why many brands struggle with being ready.
From their startup days, entrepreneurs have their attention riveted on the bottom line, struggling to survive. When they take their foot off the gas, their mindset is relief, not on what other maladies await.
“In situations like the one we see today, change happens so quickly that it can be difficult for businesses to adapt,” Minahan said. “Having the right technology and policies in place ahead of time is so important.
“At its core, those companies that invest to empower their employees to do their best work anywhere, anytime are best positioned to respond to crises and opportunities,” he said. “It’s not about responding to a specific incident. It’s a signal to build a plan to ensure that your work environment is ready for any situation.”
Practice is a critical factor.
“It’s not enough to have a remote work plan, policies and agile tech,” Minahan said. “You actually need to test your plan in advance of a crisis.”
Answer in the mirror
When preparation comes up short, entrepreneurs don’t have far to look.
“Honestly, it’s on us,” Biro said. “Business readiness is a matter of strategy and imagination. Too much time spent troubleshooting in the short term has left us without that reflex to pay attention to the long term — the good and the bad.
“Sure, it’s hard to take your small or medium-sized business through a pandemic scenario, but it’s not hard to do an exercise about a global recession or a continuity issue,” she said. “Both of these are happening.”
Several strategies can improve business owners’ ability to navigate change.
For example, there has to be a periodic assessment — at least annually — of a company’s position. Look at what could be tweaked to broaden success as well as steps to take after a catastrophe.
“Shift the whole culture to one that embraces change and doesn’t try to assume the future will be business as usual,” Biro said. “Be transparent about the need to adapt, to flex, and then reach for the tools that enable it.”
Minahan recommends planning for business readiness and agility so entrepreneurs can be ready to adapt to new opportunities and unplanned events.
“This crisis will cause businesses of all sizes to fundamentally rethink their long-term work-from-home and employee experience strategies,” he said.
Shift to now
Organizations should adopt a digital-first mindset now. Rather than the future of work, the conversation should shift to the “now of work.” With that in mind, Minahan said companies should also include their digital workplace strategies.
Along the way, corporate leaders should visualize what change and success look like at incremental destinations and milestones.
“You often need to use the nearby trees to successfully navigate your way through the forest,” Minahan said.
One touchstone is recognizing and taking advantage of the benefits from telework.
“A study we conducted with Cebr, which is based in the United Kingdom, found that remote working part of the week could save 5.8 billion hours of commuting per year in the United States,” Minahan said.
Despite events, companies still look for short-term Band Aid approaches rather than a real strategy to implement. Band Aids are removed. Long-term strategies stay in place.
“I’m hopeful,” Minahan said. “Organizations such as the University of Sydney view investments made in remote work online learning during this crisis. This opens up new models and revenue lines in future work trends.”
Renewed trust and respect
Embracing remote work sends signals such as we trust you, we value you and we hear your need for flexibility.
“I fully agree,” Minahan said. “I’m optimistic that current work-from-home measures will create a new level of trust and respect between employers and employees.”
To help organizations improve business readiness, leaders should have one ear to the inside and another outside. Listen to the mood and rumblings of their people along with noting measures competitors take to guard against unexpected events. Together, these tactics would improve internal and external readiness.
“A company that doesn’t work on business readiness is a vulnerable company,” Biro said. “Establish a far clearer assessment of your company’s ability to handle a crisis. And then a different crisis. That is real organizational strength.
“Can you stockpile innovation?” she said. “Can you stockpile a continuity plan, a communications Plan B? That’s what you have to do.”
The solution starts with proper priorities.
“You’re responsible for your employees first, physical space second,” Birio said. “Shift the priorities, and get buy-in from your board and C-Suite. Make that the cornerstone of business readiness.”
Minahan emphasized that businesses must stay true to their values.
“If you support a superior employee experience and customer experience, you are bound to succeed in good and challenging times,” he said. “Do that — digital and otherwise.
“Investment here is about the people,” Minahan said. “That’s what your business readiness and success ultimately depend on.”