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8 proven strategies to help future-proof your business

  • Invest in the employee experience 
  • Diversify the workplace
  • Make a positive impact through expressing the company’s true purpose, mission, and values
  • Understand the importance of business agility
  • Leverage the power of technology 
  • Consider workplace redesign
  • Don’t neglect security
  • Focus on new skills acquisition

So far, 2020 has been rough in many ways and it’s certainly a year that will not easily be forgotten. In terms of business, many companies saw their operations compromised due to the pandemic, while those that managed to maintain their operational continuity were forced to make changes that were considered unthinkable at the start of the year. Change is never easy, but it is necessary in the business world, and companies need to work hard to prepare themselves for what the future brings.

Invest in the employee experience 

Putting employees first and focusing on their experience is one of the best ways to prepare your company for the future of work. LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends 2020 report reveals that 96 per cent of talent professionals consider the employee experience an increasingly important part of their organisation. Furthermore, 50 per cent of respondents in the 2020 HR Sentiment Survey rank the employee experience as a top initiative for 2020. By prioritising the employee experience, executives can establish a more meaningful connection with their workforce. Using surveys and other tools, leaders can monitor employee wellbeing, identify their needs, and adjust their work policies accordingly.

One of the companies focused on creating a more positive employee experience is L’Oréal. This cosmetics brand has 88,000 employees, 55,000 of which have worked remotely during the pandemic. To help employees overcome the challenges of remote work, the company implemented several initiatives, such as ‘Learning Never Stops’, through which L’Oréal’s employees learn about stress management and how to take care of their wellbeing.

Diversify the workplace

Diversity reports published by several major tech companies in 2014 revealed that the majority of the workforce in the tech industry consists of white males. This comes as no surprise as almost every sector, including the tech industry, is still plagued by issues like stereotyping, unfairness, and the lack of opportunity for professional growth afforded to underrepresented groups and minorities. 

The e-commerce company Shopify, however, doesn’t have such issues. In each job posting, the company encourages potential candidates to apply for the position even if they don’t meet all the requirements, “because skills and competencies show up in lots of different ways and can be based on your life experience.” According to Shavonne Hasfal-McIntosh, Shopify’s inclusion and employee experience lead, this tactic proved to be successful on multiple occasions. Hasfal-McIntosh advises other companies to be more mindful when it comes to creating job descriptions, as it can have a major impact on who actually applies for the job. As she points out, female candidates will apply for a job only if they meet 100 per cent of the requirements, while male job seekers will apply even if they meet just 60 per cent of the specified requirements.

Make a positive impact through expressing your company’s true purpose, mission, and values

In times of crisis, some companies may find it useful to refocus their brand or change their target market. Brands that want to resonate with their audiences first need to understand their consumers’ current needs. L’Oréal, once again, has demonstrated how to do this right. The pandemic has led to an unprecedented demand for disinfection products, which encouraged the brand to use its manufacturing facilities to produce hand sanitisers for hospitals, pharmacies, food stores, and care homes. What’s even more impressive, L’Oréal decided to forgo any profit through this initiative, declaring its products will be completely free. However, giving back to the community, especially in difficult times, is almost certain to pay off in the long run. Adjusting your brand messaging is equally important, which is something brands seem to be well aware of. According to Fast Company, 24 per cent of companies have referenced coronavirus in their messaging in March, while a few weeks earlier that number stood at just four per cent.

Understand the importance of business agility

As the business world continues to change at a rapid pace and consumer demands keep intensifying, leaders need to find a way to increase the agility of their organisations. McKinsey & Company found that organisations where “agile practices were more deeply embedded in their enterprise operating models” were able to outperform their competition during the COVID-19 crisis. These organisations witnessed better employee engagement, as well as higher operational performance and customer satisfaction. Many non-agile companies mostly struggled to reprioritise their work and transition to a remote setup during the lockdowns. Implementing an agile approach has also helped some telecommunication companies in Europe and Asia deliver a better service. As McKinsey reveals, operators that had adopted an agile model before the pandemic were able to respond faster to the new reality. Similar trends were also noticed “when measuring the reaction time of banks to launch services in response to the COVID-19 crisis.” Having a human-centric culture is one of the trademarks of agile organisations. In such an environment, it’s easier for employees to adapt to changes while still continuing to perform well.

Leverage the power of technology 

To stay agile, companies also need to accelerate their investment in key technologies. In China, where many companies transitioned to more flexible workplace models due to the pandemic, remote work solutions like WeChat and DingTalk became increasingly popular. The rise of remote work resulted in the number of DingTalk’s active users reaching 125 million. Some companies went even further and created special applications for their front-line teams. One bank, for instance, developed a mini-program to help their relationship managers engage with customers and generate leads remotely. While transitioning to remote work was a completely new experience for many companies, some were savvy enough to make that transition a lot sooner. At online travel agency, the contact-center team had been working from home even before the pandemic started. Since they’d already been familiar with remote work technologies, they were able to continue delivering excellent service without disruptions.

Consider workplace redesign

To prepare for the future, organisations will also need to reimagine their workplace. Katelin Holloway, a talent partner at Initialized Capital, believes that open-floor plans will become a thing of the past. The workplace of the future will feature individual workstations that ensure more privacy and enforce compliance with health standards. Conference rooms will be less crowded, as employees will continue to opt for video conferencing instead. Organisations may even consider adopting beacon tech to monitor employees and make sure they adhere to the social distancing guidelines at work. To prevent the spread of infectious particles, the future workplace should be equipped with as many touchless technologies as possible. These innovations will allow workers to control lighting and audio through their smartphones or even using their voice.

Don’t neglect security

Although automation helps companies improve workflow and increase efficiency, it must be managed carefully. As more businesses decide to adopt digital and cloud solutions, this will give rise to a variety of security concerns. Employees are often completely unaware of these risks, which is why companies need to implement training programs to make sure their workforce knows how to keep the company’s systems and data secure. “It’s more important now than ever for companies to be vigilant about their security posture and train employees on possible risks to protect and defend against rising threats,” explains Michael Sentonas, chief technology officer at cybersecurity tech company CrowdStrike.

Focus on new skills acquisition 

Since we’re living in the age of digital disruption, digital skills have become essential in the workplace. A recent study conducted by Dell Technologies reveals that over half of respondents are convinced that digital skills will disrupt the workforce in the future. AI fluency will help workers complete more tasks, manage workflows, and better understand the data their company collects. Dell predicts that, by 2030, having a deep understanding of AI “will unlock human potential and set workers apart.” Besides digital skills, the next generation of workers will need to be equipped with soft skills like creative thinking, communication skills, and objective judgement. Those with high emotional intelligence levels will be able to establish better relationships with their co-workers, producing a more respectful environment where everyone’s input is appreciated and encouraged.

During this period of uncertainty, the most robust companies are those that can remain flexible and agile enough to adjust to the new normal. No matter how badly the company is affected by change, it needs to be able to find ways to overcome it. With the future expected to bring even more radical shifts to the way we work and live, savvy organisations shouldn’t hesitate to capitalise on emerging market trends, generate new business ideas, and create value not just for themselves but for their communities as well.

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