At the beginning of 2020, many businesses who were in the throes of future-proofing had their priorities aligned—but none of them listed a pandemic in their plans.
Every business has become vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19. And this has only underscored the technological gaps businesses were already facing, lagging behind in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), agile management, data management systems, and security.
In light of the pandemic, business ecosystems have made a drastic transformation, adopting new technologies, office practices, and customer strategies. Both customer and employee needs have transformed to focus on remote-first interactions, and the new digital way of business has opened the need for tighter security restrictions.
The economic crisis bought by the pandemic will not be the only disaster an organization will face. Hence, it is important to plan and prepare for the worst. Developing a crisis manual is a necessity to seamlessly navigate through future obstacles.
Due to changes in customer behavior, existing strategies in outbound marketing or direct sales may not prove to be beneficial to acquire new customers. In 2021 and beyond, it is important to adapt to and develop new strategies for acquisition and revenue.
Customer expectations have changed. In the remote work era, in-person interactions are slim to none. It is important for customer-facing employees to anticipate needing to overcommunicate with prospects to hammer down the importance of the service being provided. That means the classic “Marketing Rule of 7”—that a customer needs to receive a message or pitch at least seven times before they’ll take action—needs to be revisited, as prospects likely need more exposure to your product or service before making a purchase decision.
Business leaders can no longer simply take a potential client out to lunch to “seal the deal”—remote interactions and customer recognition now take place in the digital realm, with “digital coffees” becoming the new norm and customer appreciation gifts being sent directly to clients’ front steps. Massaging a customer relationship takes more effort in the digital age, and businesses can expect this to become more and more prevalent.
To drive resilience, organizations need to upskill their employees and new hires. Adaptability is no longer a “nice-to-have”—2020 has taught us all that businesses must be able to react to world changes at the tip of a hat in order to stay afloat. HR and leadership teams should invest in continuous learning alongside reskilling opportunities to keep their employees’ skill sets developing. This leads to companywide adaptability: for example, an event marketer in 2020 who has developed video streaming and web development skills is more likely to succeed in the pivot to digital events than one who is learning these skills for the first time.
And it’s not just about reskilling for company success, either. Employee engagement levels rapidly cycled throughout 2020, per Gallup. Anticipatory investment in employee development can improve those engagement levels—workers who feel that their employers care about their growth report higher motivation and engagement than those who do not.
As working from home continues to be the norm, employees find it challenging to communicate efficiently. Supervisors should communicate with employees consistently, using proper remote work tools and keeping transparency in mind. When a large number of employees faced layoffs in early 2020, most companies failed to communicate efficiently on how to handle the difficulties of unemployment. Providing employee wellness programs like EAPs and garnering employee feedback can prevent these issues and ensure business longevity.
It is essential for modern businesses to adopt emerging technologies in machine learning, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, and more. As more business services like BI and financial management rely on these critical technologies, ignoring these novel tools is a misstep that could mean the death of a company.
Proper cybersecurity protocols, for example, are simply not optional, despite what some businesses may believe. With important financial documents, intellectual property, customer details, and employee work all taking place digitally, a business that does not invest in proper data security is putting itself at risk of entirely dissolving the business. Adopting necessary data security measures is crucial for long-term survival.
This isn’t as simple as designating a VPN and encrypting passwords. Cybersecurity isn’t a one-time fix, but rather requires continuous employee training and reminders on data management and compliance. It is essential that everyone in the company recognize the importance of proper business security. And business data should be audited on a regular basis to identify any security gaps that could pose a threat, “future-proofing” by anticipating security needs in the long run.