Purpose-driven mindsets and digital inclusion are some key strategies to reinvent or revamp businesses for the economic ramifications of the post-COVID-19.
‘War’ is raging across the world. As the novel coronavirus flared in the past few months, ordinary humans came too close to comfort to a common enemy: relentless, highly adaptable and invisible. But no soldiers are trained for this fight and there are no battle lines or bombs.
In this extraordinary human and economic crisis, a decisive victory is looking increasingly unlikely. Instead, we will win by preparing for a long war. I want to highlight three trends that I foresee for the future.
Moving towards self-reliance
Certain aspects of this long game are already becoming clear. For a start, countries will refocus on self-reliance, developing those sectors most crucial for their self-sufficiency. For example, India seeks to boost its manufacturing capabilities and China is encouraging domestic consumption to support job creation.
In Singapore and Malaysia, the spotlight is on food security, from diversifying food sources to pushing to raise local food production. Australia is calibrating an approach towards exports without compromising on its core values with sustainability and climate change at the center of this.
Across the world, people will need to be trained or retrained to make all this possible. And technology will be at the forefront of these national agendas, enabling smarter cities, smarter citizens and smarter workspaces.
Covid has taught us how underprepared we were for a crisis which affects all countries, and it has tested Business Continuity Plans. Every organization or country will have to create a digital back bone, which I call ‘the spine’.
The first part of strengthening the back bone would be to boost connectivity; create virtualized workspaces so that employees can work from the safety of their homes. The second would be to be create collaboration mechanisms so that co-working across partners and the organization is possible virtually. The third would be to take digital assets onto the Cloud so that everyone can access them when they desire; and all of these need very strong cybersecurity.
This will create digital data-driven organizations. More and more decisions will be taken based on patterns emerging out of these. All processes that cannot be carried out digitally will be recrafted so that they can be enabled.
Rise of the DigiZen (Digital Citizens)
Governments will also need to reinforce their efforts at digital inclusion for its citizens. COVID-19 has proven that the world can and will shift its behavior to survive. COVID-19 has also highlighted that many essential services can be digitized and to a certain extent, automated.
But the key to a country’s survival is access to technology—ensuring that no citizen is left out, whether through expanding and enhancing digital access or promoting digital inclusion by design.
The shift from traditional to digital channels is win-win proposition for both citizens and governments, from better user experience, convenience, and speed to lower cost of service and improved citizen outreach.
At the most basic level, an on-going national effort for digital literacy needs to be set in place, with two concessions—providing access to web-enabled devices and a safety net for those who are simply unable to keep up with digital transformation: for example, aged citizens.
Every country or organization will look for citizens or employees who are motivated, resilient and adaptable.
Purpose-driven, motivated people
Purpose is a strong driver of transformation. Businesses are increasingly organizing around purpose, looking beyond the products and services they offer to identify their true sources of value. We expect this to accelerate in a Covid-19 world as businesses seek sustainable productivity and growth.
An empowered resilient workforce
Resilient enterprises and individuals have the ability to both withstand external shocks and to pivot when necessary during periods of economic uncertainty.
Consider the textile factories that have retooled production at speed to make personal protective equipment, or the 75 million people worldwide now collaborating with on video conferencing tools each day as remote-working becomes the norm. The resilience of your workforce can be seen in the speed at which you are able to tweak business models, launch new offerings and target new markets while maintaining the customer experience.
Adaptable people make change a reality
Periods of economic turmoil always heighten the need for structural change. Today, we are seeing companies scramble to redesign supply chains, repurpose assets, expand ecosystems and grow beyond their borders.
Flexible technology architecture is a prerequisite for this adaptability, but nothing will change without an adaptable workforce as well. In a world remade by Covid-19, your people need support to adapt to new norms, new technologies and even new roles.
While we cannot yet predict the long-term impact of Covid-19, we can be sure that we are entering a prolonged period of uncertainty. Companies that build a purpose-driven workforce, equipped with the skills and tools to be resilient and adaptable, are not only ensuring their survival but also helping communities and economies recover and thrive.
Our post COVID-19 future demands that we now re-evaluate the battlefield and acknowledge that we are all participants in this fight.
Now is the time for governments, organizations and individuals to look closely at what and who are contributing to the battle and how we can support them. Now is the time to bridge the digital divide and arm everyone with the skills and tools they need to win on the new frontline.