An essential component of a successful business has always been adaptability. No matter how robust a company seems at any given moment there are always potential events that can compromise its security. These events may occur internally or externally and to various degrees, occasionally being almost impossible to predict.
In fact, the confidence of a business to assume that “tomorrows are likely to be pretty much like our yesterday” is a fallacy that economists like Nicholas Nassim Taleb admonish, stating that they are demonstrative of “naïve empiricists”. The international health crisis of 2020 was, for most businesses, an example unpredicted event. Few could say that they were prepared for such a significant occurrence to affect their operations and it demonstrated, within only a few months, the utmost importance of adaptability.
Now, a year after these companies have worked to overcome the challenges of a pandemic, leaders are reflecting on the event, eager to learn all they can. In a return to their popular video series, Learning From Leaders, People Group Services have taken on this task and given a platform to business leaders enabling them to discuss how their business has been affected by COVID-19, as well as the personal and professional perspectives they have gained.
Ann Swain, CEO of ASPCo, tells that most businesses have learned to place greater levels of trust in their employees. “In the early days, there was a worry.” Swain states, touching upon a common concern among businesses, “When people are working from home, how are we going to manage them?”
What has occurred, however, is a positive, and in some opinions improved, level of productivity among business teams working independently and remotely. Swain adds, “I’m just hugely impressed with the amount of work my staff have been doing and how they’ve been driven themselves.”
Despite the severity of the pandemic being undeniably difficult to predict, there were advantages gained by those businesses who paid attention to developments and acted early on. Bev White, CE of Harvey Nash, tells “Many of the lessons from last year have all been pay attention to each market, wherever it is that your clients or people might be.”
Stemming from both the health crisis and its greater effects, there has been a rising number of mental health disorders, emphasising the importance of communication and consideration within the workplace. This, however, becomes more difficult in a culture of teleworking and 68% of workers feel that working from home more adversely affects their mental health than a shared working space.
Bev White goes on to reiterate the importance of communication “You cannot overemphasise the importance of beginning every conversation with the question how are you?”
Continue What Works
Many businesses have had to adapt to new methods of operation so as to cope with various restrictions or changes in demand. For James Fernades, this was epitomised by a growing emphasis on employee wellbeing, one that helped Carrington West to battle the pandemic.
“Just because you’re not in lockdown, don’t stop these things that you were doing.” he says, describing how he intends to sustain a newfound strength within the business, taking forward the novel practices that are creating a better working environment, “That’s a key learning and I think a lot of businesses are going through the same.”
This is an excellent example of how a business not only adapts to circumstances but makes itself stronger by doing so. And, if a business can learn to strengthen itself in response to a challenge, then difficult times become opportunities.