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Four questions businesses should ask themselves as they look to bounce back from the pandemic

Corporate training and consulting experts offer tips for getting back to business
Corporate training and consulting experts offer tips for getting back to business

“Closed” signs, shuttered shops and empty parking lots.

Just months ago, as the world responded to the worst pandemic in a century, this was our reality. Consumers retreated to their homes while some businesses closed their doors temporarily — others, for good.

But the tides are turning. Alberta’s relaunch strategy is well into stage two, with a number of businesses permitted to resume operations. The “new norm” we’ve been hearing about for months finally seems to be taking shape, and organizations big and small are ready to recoup their losses.

So, what does running a successful business look like in the world of COVID-19? Health and safety precautions aside, what are the strategic measures businesses can take to come out on the other side of this more resilient, capable and competitive than before?

To answer this question, we asked the experts to weigh in. Calgary consulting firm Envision Group and SAIT Corporate Training have joined forces to offer strategic consulting, applied research, technology development and training services to support senior leaders with business transformation. Here are four questions they believe every business should consider as they strategically open up shop and get back to work.

Are we ready to compete?

Despite today’s changing world of business, the fundamentals of strategy have always been the same. It’s the art of standing above the fray, absorbing conflicting data and deciding where to deploy resources to obtain a sustainable advantage. But the strategies themselves must remain flexible according to Robert Peterson, Senior Partner, Strategy and Strategy Implementation at Envision.

“In what is a very dynamic playing field, firms can’t afford to get locked into a solid strategy that could be invalidated by change,” he says.

To set themselves up for success, businesses should look at worst- and best-case scenarios, identify the data signposts for each and prepare to adjust business operations accordingly. For example, “Scenario 1” might involve slow economic recovery, a second wave of COVID-19 and a significant drop in GDP, while “Scenario 2” could entail early success in the development of a vaccine and rapid economic recovery. Planning for both scenarios will give businesses a competitive edge.

Businesses should also prepare for more permanent changes as a result of COVID-19.

“Sales conducted over Zoom instead of face-to-face, localized supply chains and slower grow rates can be expected,” says Peterson.

Finally, to remain competitive, businesses should explore the opportunity to reinvent themselves and build more resilience. They should research the potential of pursuing adjacent markets and new technologies, supply chain partners and geographies.

💻 Watch Leading Through Adversity.

Do our people have the skills to cope?

Returning to work in a world of COVID-19 hasn’t been easy. People are juggling conflicting priorities of work, mental health, and for parents, childcare and home schooling. Faced with new work environments and policies, roles that once felt familiar feel changed and unknown. With all this uncertainty, support from the leadership level is critical.

“Now more than ever, leaders have a responsibility to support their staff with skills development,” says SAIT Director of Corporate Development Craig Hess.

Businesses should be prepared to invest in their people, strengthening the skills Hess says will help them cope with the new world of work, including time management, resilience and communication.

“Communication is hard, and communicating through a computer screen is even harder,” he says. “It provides the foundation for psychological safety so that team members feel empowered to speak up, be their authentic selves, take risks and make mistakes without fear of reprimand.”

Mental toughness is another must-have for today’s workers.

“Learning to manage stress, and use it to your advantage, is an important skill,” says Hess. 

💻 Watch Engage Your Mental Toughness.

Are we equipped to work remotely?

Remote work isn’t new. Organizations with a global presence and 24/7 operations use it to overcome geographic and time zone barriers. It’s also a common way of working in the information technology and customer care industries.

But for businesses who haven’t previously dabbled in the world of Zoom meetings and virtual sales pitches, it’s an adjustment.

“It’s important organizations understand the many implications of remote working,” says Dr. Hugh Dunleavey, Senior Partner at Envision.

Businesses should conduct a full impact assessment considering the following:

  • Work processes — How will workflows and schedules change to accommodate remote collaboration? What reporting mechanisms are needed? What people and processes will be needed to support remote workers?
  • Training — What skills development and training (technical, behavioural, information security, etc.) is needed to help employees transition to remote work?
  • Performance — How will employee performance expectations change? How will workers be monitored and evaluated?
  • Team culture — How will businesses engage workers and boost morale remotely? What does remote employee engagement look like?
  • Technology — What equipment and software are needed? What impact will remote work have on system security?

💻 Watch Managing Virtual Project Teams.

Are we set up to make changes?

Whether a business is looking to adopt new technology, pivot operations or address any other challenge presented by COVID-19, Envision Group Founder and CEO Patrick Lipovski recommends forming agile teams to tackle complex projects.

“An agile team is a cross-functional group of people assigned to a project who have everything needed to deliver results and create lasting change in an organization,” says Lipovski.

Agile teams are flexible and adaptive, resilient to setbacks and quick to pivot. Their willingness to experiment and ability to make things happen allow them to zero in on complex problems, deliver a product, seek feedback and adjust accordingly.

So, how do you form an agile team? Lipovski notes they require leaders with specific soft skills — in areas of engagement, conflict management, feedback and influence — as well as those who can develop clear business systems, or documented norms and processes.

“Successful leaders capture business systems in a playbook, which includes mission and vision statements, core values, workflow sequencing, key performance indicators and even coaching tools,” says Lipovski.

Once the playbook is set, agile teams must use it as a roadmap — and stick to the task at hand.

“As a rule, agile team members don’t move between or across different teams. They stay dedicated to the team and one clear purpose.”

💻 Watch Agile Teams.

Bounce back in a big way

Develop a strategy to adapt to the changing environment, upskill your workforce and position your business to flourish. Envision Group and SAIT Corporate Training have the experience and expertise to help. Contact Craig Hess, SAIT Director of Corporate Development to explore what’s possible.

About SAIT Corporate Training and Envision Group

SAIT Corporate Training offers business and technology education, custom industry training, and industry applied research and technology solutions. Envision Group’s seasoned industry experts help business leaders tackle transformation and digital solutions.