2020 brought out the best and the worst in many businesses. As the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on the peoples and economies of the world, weaknesses were exposed and strengths were accentuated. This ultimately set the stage for a new future of work.
Now that the pandemic is beginning to recede into the distance, the question that remains is what lessons business leaders can glean from the affair. What adjustments can companies make as they begin to move forward? How can executives future-proof their businesses against similar challenges and disruptions in the future?
Here are a few of the biggest lessons that young leaders should take with them as they brace for the future of work.
Keep Innovation In the Mix
Innovation is nothing new for business. However, the ability to creatively problem-solve will have unique importance moving forward. In the words of Jeff Wong, the Global Chief Innovation Officer at Ernst & Young, we must not try to return to normal, “we must return to better.” The innovation expert adds that “I believe innovation remains a key element for organizations to enable this shift.”
Wong goes on to emphasize agility and responsiveness as crucial pieces of innovation in work. He highlights both as key attributes to help organizations remain in lockstep with an ever-changing environment.
This creates a strong sense of resilience. Whether a company is encountering shifting employee expectations, remote work challenges, digital transformation, or anything else, innovation provides a forward-thinking safety valve.
Rather than struggling to apply old solutions to new problems, an innovative leader looks for new answers. This can come from things such as:
- Reframing traditional mindsets to embrace new forms of thinking;
- Harnessing the power of reinvention to recycle old wisdom into new solutions;
- Recruiting and utilizing employees with non-traditional skill sets.
Steering into innovative behaviors such as these will be critical for sustained viability and success moving forward in the future of work.
Preserve Remote-Work Friendly Capabilities
The ability to innovate is a high-minded lesson. One that is much more down-to-earth is the simple activity of staying remote-friendly with work.
Remote work has already been a perk for many employees for years. When the pandemic struck, it became a necessity. Now that things are moving forward, it’s tempting for many organizations to return to in-person offices or, at the least, a hybrid work model.
This may be the best option for the present. However, the capability to shift back to a remote office at a moment’s notice shouldn’t be abandoned. Virtual work infrastructure should remain in place, be regularly updated, and be kept secure.
This applies to both internal and external operations. Internally, teams should maintain cloud-based communication, workflow, and document sharing capabilities. Externally, things like online marketing and virtual sales should stay in the mix whenever possible.
This remote-friendly maintenance provides a fallback option if and when catastrophe strikes in the future of work.
Bolster Supply Chains
The pandemic put never-seen-before strains on supply chains around the globe. When asked, 95% of executives responded that their strategic sourcing and supplier process had been disrupted by the pandemic.
Before the crisis, many companies had taken pride in a lean and mean supply chain model. Speed, affordability, and lack of waste were all touted as primary goals. However, when external pressure arrived, many of these work systems suffered.
Of course, supply chain efficiency remains important. However, moving forward, leaders should be careful to also integrate redundancy and depth into their supply chains.
Cultivate a Growth Mindset
A growth mindset is a term that is growing in popularity in the business world. According to esteemed Stanford University psychology professor Carol Dweck, a growth mindset consists of “the belief that an individual’s most basic abilities and skills can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point.” In contrast, a fixed mindset revolves around the idea that talents, intelligence, skills, and abilities are fixed traits.
A growth mindset is going to be instrumental in finding long-term success in the 21st-century business landscape. This was already apparent before the coronavirus crisis, as technological evolution and digital disruption were already busily at work.
One pandemic later, the need to remain flexible and adaptable at all times has become paramount. No matter what area of business is in question, leaders must remain open-minded and ready to shift in response to new information. If they try to operate from a fixed mindset, it will stunt their ability to develop and grow along with the rest of the business world.
Both innovation and a growth mindset will remain essential aspects of leadership going forward. In addition, maintaining robust supply chains and staying remote-friendly will continue to be practical aspects of a sustainable business model. With so much in question and the future in flux, young leaders must be ready to work from an adaptable, sustainable, and flexible business model as they lead their enterprises into the new normal.