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12 July 2020

New Business Normal and Adapting to Thrive, by Karina Lemay, Key Account Manager at AZUR Group

The quick and mandatory adaptation we all were faced with over the last weeks has certainly impacted the way we live, spend and work and will most certainly continue to evolve over the next weeks, months and potentially years.
This blog addresses professional challenges that were highlighted by this global crisis and explores various solutions.
Your feedback and comments are more than welcome.
Happy reading!   

Being able to navigate in ‘’Business as unusual’’

According to a recent The New York Times article, specific industries were most impacted by this crisis.  These industries are all about getting out, seeing the world and being with people. I like to refer to them as Social Proximity Industries. They include all “outside of home” industries like, airlines, lodging, entertaining, retail, fitness, fast food, mobile. In another article, we can read that due to a lack of cash flow, one third of Canadian SMBs were on the path to close before the end April 2020.

On the other end, the more positive end, several industries have seen a positive spike over the last weeks due to confinement, let’s call these industries, Personal Distancing Local & Home industries. They include supermarkets, ecommerce, home improvement, alcohol, video streaming, food delivery and gaming. These industries too had to adapt urgently to sky rising demands in areas there were barely any demands and minimal revenues pre COVID-19. For some grocers, online orders accounted for a fraction of what their in-store sales were. Today, I needed to pre book my delivery time/day slot before even attempting at selecting items for my cart.

With all these drastic changes, we might wonder when and if things will ever get back to normal and attempt to predict what the “new normal” will look like.  

Much like Darwin has thought us “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change”. Using the same approach for the business world, adaptation during this global crisis and future ones is key; Businesses that quickly turn around and adapt their business plan have a far better chance to survive, see a positive outcome to this crisis and thrive (#adapttothrive).

Several questions have already been answered, new ones will arise, and business decisions will be made. These questions are closely interconnected as well as have great adaptation potential.
Below are five business world areas that can be applied to most industries along with questions worth answering. How will your business adapt and grow from this experience?

1. Working from home (WFH), can rhyme with productivity

For those of us, fortunate enough to have not been brutally impacted by a job loss, we were all able to adapt to working either with a mask and gloves or from home. Like any changes in life, it usually takes approximately 21 days to stick to new habits and these adaptation days now passed us we were able to witness on a professional level no significant change. 

  • Were you able to hold all your regular meetings?
  •  Did you get access to all your productivity tools?
  • Were all your employees paid?
  • Were all your clients provided the service and products they purchased?
  • Was your team’s productivity equal or even better than last month’s? 

From what I have witnessed so far (other than the potato boss and similar zoom calls to this SNL one), having the entire team work remotely has had no significant impact on delivery nor productivity and people have shown their creativity in finding ways to stay connected to their colleagues and make sure the team is still in synch and bond regularly. To attest to this, I have seen several virtual “coffee machines” or “happy hours” appear in Teams/Slack/Google Hangout/Zoom and other group video and text messaging services. 

Having had an efficient team working remotely for several weeks/months with none or very few hiccups might spark some change in the “new business normal” to come.

Would your team be more efficient by integrating several in house/custom/legacy tools with your conferencing solution? 

Investing in technology and having your legacy operation tools on the cloud would allow a better data input and management from all employees as well as offer improved processes and efficiencies as well as customized dynamic reporting dashboards for performance analysis and follow KPI trends.

Several apps you already use might also be available in Teams as Teams offers a variety of app you can add to customize your team’s effectiveness and WFH experience. For example, you can integrate Jira, Wrike, etc.  You can also customize your Teams experience by adding Power Apps canvas apps to your channels in Teams.

2. Office Space can be smaller, not your company

Now that your team is efficiently working from home, analyzing where to make significant budget cuts to prepare for slower times that might last up to 18-24 months (and even beyond for some industries) has certainly moved to top priority in your agenda.  

Since office rent in prime locations in cities around the world accounts for a large portion of the fixed costs for a business, will several businesses downsize to a smaller brick and mortar business place and offer their employees to work from home instead of the office?

How will you manage presence at work, productivity, coaching, training, etc.?

Dynamics 365 which is cloud base, allows a better daily data management of all activities, HR/Payroll reconciliation as well as provide easy executive dashboard for each department.

3. Teamwork, virtually and IRL, is essential

Teams, Zoom, Google Meet, Slack or any other collaborative tools have always been a great way to communicate information as well as the latest memes. They are currently doing a fantastic job at temporarily replacing water cooler chats and office kitchen talks over coffee (or beer during Friday’s corporate scrums). 

Human contacts, regular talks and interactions as well as office pranks (gosh do I miss those) are in great part what makes a team, well, a team. Launching a product, finalizing an important presentation or going through a tough period are also great for team bonding. Going through this global pandemic together as a team, making efforts and sacrifices will certainly solidify any team.

The previous is certainly true for any productive team that has worked in an office environment together during the “old normal” and they will most likely continue to be as effective and collaborative working from home during the first weeks and perhaps months of this transition to a “new business normal”.  

How to ensure collaboration beyond a few emails, shared docs, messages or video calls?

One way to stimulate collaboration in a more visual way (and also available in Teams), is MindMeister. 
If your team uses color stickies when brainstorming or design thinking, you will love adding this mind mapping tool to your office 365 suite of apps.

4. Custom Collaboration Cloud Tools for more efficiency

If it hasn’t been done yet, now more than ever, the need to have most, if not all, your business tools on the Cloud has been bumped to the highest short-term priority. Being “long term crisis ready” is replacing the former contingency plan for hazards and acts of God. We don’t know if a tornado or fire will hit our office, but we know for sure other pandemics will be declared in the future and operation tools and processes will need to be accessible, secure and efficient remotely.

There are several ways to optimize your current processes and tool to support your business goals and objectives and allow your team to be fully productive working remotely.

An example of business process optimization to a collaborative, cloud base tool is the merge of LinkedIn and SalesForce for your hiring process. The integration of your LinkedIn candidates and recruitment efforts into a CRM like SalesForce could help you rapidly identify potential candidates for your open position, document interviews, screening tests, references, etc. 

5. Traveling for business will always be effective

In addition to potentially downsizing your office space and maximizing the cloud and collaborative tools use, you might also rethink the way you and your team members travel in the “new business normal”. As an extrovert and a people person, nothing will ever come close to meeting face to face with a colleague in another state or country to strategize, plan, brainstorm, collaborate and bond. Even HBR says it: Business travel is important. Face-to-face requests are 34 times more powerful than a request sent over email (Harvard Business Review). It is fair anticipate that business people will still need to travel for work when air traveling resumes to normal (hopefully soon).

I found these interesting statistics related to business traveling pre Covid-19: 

  • 30% of workers would accept lower salaries in exchange for more business trips. (com for Business)
  • 90% of respondents said that business travel is essential to company growth. (TripActions)
  • Looking the answers to PROS survey that tackle the great question “when will you travel next?”, most respondents say they will travel within 3-6 months from now and surprisingly, leisure is ahead of Business.

One thing is for sure, your next flight will be a different experience from what you have ever experienced before. Travel agencies, airlines, airports, accommodations etc. communicate with their clients on the new special health and safety measures they are taking to ensure their clients’ security, customers want and need more timely information. As recently shared in an IATA Aviation Data-Digital Webinar by Dr. Joe Leader, APEX/IFSA CEO, the passenger’s confidence in airlines has taken a hit throughout this pandemic, particularly, those failing to address concerns through communications. Travelers are looking for responsive and considerate Customer Service to support them throughout their traveling journey. In fact, the 2nd top complaint is related to “Difficulty finding the information” (1st being Sanitary products and 3rd, being Travel restrictions).

How do you envision the New Business Normal?

As the world is still adapting to live, work and travel for business, we are curious to know how you feel this New Business Normal will be. 
Please share with us your thoughts on this article, your predictions, your operational struggles, innovation ideas and how your team is adapting and being creative.

Wishing everyone is safe and adapting well,

#adapttothrive

Karina, a lover of creative and dynamic digital transformation focused on the client and responsible for the AZUR Group’s key accounts for IATA

Contact Karina!