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In 2020 we faced more significant challenges than many of us could have imagined and, while 2021 gave us an opportunity to adjust and reflect, what we know now is that the changes brought about will not be reversed.
While it’s an uncomfortable admission to have to make, many of us, as business leaders, haven’t always known the answers to the questions posed to us along the way. That’s ok. The pressure of having to know the solution to every challenge is not unique to leadership, but it’s common among all of us. I’ve found the admission that I don’t know everything to be liberating.
Why? It’s allowed me more time to step back and think, to challenge myself and the leaders around me on the things we’ve taken for granted. I’ve asked questions to myself and others. Months have passed and I’ve still not been able to answer some of those but I know I’m not alone in that. I’m sure you’d agree that there are still many unresolved dilemmas and lots of improvements to make as we enter 2022. Other questions need to be revisited as the landscape changes and our previous solutions become irrelevant or outdated.
1. What is your purpose and how will you define success?
There’s an old business adage that if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re never going to get there. It’s still just as relevant. A clear vision of what success looks like for you is what’s going to keep you on track and drive your business forward.
Many organizations and even industries have had to re-evaluate in the last two years due to the accelerated digital transformation that has occurred. Has the landscape of your business been permanently changed? If the answer is yes, how does that affect your organization? If you haven’t already, it’s time to decide whether your goals and position have changed.
Following on from that, what’s your vision for progress and how has it changed in 2021? What are the overarching goals, what does success look like and how will you know when you’ve achieved it? Once you’ve decided on the answer one of these, it will be simpler to identify the others.
2. What’s your stance on remote working and has your company culture changed?
Even though we’ve had time to adjust to our new reality, there still isn’t a consensus on remote working and what the ideal model is for the future. In my mind, there isn’t a blanket approach that will work for all organizations. It’s also important to understand the expectation of employees, as well as the needs of your business.
In their latest State of Remote Work report, Owl Labs and Global Workplace Analytics uncovered that 33% of US workers would resign if they were no longer allowed to work from home (a further 18% were undecided). In the UK, a report from the Chartered Management Institute showed that 44% of respondents who were millennials/in Generation Z would look for a new job if denied the opportunity for remote working; 40% of managers agreed. Hays CEO, Alistair Cox, has explored this shift in attitude and the opportunities we can take from it.
How does this affect your company culture? There is no single correct answer, and each situation may be unique to an organization, or even the divisions within them. Whatever the response, it’s unlikely that your current environment is the same as it was two years ago.
3. Do you have the right people and what can you do to attract them?
Recognizing a change in the market is one thing, identifying what needs to be done is another. But being able to execute on this change always comes down to people and skills, and this opens up a series of further questions.
Which skills in your organization are lacking? Do you need to reskill and/or upskill your existing team? If the answer is yes, then how? Where can you get that training and support?
What skills do you need to consider when hiring and where can you find the people who fit this profile?
What will make you more attractive to the people with the right skills, whether they are currently part of your company or not? I’ve already discussed how we should approach flexibility on remote working, but there’s plenty more to offer. Perks, benefits and opportunities for education can all appeal to the workforce.
4. Do you have the right technology in place?
The isolation between people and their newfound needs, both in the world of work and their personal lives, has been bridged by technology. The events of the last two years have sped up this transformation to a point where some of us are struggling not to trip over our feet.
As companies went virtual overnight, we adapted to survive and thrive by enabling remote workforces. But what next? How can technology support the next set of changes?
It may seem obvious to say this, but its role in the future will only become more important. The organizations that find new ways to use it in order to increase revenue, decrease cost and enrich their employees’ work experiences will be the real winners.
A key factor in a company’s success continues to be its security. In 2020, the FBI announced an 800% increase in reported cybercrime, and by October 2021 the number of annual cases had already matched the total for the year previous. How will you protect both your and your customers’ data and instil confidence that your service is one people can trust to be safe? Is data secure now that it’s being shared across home networks, cities and even continents?
There is no single correct answer
It’s been over a year since I first considered these questions and I still revisit them. Each leader will have their own thoughts depending on their situation, and it is important that we find answers if we want our businesses to continue to thrive in 2022. Incorporating these questions into our planning will only help us to innovate and reinvent in the year ahead.
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