We live in a new world now. COVID-19 has changed so much about how we do everything, including work. Business owners and executives across the globe are facing something that they have never had to face before. They need to make decisions they have never had to make. How do I bring my employees back safely? Do I even bring them back at all? Professionals in every field have proven they can fulfill their job responsibilities while working remotely. Still, there are many things to consider. Let us look at some of the realities that a lot of leaders are facing.
This is at the top for a reason. You would (hopefully) all agree that an effective organization is built on strong relationships within. In fact, a critical part of every employee’s work experience is his or her relationship to the rest of the workforce. If your employees will continue to work remotely rather than move back to a physical location, relationships become increasingly hard to maintain. You will have to get creative to maintain them. As the world opens and larger gatherings are allowed, you may need to host frequent in-person events. The saying “distance makes the heart grow fonder” does not always apply. If you are not diligent in this regard, your employees will grow more distant and their desire to help each other, work efficiently and collaborate will drop drastically. In short, their connection to each other and to the company they work for is at risk without careful consideration of how to maintain relationships.
COVID-19 has affected the bottom line for just about every industry. While businesses around the country are beginning to reopen, business will not be the same. As an example, restaurants have occupancy limitations which will stretch out their recovery. Their slowed recovery also affects their suppliers. So, food distribution companies will have an elongated recovery as well. Take it another step further and you will see that livestock and produce farmers will have to figure out how the recovery affects them. The bottom line is that your bottom line is likely to be affected for much longer than the pandemic.
Need to Get Lean.
Some will need to get leaner because of the shrunken revenues. Basic math tells us that if you are bringing less in, you will need to find places to cut costs. Others will need to find ways to eliminate waste because COVID-19 has allowed you to take a step back and realize you were living too close to the margins. Even though you might come out of this ok, you have realized that a crisis like this might affect you differently in the future. You realize that if you do not create more margin, your long-term viability might be in question. Reducing your operating costs can take several forms. A spend analysis can help you determine where you might be paying more for what you regularly purchase and provide you with an easy way to increase your margin without worrying about eliminating positions. A look at your process can give you an opportunity to eliminate waste within the processes themselves. This can result in a reallocation of resources which makes your processes more efficient. Whatever it looks like for your company, cutting costs is likely part of the conversation.
Remote work has presented a lot of companies with some new challenges. The simplicity and convenience of being next to the people you need to interface with daily has gone away. Your employees can no longer just walk two offices over to get a question answered. The new normal might be an email. Instead of getting an answer now, you and your employees might have to wait an hour for it. Then there is the potential that the actual question does not get answered or not to the level of detail that you had hoped. Another round of emails goes out. Something that might have taken 5 minutes could now take an hour or two. The new normal might be one of the many video conference platforms that are available. Scheduling time might be as easy as putting a meeting on everyone’s calendar at the office. However, the execution of the meeting has changed. Collaboration has become more difficult. Your employees can not speak at the same time in the same way they could in person. Presenting has changed as well. You can share your screen, but it is more difficult. Technical difficulties, the inability to point to specific items that you are sharing, and many other challenges can get in the way. These can either inhibit you from accomplishing what you hoped or at the very least make the meeting significantly less efficient.
The needs of your customers may have changed drastically. This could mean that the process you had in place does not work for them anymore. Additionally, as mentioned above, remote work could also mean that your old process does not work. In some cases, a complete overhaul of the process is necessary. If that is the case, you may wonder how you are supposed to focus on recovery and redesign your process at the same time. We can take the guesswork out of it. As process experts, we can help you determine where your new constraints are and help you find solutions to them while you focus on your recovery effort.
How do you currently maintain your documentation? If it has historically been paper, and your employees are working remotely, your knowledge and information management is likely a mess. Version control is nearly impossible to maintain as multiple employees could be working on the same product at the same time. Additionally, your employees are going to have to learn where to put documents and products that they have worked on. Sharing information could be increasingly difficult. You will have to figure out how to organize it in a way that makes sense so that your employees can access it when they need to. Even if you have maintained information electronically in the past, you may find that it was not organized effectively. Evidence of this could be multiple versions of the same document, fielding questions from employees trying to find something or new products not finding their way into your system. A lot of companies have an employee dedicated solely to knowledge management. That might not be an option for you, so creating a robust and reliable knowledge management system is even more important.
This list of challenges is by no means exhaustive, but it represents a picture of what your company may be facing right now. They are challenges you have likely not faced before. Still, with the uncertainty you may have about your company’s future and what it looks like, there are solutions. If you are unsure about how to proceed, a consulting company may be the answer. The best, brightest and most innovative companies often hire consultants because while they may be the experts in their field, they might not be the experts in every aspect of their company. If you find yourself challenged right now, reach out to us. We love nothing more than helping others reach new heights.