COVID Shows the Way: Companies must be Prepared to Pivot on a Dime

Thanks to 2020, we are all (painfully) aware of the ways in which life’s curveballs come our way. Whereas in the past, most business disruptions were discreet—pertaining to one geographic location or market sector—and/or relatively short-lived, the Covid-19 pandemic threw the entire world into chaos, affecting all businesses, customers, and employees at once. And, as we know, there is no end in sight.

While we can plan for the time when some combination of vaccine, treatments, and immunity mitigates this particular threat, the pandemic has put us all on notice: Companies must be prepared to pivot in a matter of hours, and stay in the new normal for weeks or months—if not longer. To ensure their employees are ready to work from Day One, they must deploy technology that is purpose-built for employee communications, integrates with their existing toolset, and can reach all employees on any device, wherever they are and whenever they need it.

The reasons why are clear. In March, companies with non-essential workers whose jobs were done at a desk seemed to have it easy—they could simply send everyone home. And for a while, that worked well, as employers and employees adjusted to the crisis with an all-hands-on-deck mentality. But by summer, many employees were having a hard time staying motivated, especially as they juggled childcare and other responsibilities with work. Managers saw productivity decrease, and they started to wonder how to maintain engagement long term, even as many companies announced plans to keep most or all of their staff at home for the remainder of the year, and even well into 2021 (or in some cases, “forever”).

Essential WorkerMeanwhile, businesses whose employees were deemed essential had to continue to manage those workers on-site, finding ways to keep them physically safe while also juggling the new scheduling realities that included illness and quarantine protocols. Managers at these organizations were also dealing with fear and concern among their workers (and themselves), leading in many cases to lower morale and decreases in efficiency and service.

And, of course, some companies fall into both categories, with a mix of essential and non-essential employees, which means they get to deal with both sets of challenges on an ongoing basis.

As the COVID crisis unfolded, companies often had just a few days to inform their employees about the changes the organization was making. Some of the new protocols were mandated by state and local governments; others were implemented by the companies themselves. In every case, workers needed to know, quickly and accurately, what was happening, why it was happening, and how it affected them. They needed to get fast answers to questions about their moves, their job roles, and their futures. And they needed to be updated on a regular basis about any new policies and procedures being put into place. They also needed new ways to communicate with their managers, especially about personal issues like sick and family leave, wages, and so on. And they needed to know that their co-workers were safe, healthy, and still available for support and collaboration.

Work from HomeEven before the pandemic, three-quarters of IT decision-makers around the world said that having an integrated and comprehensive set of communications tools to connect, engage and motivate their employees was a top investment priority for their organization, according to Frost & Sullivan research. Now, with the knowledge that the so-called “new normal” is, in fact, likely to continuously change, it has never been more critical for organizations to be able to reach every employee, wherever they are, on the channels and devices they use both at work and at home.

The key to doing so is to leverage digital transformation to connect employees to the company and one another on a regular and relevant basis. That means disseminating information and providing access to the online resources and technology every employee needs to get the job done—ideally on a single platform and in a consistent way.

In the process, companies can see a number of benefits—regardless of where their people are working, or for how long they’re there:

  • Higher employee engagement
  • Increased employee productivity
  • Faster response times by managers and the organization
  • Increased loyalty
  • Better teamwork and collaboration
  • Faster new employee ramp
  • Higher retention rates
  • Lower absenteeism
  • Better adoption of safety practices
  • Consistent compliance
  • Faster time to market, at scale.
  • More positive employee reviews
  • Favorable labor union relationships
  • Increased market share
  • Accelerated digital transformation
  • Intentional organization of teams and content for optimal communication and noise reduction

As current events have shown, today’s successful companies must be ready to turn on a dime. Sometimes, there’s a silver lining in crisis; after all, with change comes opportunity. In this case, the opportunity is to create new ways of working that are better than the old ones by deploying technology that engages employees and keeps them connected to the organization from anywhere, on any device. The result: higher revenues, lower risks and costs, greater brand equity, business agility, and better financial performance—even in the face of a global pandemic.

Post Author

Melanie Turek

As a Fellow and VP of Research for Digital Transformation and Connected Work at Frost & Sullivan, Melanie covers a broad range of markets, leveraging long-standing relationships with leading industry participants’ senior executives and customer organizations.