It’s no exaggeration to say the world has changed utterly this year and it’s happened at bewildering speed. COVID-19 has placed global healthcare systems under unprecedented pressure and up-ended economies around the world.
The shutdown measures put in place to slow the spread of the virus have seen Australian enterprises and organisations forced to alter the way they operate and, virtually overnight, remote working has become the norm. When, if ever, we’ll return to business as usual remains to be seen, with many commentators predicting the old office-centric order is gone for good.
Should that prove to be the case, many of us will need to acquire or improve upon some key skills, if we’re to survive and thrive in a changed business environment. Here are a few of them.
Using new technologies is no stretch for Australians under the age of 30. Digital natives all, they’re entirely comfortable working with high tech systems and tools. It can be a different story for older generations who, in favour of more traditional working styles, may have avoided getting to grips with collaboration and communication solutions such as Teams, Slack et al. In a post-COVID working landscape, this attitude will no longer answer. Being competent with the technologies used by your company and your customers will be a baseline expectation. Saying you can’t get your head around them or wasting time while you wait for IT support to come and sort you out, will leave you behind the pack.
Businesses also need to be more willing to adapt to technologies that their workforce brings to the table. Younger generations have spent most of their life using technology and are a great resource to help organisations understand cutting edge solutions to virtual problems.
Managing from afar
If you’re in a leadership role then, chances are, you already have people management skills. But how well do those skills work when your entire team is present online, rather than in the flesh? Learning to manage a team virtually involves translating the rhythms and rituals of office life to the online arena – and ensuring as little as possible is lost in the process. It may seem a straightforward proposition when you’re doling out tasks from a To-Do list, but it can become significantly more challenging when cooperation and innovation are called for and convening a boardroom brainstorming session is not an option.
Leaders will need to invest time in retraining to become virtual managers. Recognising there will be an adjustment period for many employees, being comfortable about calling it out if things aren’t working, and finding a modus operandi which does, will determine whether your team struggles or sails.
An office environment affords employees and leaders alike ample opportunity to interact and build a presence and profile within their organisation. Forming those crucial bonds with colleagues becomes trickier when some or all of the workforce is holed up at home. In a post-pandemic world, we’re going to have to get better at doing it digitally. Both leaders and employees need to invest time in building a new social and communication presence in the business. Employees who want to get on will need to find ways to makes themselves present in a virtual social space and to reach out to senior leaders, to catch up and ask questions. Meanwhile, those at the top may need to master the art of dropping in on a Slack or Zoom hang-out, instead of stopping by the lunchroom for a chat with the troops.
Planning and budgeting for new ways of doing business
Coronavirus hasn’t just affected the ways in which we interact and collaborate professionally. Those with planning and budgeting responsibilities will also need to reconsider how they allocate funding, in order to meet key business goals. For some leaders, that may mean less money for office space and more for ad hoc, whole-of-office assemblies. Meanwhile, marketing and business development executives might need to bid adieu to the tradeshows and sponsored seminars of yore and evaluate the return on investment of virtual marketing events instead.
Embracing the new norm
When the economy reopens and businesses begin the challenging journey back to profitability and growth, employees and businesses who can’t adapt to a much-altered business landscape may find themselves in a less than favourable position. Conversely, those who strive to accept and embrace the new norm are more likely to play a meaningful role in the recovery process and build important new skills for the future.
Jacqueline Anderson is HR Director at Nintex.