The coronavirus has led to a once-in-a-generation pandemic, and its impact on the world economy stands in stark contrast to even the 2008 global financial crisis. Entire industries were shut down as GDP tumbled, international trade sunk and unemployment skyrocketed amid lockdowns and stay-at-home orders.
But as economies and societies begin to recover from COVID-19, the focus is turning toward what a post-pandemic world will look like. Businesses and employers will need to take bold steps to spur and sustain a recovery, as well as earn the trust of wary consumers and workforces. With the rules of international trade forever changed, import/export corporations will particularly need to commit to strategy and business transformation.
In order to prepare, here are some of the themes and trends shaping the post-pandemic world for corporations.
The future is uncertain
The only definite thing about the coronavirus is nobody knows what path the pandemic will take. The rapidity with which the virus moved across borders caught governments and commerce by surprise, and continues to be difficult to plan for. Part of that challenge is the disparate responses taken by different countries. Another piece to the recovery is the timeline for a vaccine, as well as the distribution of it.
So what does this mean for businesses? Near-term agility and flexibility will be crucial to seeing through the pandemic. There are simply too many "what-ifs" to plan for. According to consulting group Bain & Company, there are three pillars of pandemic-era strategy:
As Bain & Company notes, organisational leadership amid COVID-19 is more about action and less about planning. To that end, companies that can prioritise bottom-up problem-solving and focused learning can be most adaptable to the shifting tides of the pandemic. Resilience speaks for itself, but the prediction aspect of strategy calls on corporations to continually think about customers, operations, technology and social issues.
Sweeping organisational change is coming
The pandemic laid bare many of the inadequacies of corporate structures. In order to thrive and lead in the post-pandemic world, corporations will need to consider a wide range of operational and organisational changes. These pivots will be needed not only to provide solid footing during a recovery, but also to chart a path toward growth and success once again. The most nimble and ambitious companies will likely be most able to fashion their brands into post-pandemic leaders.
To that end, consulting firm McKinsey & Company surveyed company leaders across sectors about what changes they might implement in response to COVID-19. Some of the top changes they considered related to:
- Structure and cadence of meetings (80%)
- Day-to-day leadership (78%)
- Use of technology and systems (76%)
- Core processes and how the operation is run (72%)
- Approach to talent recruitment and skills requirements (69%)
- New cultural aspirations and behaviours/mindsets (60%)
- Approach to innovation (59%)
- Decision-making and organisation of business hierarchies and structures (59%)
In order to efficiently and effectively implement change, corporations will need to lean on change management. What is change management? Essentially, it is a methodology that's used to help institute fundamental organisational change, whether in processes, policies, tools or corporate missions and messages. Some aspects of change management to focus on include:
- Generating grassroots buy-in from the bottom up
- Emphasising communication and collaboration across departments
- Setting standards and tracking metrics of progress
Remote work is here to stay
Social distancing promises to be a feature of daily life for a long time to come. That means remote work will also be a widespread business practice during the near and long term. Already, work-from-home policies were highly popular with Australian employers. A 2019 survey from CareerBuilder found 68% of responding organisations offered some form of remote work. In order to succeed with remote work, organisations will need to address considerations like:
- Communication tools: Videoconferencing technology is a must, but not just any solution will suffice. Businesses need to find a tool that is easy to use, provides wide functionality (e.g., whiteboarding) and is cost-effective.
- Hybrid shifts: Transitioning employees back to the office will happen at some point. When that day comes, a hybrid workforce might work best. This approach calls for rotating groups of employees to alternately work from home and then at the office.
- Head of remote work: One hiring trend created by the pandemic is the demand for heads of remote work. Installing a manager of remote work may help your company more efficiently manage employees and productivity.
Resilient supply chains will be key
The closing of international borders threw a wrench into the plans of countless businesses, particularly those with global supply chains or international trading partners. In order to avoid, or at least mitigate, disruption like that in the future, these corporations will need to pursue transformation of supply and value chains. Resilience is the ultimate objective here, and according to accounting firm KPMG, digital transformation is the ideal pathway to achieve it.
What does digital transformation of the supply chain look like? It includes:
- Automation: Implementing digital tools that streamline workflows and processes helps to remove manual work, thereby limiting errors and operational bottlenecks.
- Assistance: These are solutions that benefit your business by enhancing the performance of your workers. An example is a smart warehouse with automated picking systems and robotics for order fulfilment.
- Augmentation. Emerging technologies are increasingly gaining footholds in manufacturing, logistics and all other industries. Tools like artificial intelligence and machine learning can help businesses improve core functions, as well as capitalise on opportunities in the post-pandemic world.
Talk to COFACE about solutions for the future
It will take time and effort to adapt in the recovery, and business leaders will need all the help they can get. A partner that can provide solutions that help you get paid and better understand the financials of your trading partners could be that advantage you need to make it past the pandemic and thrive into the future.
Want to learn more about COFACE's trade credit insurance (TCI) and business intelligence products? Contact us today.