COVID-19: 5 priorities to help reopen and reinvent your business
What you can do now and next to outmaneuver uncertainty
May 6, 2020
CEOs must reopen without knowing how the pandemic will play out. There are a range of potential scenarios based on the evolution of the virus itself and the nature of the social response.
Infections are controlled in past locations but spread to new hot spots and rebound in old. Patience wears thin with social distancing, opening societal fissures.
The disease is contained and life returns to normal swiftly. Government measures work quickly to stabilize the economy.
Effects to control the virus seem useless. Governments and societies are strained to the point of breaking. The economy is limited to necessities only and inflation soars.
The rate of infections is slowed but does not go into remission. The economy shrinks in near permanent ways. Society bends but does not break, pulling together to sustain government measures.
Given the circumstances, business leaders have three priorities:
Given the range of potential scenarios, companies will need to be prepared to change course on a dime. Any steps that are taken to reopen should therefore be easily reversible and scalable.
Mitigate immediate challenges
Companies will have to provide a safe and secure work environment, communicating with their workforce transparently to build trust.
Build a better future
Companies should not reopen by reverting to old ways. The reopening is an opportunity to create a better future for employees and customers.
A program of active reinvention that outmaneuvers uncertainty starts with these five areas:
01. Put People First
Today, we see that shared humanity at work can make all the difference in this crisis. Companies need to go beyond the transactional to truly understand their employees if they want to create productive, inclusive and rewarding working environments for the long haul.
Living your purpose motivates people to persevere with a challenging journey of change.
Turn furloughed workers into flexible workers, retraining them in skills that enable them to refocus on areas of higher demand. Offer learning programs and career pathways to affected people.
Offer life coaches, mental health support and wellbeing programs to help grieving employees or those managing stress, such as those caring for elderly patients and partners of key workers. Honor losses. And ensure leaders share their own COVID-19 experiences.
02. Design Spaces That Work
Create a safe working environment that gives people confidence to return to work premises and to adjust to the new virtual / physical hybrid way of working.
49% of people in our survey who never worked from home now plan to do so more frequently in the future. Redesign work so that it can be completed more effectively from home. Train leaders to manage hybrid virtual / physical teams and extend technology support.
Companies have an obligation to think beyond their employees. Seek to quickly meet your legal obligations as well as supply chain partner expectations. Consider the role of chief medical officer to manage health protocols for the organization and its interaction with the wider ecosystem.
Extend protocols for data, network and systems security to manage use of personal devices and new collaboration tools.
Increased levels of employee monitoring and new security measures will demand explicit and implicit contracts with employees.
03. Solve in Phases
Plan for a phased return that responds to unforeseen events, slippage, and reversals. Take this opportunity to reengineer processes and to establish an agile operating model that provides flexibility to rapidly pivot to a remote workforce in response to dynamic market conditions.
Monitor and distribute work across the network in real time using a command center to measure quality, productivity, compliance, insights and intelligence, people engagement and workforce well-being.
Look to reopen the business components that generate cash and/or profits fastest to fuel next stages.
Companies should not allow their restart to get ahead of their ability to maintain a secure systems and physical environment.
04. Commit to an Elastic Cost Structure
Shift from rapid cost reductions to building a resilient cost management mindset, and from balance sheet protection to long-term investment.
Consider second wave cost reductions. Restructure short-term debt to long-term agreements. Reduce SKU complexity to streamline cash management. Variabilize costs, including technology (e.g. software-as-a-service and the cloud), outsourcing and contractors.
Balance short-term protection of liquidity with long-term investment and M&A need. Determine what M&A opportunities should be seized while distressed assets become available. Identify how M&A can improve cross-industry ecosystem capabilities that improve agility and resilience.
Assess government support programs and the possible obligations that could impact long-term liquidity or competitive agility.
05. Get Future-Ready
Long-term success of reopening lies in building new capabilities. This is the time to begin wider business transformation by leveraging new technologies at scale.
Go beyond using the cloud to drive efficiencies in certain pockets. Migrate applications to the cloud at scale. And then embark on new ways—within the cloud environment—to drive innovation in the use of data and applications.
Manage the risks associated with large-scale workforce fluctuations. Look for supply chain weaknesses, counterfeiting and new cyberthreats in a less secure industry environment.
Underpin all areas of agility and experimentation with clearer empowerment of individuals and teams, supported by greater delegation and revised performance management metrics that reward autonomy.
Reopening will be more than a restart. It will be the beginning of a new era of business. The rules have changed. Employee and customer behaviors have changed.
But this creates new opportunities for organizations with the courage and foresight to change more than immediate needs demand. For example, many companies have moved partly to the cloud. But, having reduced costs in some parts of the business, now is the time to reinvent and scale cloud adoption across the enterprise, creating variable costs and increasing resilience. Those that can reinvent themselves—their processes, customer experiences, employee and social contracts, and do so in ways that further their purpose—will win.
Outmaneuvering uncertainty—by mitigating immediate challenges and building a better future—will create organizations that one day look back on the crisis as truly the darkness before the dawn.
As the situation unfolds, we will continuously update our materials, so please check back regularly.