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Change… but is it for the better?

Business talk with Steve Elsom, October 2020

So, how much have we changed in our business way of life? Have we adapted to and embraced new regimes, new structures and new norms? Have we reflected on what we need to change in our business model to ensure that we can deliver in the age of the ‘new norm’, and are we confident that our business will flourish?

If the answer to these questions is a resounding ‘YES’ – congratulations, it would appear that you and your business have thought about the future and how you can flourish.

If the answer to these questions is ‘NO’ or ‘NOT YET’, you need to act – now! Apathy can be as terminal as paralysis in a business. Stand still, watch the world go by… and die. I’ve heard that said on many occasions, pan sector and with good grace.

Yet, the ‘head in the sand’ syndrome still exists and will ruin thousands of businesses over the next couple of years and beyond. Let me explain why.

Change needs to be a constant in a business. From marketing plans to financial forecasts, the need to iterate is of paramount importance.

For example, if the business plan that I drafted this time last year said that I would be hosting one conference a week through 2020, it’s now completely ‘off the mark’ because of the pandemic, and the paper it’s written on may as well be donated to the local fish and chip shop.

How many businesses have modified or updated their marketing plan, or are they looking for that bucket of sand?

Similarly, the financial forecast. If I’m not hosting those conferences, I’m not earning the income, but at the same time, I’m not exposed to the costs of travelling to the venues and potentially staying over in hotels.

Regardless of the impact on the ‘credit and debit’ side of my business, my financial forecast will have changed.

So, have we modified them, have we advised our accountant and our bank?

Another constant in any business are ‘its people’. How many times do we hear the phrase: “Our people are our biggest asset”? Well if that is the case, why have we shelved many of the training and development programmes, why have we retrenched from networking events (yes, they do exist online) and why have we put many of our succession planning programmes ‘on hold’?

Short term or short-sighted?

In two years’ time, will we be asking ourselves why the middle managers haven’t ‘stepped up’, and will we be reflecting maybe on a ‘lost generation’ of talent? I suspect both scenarios may be played out – but they needn’t be if we interpret and define ‘change for the better’ as ‘change for the better – across all of our business and all of our people’.

People need to be developed, stretched and challenged and they need to be given opportunities to realise their potential.

At a time when approximately 70% of office staff are ‘working from home’, who is managing their training and development?

The ‘working from home’ mental health and well-being agenda seems to be ‘understood’ and ‘acknowledged’ – the training and development agenda less so.

If training and development continues to be ‘parked’ until staff return in greater numbers to the office, I can see turbulent times ahead.

Businesses need to adapt to the new norm that will see staff always working from home in the future. This isn’t merely a ‘flavour of the month’ – it’s here for good and it’ll mean that established routines around team meetings and development planning, need to be reassessed.

As I outlined in my July article, there is a need for business leaders to be more comfortable and confident using virtual platforms. There is a need to ensure that you can convey humility and self-awareness over a virtual platform, in a way that had become ‘second nature’ when you were in the office.

It’s a skill, it takes practice and it takes energy and enthusiasm so that it becomes a ‘change for the better’.

So, don’t stick your head in the sand. Instead, think about your people, your teams and think ‘what can I do differently to make this change for the better’?

I’m at the end of the phone or email if you want to talk.

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Steve is a regular contributor to B2B publications, see some of his recent articles for insights into current business news, leadership and much more...