How to Embrace the Unknown and Pivot Your Business in a Volatile Economy
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For business leaders navigating the realities of our economy today, drafting a business playbook may seem more like a game of darts than an absolute science. In fact, against the backdrop of several recent bank failures, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for business owners and executives to tell which way is up when it comes to setting near-term priorities, leaving many to wonder how to adapt to a future that is itself continually fluctuating.
Thankfully, amid all this uncertainty lies opportunity. As we set our sights forward, companies across industries are facing a unique opportunity to reimagine existing processes with an eye for value on the road ahead. By embracing the great unknown and remaining agile to the needs of stakeholders, executives can better identify new strategies that allow them to not only survive but thrive during this period of volatility.
Agility at work
Truthfully, some of the world’s best innovations were born out of a need to pivot. The most challenging times can enable the kind of creative, critical thinking that can shift the trajectory of an entire company. When the pandemic hit, our response was guided by two principles: protect the safety and well-being of our people and continue to be there for and delight our customers.
In that year of uncertainty, we doubled down on our efforts to help our talent thrive even when facing the unknown. Our “Be Great from Anywhere” campaign kicked off in early 2020 with intensive management training to facilitate that unprecedented paradigm shift in the workplace. Our technology teams sprang into action to implement a 100% virtual policy. Virtual support systems and communities quickly emerged.
Based on feedback, we witnessed a material jump in employee satisfaction. Our annual satisfaction survey results nearly doubled from 2019 to 2020. Since then, we’ve also seen year-over-year improvement in manager effectiveness.
This challenge encouraged us to change because we had to; we were solving a problem in the moment. It also affirmed the need to reinvent ourselves proactively — regardless of external circumstances — so we’re prepared to meet the changing needs of customers and employees. When we work within a continually evolving framework, it’s easier to shift gears quickly when it matters. When innovation is centered on delighting customers and employees, you can’t go wrong.
In the world of business, the clock never moves backward, and you don’t want to be left behind as the world moves on without you. Accordingly, when drafting your business playbook, keep agility in mind as you consider these three dos and don’ts.
Do: Keep innovating in the face of uncertainty
Despite the many changes happening both at and outside of work, innovation should not get lost in the shuffle. On the contrary, it’s in times of great uncertainty that stakeholders need new and differentiated services the most.
With this in mind, business leaders should expect emerging technologies to become an increasing priority now and in the future — with companies racing to meet the evolving needs of consumers in more efficient and effective ways. In the pandemic example above, not only did we leverage new technology to address the issue, but that exercise also helped us transform the way we thought about the relationship between technology and work for the future.
Of course, from advancements in data mining to breakthroughs in artificial intelligence and machine learning, it can admittedly be difficult for business leaders to navigate the sheer number of disruptive technologies available at their disposal.
Don’t be overwhelmed. By thoughtfully considering each new technological integration on a case-by-case basis — with a laser focus on which provides you and your customers with the most value — companies can ensure they’re staying ahead of the curve without compromising execution or resource efficiency in the process.
Do: Prioritize the needs of your team
When setting a big-picture strategy, don’t forget to consider how the decisions you make can impact the people around you — most notably your team. Having a bold vision for the future is essential, but if you’re not communicating it properly and taking them on the journey with you, you’re only going to create confusion that contributes to stress and frustration among your employees — reducing the likelihood of executing on your vision.
Particularly as concerns over work-life balance and job security reach all-time highs around the world, leaders can no longer depend on their teams to follow them wherever they go. On the contrary, if companies hope to retain their employees and inspire them with a shared vision of the future, they must be willing to earn it first — which will increasingly require careful attention to transparency, delegation and empathy whenever decisions are made from the top down.
Don’t: Let cybersecurity fall by the wayside
One of the biggest myths in cybersecurity is that a business can be considered “too small” to need it. Let me be clear: This is not the case. As the rate of ransomware attacks and other cybercrimes increase around the country, companies must be willing to take precautionary — instead of reactionary — measures to cybersecurity protection or risk suffering the consequences for their indifference.
Simply having an IT provider won’t be enough. Today more than ever, companies of all sizes must act swiftly in order to audit existing systems for potential vulnerabilities. With the global annual cost of cybercrime predicted to reach a staggering $20 trillion by 2026, time is of the essence — and any red flags you address today could potentially save millions in averted crises tomorrow.
At any time of year or point in the planning process, companies may feel compelled to reevaluate their annual strategies in the face of profound social and economic transformations in our society. While this may seem like a daunting prospect at first glance, it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Rather, by taking a glass-half-full approach to the road ahead and leaning into uncertainty, business leaders can remain agile and optimistic, consequently positioning them to find opportunities where others do not.