After two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear we are not going back to the way things were before. Every industry has been disrupted by the seismic shifts in customer behaviour. From markets, to operational processes and systems, the new hybrid work environment reshaped the way organizations manage teams, respond to global cyber threats, serve customers, engage with employees, retain, and attract top talent. We learned many lessons the hard way, but the adaptations made can better position leaders for an era of continuing change.
While economies find a new equilibrium, the next normal will require tech to do even more. In terms of businesses’ investments in technology, Canada has a history of lagging behind global competitors. In 2000, information and communications technology (ICT) investment as a share of total gross fixed capital formation was 16 per cent. By 2019, this dropped to 11 per cent, roughly six percentage points lower than investment levels in France and the U.S. While the pandemic did much to shake Canadian organizations out of their lethargy, the world is undergoing a digital transformation and we need to keep the momentum going. Global supply chain complications, the evolving nature of consumer behaviour and work culture will continue to disrupt the status quo into the foreseeable future. Baking agility and resiliency into operations – in terms of technology, workforce and security – will help businesses thrive in the next normal.
1. Keeping the customer at the centre
COVID-19 changed everything. These shifts can be seen in the rapidly changing behaviour of consumers. During lockdowns, customers gravitated towards products that were personalized, digitized, streamlined and sustainable. At the same time, the pandemic encouraged many companies to further transform their operations digitally. Yet, it is not enough to just respond to these trends. Companies that start chasing are simultaneously left behind. Adopting a data-driven approach and embracing an outcome-based service model will empower business to not only meet customer demands but stay ahead of the curve. The shift to an outcome-based service model requires a change of thinking – moving beyond solely focusing on product and instead towards anticipating future need in the context of a digitalized experience.
2. Training and recruiting a more resilient workforce
Great teams don’t just happen; they are built with diverse perspectives, a shared mindset and most importantly, trust. Working with groups like the Onyx Initiative, which offers organizations the resources to help to close the gap in the hiring, retention and promotion of Black post-secondary students, is one way leaders can move the industry towards a model that prioritizes talent diversity. By rethinking traditional roles, recruitment practices, and skill development, organizations can foster a culture of agility and inclusion. Changes in the way products are developed, marketed and sold, alongside the rise of hybrid work, have put pressure on employees to expand their capabilities. According to a recent survey commissioned by HP, 67 per cent of Canadian ITDMs (IT decision makers) say that they’ve had to learn new skills and technologies in the past few years. As demand for updated abilities ramps up, leaders can look to encourage a growth mindset amongst their teams and the development of additional competencies to maximize organizational resiliency.
3. Managing security in a changing workplace
Despite offices reopening, many Canadians will continue to work from home at least part of the time as organizations embrace hybrid models. But the rapid adoption of remote work has left many Canadians vulnerable to security threats, with more sophisticated, organized and determined cybercriminals than ever before. A quarter of Canadian businesses say they were victims of a cyberattack in 2021. To protect their organizations from cyber threats, leaders that embrace technology that is secure by design can more effectively mitigate the impact of bad actors. With this approach, organizations will be in a better place to capture the benefits of hybrid work for both for employee productivity and the bottom line.
COVID-19 upended everything, from Canadians’ daily lives to how leaders conduct business. While many lessons were learned the hard way, organizations that prioritize technologies that are secure by design, adapt a data driven outcomes-based model, and work to strengthen the skills of their workforce will be better positioned to thrive. After all, once we can do things better, we can do better things.