Tracing the Path to Our Remote Present
How the Next Normal Accelerates Pre-Existing Trends
For many industries, the COVID-19 pandemic has been less about dramatic new changes and more about the acceleration of trends that were already underway before we were locked down. The pandemic has reduced the gap between business cycles, which often have periods of “up” (rapid innovation) and “down” (time to assimilate and evolve) to one of near constant back-to-back “ups.” The market is now in a state of constant evolution and change. So how did we get here? This post will give you a look at some of the relevant trends, their adoption in the market and what companies may need to think about going forward.
The Shift to Digital
Digital transformation has been a constant presence in the technology sector and major industries for well over a decade, gaining particular prominence in the last five years or so. The concepts of digital transformation, digital disruption and the digital native have been adopted in rapid fashion during this period. We’ve even seen the rise of a new “C” title (Chief Digital Officer) designed to address this phenomenon.
The COVID-19 pandemic has raised the visibility of and need for these transformations. It has also compressed the timeframe for developing them, often requiring organizations to respond in days and weeks, whereas previously it might have been quarters or years. The compression has become a crushing force on industries, and some, like retail, are suffering near existential crises as a result.
The organizations that leveraged a Remote By Design™ approach to their operations and had an adaptive organizational structure in place were able to respond more quickly, successfully and aggressively. The path forward from the pandemic is certainly a digital one. Is your company walking it?
The Pivot to Virtual
Reality has been going virtual for quite a while. Organizations have built and launched many virtual worlds years ago, one of which, Fortnite, has hundreds of millions of users today. And let’s not forget virtual reality glasses and associated equipment, which have been around for nearly a decade. What the pandemic has done is to increase the rate of adoption of virtual worlds.
Human beings don’t take naturally to being isolated from one another. Remember, the most severe form of punishment (in jails, no less) is solitary confinement. So, we, as a society and a species, satisfied our need for social contact and interactions by venturing into the virtual world. The rise of Zoom, Microsoft Teams and other virtual communications systems was universalized by the pandemic.
Companies on the cutting edge of collaboration technology were already well on their way, beforehand, to a Remote By Design approach to business. Perhaps there had been doubts about the investments in virtual communications and collaboration tools before COVID-19. But the pandemic completely flipped these discussions—and suddenly not investing in them seemed myopic.
Organizations that haven’t yet adapted to operating virtually may find themselves at a severe disadvantage moving forward, as the next normal will more than likely evolve into some hybrid of remote and onsite work. They should seek to address these challenges as articulated here.
The Move to Local
Over the past few decades, the world went on a globalization binge—whether it was labor forces and their related jobs, manufacturers and their facilities, or supply chains and their participants. As barriers dropped across the globe and free trade, commerce and the movement of labor, goods and services increased, the beginning of the eventual pendulum swing back toward localization had already begun before COVID-19.
The shift to a more national, regional and even local approach had begun in earnest over the last decade and certainly the last few years. Organizations were reassessing their supply chains. Individuals were re-evaluating their living arrangements. Businesses were reconsidering their shift to distant offshore locations for closer-to-home nearshore options and re-examining their investment in corporate facilities.
The pandemic has dramatically accelerated these trends.
The ability of organizations to adapt to the needs of local markets, customers and their business ecosystems and partners will be a critical success factor in future endeavors. The next normal will likely incorporate a good proportion of “local” flavor in the way companies pivot their operations. Organizations that operate and support their supply chains and business initiatives in a local-friendly manner—accommodating and supporting their business partners, customers and others in their local environments—will likely be more successful. Those who are still struggling will be challenged even more so moving forward. Here are some principles for your organization to consider as it goes local.
The Rush to Convenience
Ever since the advent of the microwave and “instant” meals, there has been, in our culture, an ever-increasing push for convenience. Then came the pandemic. What started out as a preference for adopting and using services and companies that provided additional convenience for consumers and customers has, during the COVID-19 era, turned into a deluge of customers requiring or needing these conveniences in order to navigate daily life.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that Amazon’s delivery service and those of other similar service providers have been hiring rapidly across the US, just as millions of people have lost their jobs. This shift to convenience for all aspects of life—from shopping, to entertainment, to every conceivable facet—also reflects the acceleration of a long-standing trend in the market. Organizations that were able to rapidly evolve to meet these changes in market demands and position themselves in the “sweet spot” of customer and client needs in this time of increased reliance and focus on convenience have profited handsomely and positioned themselves successfully.
Has your organization struggled to find a spot for its business proposition during the pandemic? If so, you may find the rush to convenience is driving the need to re-examine your operations. This post provides tips for organizations rethinking or redesigning their customer experiences during the pandemic.
The Drive to Upskill
The need for and value of lifelong education have long been well known. Looking at earnings potential for individuals shows that those with higher degrees of education, consistently over time, earn substantially more than those with lower education levels. This is part of why education, worldwide, has become such a foundation of society. With the advent of the pandemic—and increased number of things individuals must now learn (or re-learn)—the need to upskill and reskill has only increased. This means not just learning new virtual communication and collaboration tools—who hasn’t helped a parent or technophobic friend get into a Zoom meeting or get comfortable with Miro—but also developing the more sophisticated and rapidly-changing skills needed to attain the highest levels in an ever-evolving corporate landscape.
Want to know how to grow your employees’ skills and talents? In this post, you’ll learn about the upskilling requirements in the market today and how organizations and individuals benefit from adopting a reskilling approach.
So… that’s how the next normal has dramatically accelerated existing trends. We’ll let you know what’s next—though that’s likely to change, and then change again. The next normal never rests.
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