Chantelle Smith, Recruitment Specialist

2020! What a year it has been and, with only 2 months left of it in terms of a business year, what have we got to show for it? A lot of people will say “nothing” or “the entire year should just be forgotten” or “can we rewind and start the year again?”

However, even with the world being faced with a pandemic of global proportions that has affected local and international economies, there have been great lessons learnt during this year that have actually affected people and businesses in many good ways. It has not been all bad.

When we started the year, the predicted trends for 2020 included things like new technology being the driving force playing a far larger role in business with its developments; ‘flatter’ organisational structures would become more dominant; employee training and re-training would be a focus point and a larger impact of social media on businesses to name a few. Have we realised those trends? Yes, we have, and it is not just because of the pandemic, but also to a change in mindset and behaviour by leaders, influencers and, most importantly, technology.

Work-life balance

From a people-perspective, we have seen career changes into areas that people are truly passionate about. We have seen people now working from home able to spend more time with their families and realise that work is not ‘the be all and end all’ of life and that having a balance is what counts. We have seen people taking advantage of new business opportunities in the online space that has been created from a crisis and it is inspirational to say the least.

 Upskilling

Employees (and people in general) have taken the opportunity to upskill themselves using online platforms that have allowed them to gain new skills through training done at their own pace and in their own time, adding value to their own value offering to their existing employers and to prospective ones if they have been ‘thrown’ into the job market involuntarily.

 Workforces have become more focused

With the pandemic forcing companies to adapt to remote work environments to much greater extent than what they have been accustomed to, many companies have found that for the majority of their roles (not relying on office operations), remote work is just as, if not, far more efficient for them. It also has led to a reduction in business costs by not having a full workforce at the office. The internet and phone costs are lower, the utilities costs are lower and so are costs associated with expense claims – allowing management to utilise more resources in helping the business grow and maintain itself through challenging economic activity.  There is absolutely no reason as to why businesses must all make use massive, expensive office spaces anymore when it is now proven that remote working is even more effective than a localised, office-bound team.

Flatter organisational structures

Companies have now seen the value in flatter organisational structures where employees are part of the decision-making processes as opposed to the traditional autocratic-based ones where only managers make decisions and employees have little or no input. It is now encouraging businesses to listen to their employees and apply more of their ideas and input than before. The old days of a power-driven management team purely dictating to its staff, are gone. It has encouraged communication at far higher levels between teams and management and it has been key to the success of companies, particularly those in the SME space.

Effective leadership

2020 has also been a year that has taught many managers about effective leadership and given them the opportunity to realise where they have needed to make changes in the way they do things and in their leadership styles. It was evident before the pandemic, that leadership would need to change for companies to survive in the new decade. It has forced leaders to be fully present and encouraging their staff, consistently. It has also forced leaders to be clear and concise and to make decisions quickly and for the benefit of the team, while truly taking their values into consideration and being a source of support for their teams rather than being dictatorial or micro-managing them. The way leaders respond to the crisis in 2020, will ultimately determine their success and that of their companies.

Technology

The technology available for digital meetings and virtual meeting spaces, has made it far easier for people to come together and collaborate without having to meet in an office. It has brought people closer together than before and allowed for more effective use of time as well.

The digital transformation driven by new technological developments in 2020, has changed the way companies do business. The companies that will make it through, not only the pandemic, but tougher times in general, are those who had already begun to transition their business to more online presence than being offline. It has forced companies to improve on their brands and their social media presence on various platforms and, where products and services are involved, forced them to have online business transaction capabilities and choices for their clients. It has brought about new ways of networking with higher levels of engagement.

With the mobility of people, more Cloud-based business functions have become a reality and far more accessible, allowing for more flexible and available workforces with an ease of access to information. This has led to growth in the tech sector where resources in terms of people, are constantly in need, for various developments in applications, online functionality, and other parts of business transformation.

The Gig economy has seen a boost in 2020 with far more demand for freelancers and contract-based professionals who are on-demand for various projects. The use of mobile technology has created synergies with others on projects and short-term opportunities, all driven by customer demands. They create cost-efficiencies within varying sectors and allow businesses the opportunity to free up their resources for other dedicated tasks.

This has also seen a rise in the amount of collaboration between companies having similar service or product offerings in aligning their strengths and ability to tap into niche markets, in a far better way with better success than on their own, particularly in a consumer-driven market.

Adapting to the new normal

Companies have also had to learn to use different processes in their businesses to remain relevant beyond 2020. Those companies that resist the change brought to light in 2020, will not survive.

It is all about adapting to the ‘new normal’ and having new mind-set that encourages remote working, flexible hours – and giving their staff the choice in this –  while creating a new and much stronger employee and customer experience by investing time and money in the things that matter most going forward.

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