The past year has turned the world of work as we know it on its head.
Countless businesses across the globe have been forced to adapt, diversify, pivot, and respond to events - often in real-time - in order to survive and maintain business continuity.
Agility Unleashed, a Sage podcast series, designed to help Britain's businesses navigate their way out of the pandemic, hosted a roundtable discussion in March 2021 to discuss how the pandemic forced businesses to change and what we’ve learnt from it.
Daniel Holmberg (Head of Sales at Quinyx UK), Charlie Dabney (Head of Operations at Global Mobility Executive), Adam Reynolds (CEO at Webexpenses), and Molly O'Riordan (Vice President of Business Operations at Sage) shared their thoughts on what’s changed and what it means for the future of business.
Here’s what we learnt:
1. Automation, AI, and data are necessities
The panel was unanimous in their agreement that the pandemic has been the catalyst for change that’s been required in many industries for a long time.
As Daniel Holmberg said: “The promises of technology have been around for decades. What we’re seeing is there are now real scalable use cases for automation in sectors that have been slow in adopting them in the past.”
Improvements in the use of tech across the board - from using machine learning to drive better decision making to increased integration between different software providers - are driving further change and helping businesses meet the expectations of their employees.
2. The workforce has changed for good
Sectors like retail and hospitality - which have been closed for large parts of the year - have been forced to shift their operations and their strategy. Employees have taken on new roles and have adapted to new ways of working.
This is true across the board with huge numbers of employees discovering the perks of flexible working for the first time.
It’s a trend the panel believes is here to stay. Not only will employees in all sectors want the option of flexible working, they expect it and many of them require it. As such employers have to offer the tools and flexibility that employees want and deliver on giving them a work-life balance.
3. An evolution of strategies and approaches
Pre-pandemic, according to the panel, all many of us cared about was how busy we appeared.
Adam Reynolds said: “We used to hold this badge of honor, about who was the busiest, so all you'd ever hear was - I'm flat out or I'm really busy. This creates a perpetual cycle of never having the time to think about whether you’re doing things well or badly, you're just busy.
“The pandemic forced everyone to ask - how are we doing things, is it effective, and is it the right way. By forcing that, we're seeing a real evolution of strategies and approaches which wouldn't have happened before - because all we cared about was how busy we were.”
4. Double-down on customer satisfaction
Despite the silver linings the pandemic brought with it, there’s no escaping the fact the past year has been one of the hardest out there for many businesses. And as businesses struggle, they’re increasingly looking for better help and support.
It’s why doubling down on ensuring your customers are happy is one of the most important things any business can be doing right now.
Holmberg adds: “I think, more than ever, at a time like this, it's important to keep your customers happy. Clients might be struggling in ways they’ve never struggled before. That’s why focussing on customer satisfaction, as you're onboarding and as you're supporting clients, is the key to continued growth. And that's certainly something we're investing in at Quinyx.”
The past year has seen a seismic shift away from traditional business models and strategies. Driven by changing consumer behavior, businesses have become more reactive and responsive to what’s happening around them. And it’s tech and digitalization that are helping are the fuel behind success in this new reality.