introduction – struggling with disruption – sectoral stimulation – the trust factor – accelerated digitization – diversity, an asset in turbulent times – the fast growing employee
At Bluetivity we have conducted small-scale market research on the business impact of COVID-19. We wanted to understand better what happened to organizations and the people within to be able to improve our services to our clients. We mainly focused on the Brainport area in The Netherlands and interviewed several managers in the industry (varying from startups, scale-ups to large companies) and some in education and government. Here are our findings.
Struggling with disruption
During the first wave of the virus several companies/organizations:
- encountered sales decline, fewer product launches, and fewer investments
- watched current cash cows becoming dogs
- got into survival mode and started ‘fire-fighting’
- started refocusing their strategy, reconsidered supply chains, focused on niche areas, or paid more attention to recycling
- overreacted while others stayed pretty calm being supported by their shareholders
- faced difficulties in making decisions
- failed to communicate effectively with their employees, increasing uncertainty among them
- could afford to focus internally for a while and carry out activities which had been for long on the internal to-do-list
- kept the team spirit (start-ups)
Some sectors got an extra impulse because of COVID-19, like for instance health care and the digital services industry. Remarkably, governmental institutions, especially those with IT departments, benefitted because of the growing interest from highly skilled professionals applying for a job.
The trust factor
Because of lockdowns most of us were more or less forced to start working from home, heavily using all kinds of digital communication to keep the business going. Many did not need to travel to their jobs anymore, which saved a lot of time (and money) and had a positive effect on the environment. Interestingly it turned out that employees working at home became even more productive than working in the office. This invalidates the belief of some managers that workers who work from home cannot be trusted and cost too much money.
It may not be surprising that the roll-out of digital services was quite stimulated because of COVID-19. Collaboration by having video calls has grown tremendously in all sectors of society and online training and education for everyone is going to become a standard. Schools, universities, and private institutions are currently working hard to develop and implement new models of knowledge transfer.
Diversity, an asset in turbulent times
It turned out that some companies in survival mode paid less attention to diversity. That is pretty sad and a missed opportunity because diversity helps to recover and furthers an organization’s resilience. I like to refer to an article of McKinsey in which is stated: Inclusion and diversity are at risk in the crisis—but are critical for business recovery, resilience, and reimagination1.
The fast-growing employee: flexible, creative, and capable
What is actually being asked from employees? We found: flexibility, creativity, and capability. Capability encompasses the redeployment of existing skills. Organizations nowadays talk about skills mobility. Employees are expected to use their talents, including their hidden talents, in situations other than those they are used to. This is of course strongly related to flexibility and creativity. The good thing is that employees can grow faster this way, they can show more of what they are capable of. For the company, it is beneficial too, because it stimulates innovation and helps to get things done, also when some employees are temporarily not available.
There is much more to say about the typical impact of COVID-19 on employees and about the impact on managers. My colleagues Maron Galama and Aneta Milosierna will be posting on these issues. I recommend reading their posts and advice as well.