Navigating the ‘new normal’: Business leaders show the way

digital transformation

Regardless of scale, industry, or location, all businesses have needed to adapt during the pandemic. Old ways of working suddenly became obsolete or even impossible as the majority of workplaces were forced to work remotely. Fortunately, most businesses were able to remain agile during this period and are now at the forefront of innovation. Here are some top tips from industry experts on how best to succeed in the ‘new normal’.

James Butland, VP Global Banking, Airwallex:

“Many organisations are through the initial fear and flux of the pandemic and are experiencing a greater sense of stability. But now is not the time to be complacent; the focus for business leaders should be on honing a more resilient organisation. Companies should reflect on learnings from the past six months and consider all the right tools and services to help them build towards a brighter and more managed future: one which ensures a deeper level of insight and control of many areas, particularly finances.

During this time of assessment, one of the main concerns for business leaders will be their business’ trajectory and how to ascertain controlled growth — how can they reduce unnecessary charges, stay close to the management of their finances and continue to scale while amid a major economic downturn?

Using an international financial services provider, like Airwallex, empowers businesses to manage their money in one place and on a global scale. Unlike traditional banks, switching to an online provider built specifically for businesses means that organisations can grow their supplier network, widen their customer base, avoid the high cost of overseas banking and also have greater, more transparent oversight of all their transactions and fees associated. It also enables businesses to do all of this quickly, avoiding the lengthy processes of establishing bank accounts in each country of operation.

Organisations shouldn’t be building back their old company but deciphering how they can construct a smarter, more considered future.”

Joshua Zerkel, Certified Professional Organizer and Head of Global Engagement Marketing, Asana:

“I’ve recently read a quote that really resonated with me, saying that work is so omnipresent, it can feel like you’re not working from home, but instead that you are living at work. With the lines between home and work life becoming increasingly blurred, it’s critical that you are able to separate the two. As businesses seek to establish a work environment that supports employees whether they’re in the office or working from home, take the time to review how you keep your team connected and aligned. Doing so is critical to employee engagement, retention, and business success.

Create a supportive company culture that encourages both you and your team to take the time to switch off in the evenings and on weekends. This is beneficial to both your mental health and your work – use that time to recharge and relax with loved ones. Establish a safe environment where those tackling child or dependent care alongside balancing their work can share their concerns around how this is impacting them, and work with them to create solutions together. With a supportive company culture, employees are empowered to thrive.

Alongside company culture, businesses looking to define the new working normal of distributed teams need to provide clear goals for individuals, teams and the company as a whole. By providing this clarity across the organisation, everyone is able to understand how their work ladders up to company-wide goals, thus providing purpose and direction in their work. Now is the time for business leaders to establish the best methods for supporting employee engagement and business success – be sure to make these changes or risk being left behind in the new world of work.”

Benji Vaughan, Founder and CEO, Disciple:

“While some businesses might see the current period as the time to reduce and streamline ahead of what has the potential to be a long winter, I don’t agree. Rather, brands should see these uncertain times as an opportunity to focus on building deeper connections with their core audience . At a time when in-person experiences are limited, maintaining and growing affinity with audiences digitally is more important than ever.

Connecting to users and customers in the right way is vital to future business success. We’ve all seen during the pandemic that the most successful brands were the ones invested into nurturing a sense of community with their customers.

To do this, they must look back to the essence of what captured the interest of their customers to begin with. With shared passion at the core of building meaningful online communities, brands need to capture this high affinity, positive brand-user culture to unlock the full value of their members with increased engagement and ownership.”

John Morrison, Senior Vice President – International Markets, Extreme Networks:

“There is still a level of uncertainty on what the future will look like and where businesses should best invest to future-proof themselves. But, one thing is clear and it is that long-term business success requires new levels of organisational agility, flexibility and security. So, how can businesses achieve this? It all boils down to their network, which is the backbone of all business operations.

If we’ve learned anything from the last year, it’s that not all networks can be infallible. It is crucial to bear in mind that the strain put on a network – from the number of devices to the amount of people using it – can have a detrimental impact on its performance and can result in teams being unable to work productively. As hybrid working will likely become more popular and businesses may find a greater need to use connected devices across various locations in their daily work, modern networks need to be able to support the changing and sometimes challenging connectivity demands of a distributed workforce.

The first question organisations need to ask themselves isn’t what technologies they should invest in but, rather, whether they have the right network infrastructure in place to begin with. The key to meeting the connectivity demands of modern organisations is the cloud. Compared to wired and wireless solutions, cloud-based networking solutions centralise everything into a single, secure, reliable and agile hub. These solutions also channel advanced technologies including machine learning and AI which can automate routine and monotonous tasks so that workers can spend time on higher-level projects that require greater intelligence, creativity and decision-making.”

Liron Smadja, Director of Global Expansion Marketing, Fiverr:

“The coronavirus pandemic has forced many businesses to shift their offering from offline to online. Now that in-person interactions aren’t possible, working in distributed teams and outsourcing resources has become a huge part of this ‘new normal’.

Specialist skills such as SEO, website design, expert copywriting, and animation are in high demand as entrepreneurs try to figure out how to help their businesses thrive in the digital world.

Businesses should be looking to recruit freelance talent to help them with this shift. Whether you’re trying to optimise your social channels, launch a product or create your eCommerce store, digital marketplaces allow you to build a specialist team that is tailored to your business needs.

Don’t hesitate to explore digital talent – there’s a freelancer out there that can do the job to a high standard and all within your budget and deadline. Businesses and freelancers have autonomy on how they work with each other so each freelance service is tailored so both parties are satisfied. Fiverr empowers people to experiment with new ways of working without breaking the bank on expensive set up costs and agency fees. The pandemic has proven a great time to get started.”

Dr Tim Guilliams, Co-Founder and CEO, Healx:

“As a tech company, we were able to transition to full remote working with relative ease back in March. With a solid foundation of supporting remote workers prior to the pandemic, and with established working practices of running meetings and projects with a hybrid workforce, we certainly felt some of the workplace challenges less acutely than others.

Amidst our existing practices, we recognise the benefits of investing deeply in our internal communications channels to ensure that information flow and cross-functional discussion remains high. Connecting teams and supporting collaboration across the company, no matter where everyone is located, is vital to success. Simple practices we have employed to support this include; moving to a weekly all-team meeting, utilising Slack extensions like ‘Donut’ to recreate those ‘water cooler’ chats, creating a ‘common language’ using semantic emojis on Slack, implementing regular well-being check-ins, and building in more contact time between leaders and teams across the organisation. All of these initiatives help to keep the Healx culture alive.

In tandem, continuing to expand and build your team has never been more important. For us at Healx, we were conscious to widen our recruitment beyond Cambridge, recognising that, for many, remote working is an option they now expect from their employers. As we continue to grow our team of experts, we’re implementing new onboarding and development programmes to remain ahead of the curve in this ‘new normal’. So be sure to not fall behind, invest in communication tools and practices to support your organisation’s growth.”

Sergei Anikin, CTO, Pipedrive:

“One of the key struggles of the “new normal” (and 2020 more generally) is its unpredictable nature. This year has made working as a team more challenging – whether it’s the rapid shift to remote work, or having to make difficult business decisions in the face of change. But the fact is that this year will continue to be unpredictable. The best thing teams can do now to navigate this is to practice transparency – be that in everyday work or while discussing long-term business plans. This is not the time to make decisions behind closed doors or try to tackle problems in siloed teams. Business leaders must come to terms with and accept that many things are beyond their control – and offset this by taking full ownership of the aspects of their business that they do have a handle on.

Business leaders should also improve their ability to overcome change through agile reconstruction. 2020 has taught us the value of flexibility in periods of hardship – this is sure to remain a core for a long time to come. The new normal may be a daunting prospect for some, but by adopting a fresh perspective and leveraging new technologies, businesses can use this opportunity to not only survive, but thrive under unfamiliar circumstances. Now is the time to rethink old habits, welcome change, and reap the benefits of a reset to the way we work.”

Brandon Oliveri-O’Connor, Director UK&I, Procore:

“Amidst the pandemic, technology has been instrumental in enabling businesses and individuals to continue with “business as usual” in both their home and working life. We’ve found that one notable industry increasingly realising the benefits of digitalisation is construction. With its work being conducted predominantly on site – and therefore face-to-face – construction is a sector which has been one of the hardest hit by COVID-19. So how can businesses take learnings from this industry and apply it to their own?

It’s all about adopting the right technology. Given the nature of construction being on site, but lockdown restricting any contact, digitalisation has become a necessity to maintain connection and safety amongst teams. Connecting business applications and storing relevant information all in one place, platform technology has offered a beacon of hope for many as it allows applications and tech tools to talk to each other. This means that everyone – whether they are on or off site – can have access to a single source of truth.

As companies look to support distributed working with teams increasingly being based across office and home environments, leaders must take on a similar approach to seek out technology which doesn’t silo information but encourage transparency. This will be absolutely critical to how we all work in the future.”

Stuart Templeton, Head of UK, Slack:

“Over the last several months, the word ‘work’ has been completely redefined. We are seeing major acceleration in digital transformation and other changes that many businesses were already making headway with, as well as the adoption of hybrid working. One of these changes is the re-invention of the office. It is simply not the most productive way to work any longer, due to the lack of cost-effectiveness and work-life balance it provides. In fact, our recent survey found that fewer than 12% of knowledge workers want to return to working full-time in the office.

So how can businesses navigate this cultural change? Moving forward, there won’t be a one-size fits all approach for every organisation. However, what will always be paramount for every workforce is staying aligned and connected — this is where technology comes in. For business leaders, the most important investments to be made are the time and resources dedicated to helping employees work smarter. In order to continue to thrive in this current climate, businesses need to empower their workforce with a strong culture, and the latest tools geared to remote and distributed ways of working.

For some companies, the physical office is now a thing of the past. However, that doesn’t mean that having a centralised hub is unachievable. Collaboration tools can serve as a universal infrastructure for organisational alignment, becoming a digital HQ for teams which houses all discussions, documents, and integrates with other tools for a seamless experience. The best tools will also allow users to communicate externally with clients and stakeholders, eliminating the need for countless emails or meetings. One platform acts as a single source of truth, benefiting workflows and encouraging a transparent company culture, meaning that the physical office can be redefined digitally.”

More change is on the horizon as we prepare for a ‘new normal’. Those businesses that remain laggard will be left behind while digital innovators will find themselves enjoying new efficiencies that allow them to retain a competitive edge.

Bekki Barnes

With 5 years’ experience in marketing, Bekki has knowledge in both B2B and B2C marketing. Bekki has worked with a wide range of brands, including local and national organisations.

eCMR: If not now, then when?

Gerry Daalhuisen • 17th July 2024

There have been several unexpected pit stops on the road to eliminating paper-based processes in logistics. But, is paper finally set to be a thing of the past?

Tackling Tech Debt

Wes van den Berg • 16th July 2024

5 years ago if you were a CIO without a cloud strategy you’d likely be out of a job. But making decisions in haste might mean businesses ended up with technology they regret, that doesn’t deliver on the promised value.

Laying the foundations for global connectivity

Waldemar Sterz • 26th June 2024

With the globalisation of trade, the axis is shifting. The world has witnessed an unprecedented rise in new digital trade routes that are connecting continents and increasing trade volumes between nations. Waldemar Sterz, CEO of Telegraph42 explains the complexities involved in establishing a Global Internet and provides insight into some of the key initiatives Telegraph42...

IoT Security: Protecting Your Connected Devices from Cyber Attacks

Miro Khach • 19th June 2024

Did you know we’re heading towards having more than 25 billion IoT devices by 2030? This jump means we have to really focus on keeping our smart devices safe. We’re looking at everything from threats to our connected home gadgets to needing strong encryption methods. Ensuring we have secure ways to talk to these devices...