Barely a day passes without the news being hit with headlines about coronavirus. The virus was first reported in Wuhan, China, towards the end of 2019. It has since become a global health crisis, having spread to other countries, infecting millions, and killing most of its victims.
Even as governments tried their best to put in measures to protect their people, the media coverage of the virus caused a lot of anxiety. Face masks are the new walking billboards, with social gatherings becoming rare. As we knew, life has significantly changed as we try to coexist with the virus.
Businesses have not been spared either. The pandemic has brought unexpected variables that existing crisis teams and plans were not fully prepared to handle. Though many companies have now come up with effective strategies specific to the pandemic, there is no denying that the pandemic has reshaped business activities.
The following are the five workforce areas that emerged as priorities for business leaders;-
- Ensure the continuity of work
- Employee protection
- Maintain effective communication even during a global pandemic
- Assessment of workforce costs
When the pandemic first hit, most governments imposed lockdowns restricting people’s movement. Social gatherings were prohibited, and people were advised to remain at home unless it is necessary. With most businesses have to cut down their operations or close down altogether, a majority of people found themselves jobless in the middle of a pandemic.
As for companies that continued operating, things were not as usual. Anyone who could work remotely was advised to do so from the comfort of their house. An employee could only report to the office only if it were necessary.
Furthermore, the management had to develop contingency plans to ensure their workers remained healthy. The working space has to be reorganized to ensure a distance of at least 1.5 meters was maintained between employees. Individuals at the office had to sanitize or wash their hands frequently.
Even with the pandemic, effective communication between employees and the management had to be maintained. And since meetings could not be held, teleconferencing became the norm. Office meetings were now held via Zoom, Google Meet, or any other similar app.
That forced businesses to create more technology-friendly working environments. Network connectivity had to be improved, and employees were trained on adopting technology to facilitate their work.
Though these were tough economic times, companies recruited new employees, either due to an increased workload or to replace sick workers; the recruiting team had to get creative. With physical applications being out of the question, mobile recruiting software became the trend.
Mobile recruitment involves mobile career pages, ads, and applications to find a suitable candidate for the job. Tasks such as scheduling interviews, providing feedback, and communicating with candidates can be handled remotely.
The pandemic saw almost all significant conferences canceled due to concerns over the virus. A perfect example is the Mobile World Congress that was to take place in Barcelona in late February 2020. Facebook canceled its Global Marketing Summit and F8 developer conference, while Google shifted its Good Cloud Next event online. Likewise, IBM was forced to stream its developer’s conference, with only 30,000 attendees.
Though some of the conferences eventually took place online, there is a concern that the experience was not the same as a live one. Besides, people did not interact as they do in face-to-face meetings, making it almost impossible to network and create new opportunities for their businesses.
Operations and Supply Chain
This is perhaps the clearest and most immediate impact of the pandemic. Companies with a limited raw material inventory and heavy reliance on Asian countries experienced the highest disruption level. Tools and hardware, building materials, electronics and appliances, and auto parts were the most affected.
Having originated in China, the world’s second economy and leading manufacturer and importer of fuel, several citizens were infected and forced into quarantine. This led to the partial and full closure of major factories and plants.
Companies that depended on these industries experienced shortages in raw materials, resulting in reduced production units. For example, when Foxconn shut down most of its production in China, Apple experienced a shortage of its iPhone supply. That resulted in a 10% decline in iPhone shipments in the first quarter of 2020.
Most businesses have learned in the hard way to look beyond their first-tier suppliers. However, the pandemic has proven that having multiple suppliers may not be the solution. For example, in the light of travel bans and lockdowns, it was almost impossible for goods to cross to the neighboring country, let alone from one continent to the next.
Therefore, the best thing is for business to identify their supply chain risks and pre-emptively develop mitigation approaches. Analysts say that those with effective mitigation measures find a solution or can at least minimize the impact. However, those without a plan are left at the mercy of the pandemic and the public.
Finance and Liquidity
The pandemic saw companies report a decline in business activities, resulting in reduced revenue and cash flow. This meant that maintaining normal business operations became an uphill task.
During such times of economic uncertainty, managing funds and liquidity positions became crucial. Steps taken by most businesses include but not limited to;-
- With the modeling of worst-case scenarios to determine the current cash position’s impact, frequent revision became mandatory.
- Identification of the financial and operational levers that can conserve and generate money or potentially increase access to funding; for example, companies that realized they had too much office space as people continued to work remotely could lease some of the room. Austin startup office space made it easier for new and small businesses to start operations even in the middle of a pandemic.
- Assess the financial prospects from tax reliefs and other local measures taken to help a business survive the harsh economic times
- Comprehend and plan for the financial reporting considerations that will be a consequence of the pandemic
Strategy and Brand
In the light of the pandemic, businesses had to develop strategies to help mitigate the pandemic’s impact on their brand and operations. The ultimate goal was to ensure enterprises emerge stronger than ever before.
Admittedly, a shift to remote working revealed gaps in IT infrastructure, employee digital skills, and workforce planning. Consequently, companies have to adopt fresh strategies to accelerate these digital transformations.
Besides, companies have been forced to go back to the drawing board to develop strategies to ensure growth and profitability in the middle of a pandemic. Adequate preparedness is the new motto for most businesses, through more frequent financial modeling to boost resilience, scenario planning, and new models to incorporate the unexpected’s economic impacts.
Consumer needs, preferences, and requests changed significantly during the pandemic, probably due to a shift in income or ease of accessibility. Analysts advised companies to take customers’ pulse, considering their long-term changes in core markets and business models due to the pandemic.
Undoubtedly, the coronavirus pandemic reshaped every aspect of our lives. Businesses were not spared; either had had to either shape up or shape out. Without much of an option, most companies had to adopt new strategies.
The good news is that a vaccine has been found for the virus and is already in distribution. As economies and businesses transition into a recovery period, the biggest question lies in whether the changes adopted during the pandemic will continue or people will go back to their old ways.