When the pandemic upended the global economy last year, unemployment spiked, companies had to rapidly lay off or furlough employees, and markets remained uncertain. This meant everything was uncertain for businesses and their employees, too.
Because of this, many businesses spent the past year trying to either achieve or maintain stability. With more people getting vaccinated and cases falling across the country, the economy is stabilizing and increasing confidence in both consumers and businesses.
As such, leaders are shifting their focus from simply surviving to thriving in the months and years to come. But making big plans can be a challenge, especially for leaders. It’s easy to get distracted with the day-to-day details of operations and lose sight of the bigger picture.
To ensure you future-proof your business and turn your company vision into a reality, prioritize these four practices:
1. Be willing to grow.
Because leaders can now have more confidence in a stabilizing economy and predicted growth in consumer spending, the door is open to focus on growth instead of fear. They can use the strong foundation they’ve built throughout the pandemic and find ways to optimize and improve.
Doing this starts with creating stability. The events of the past year have upended so many lives in so many ways, and people are craving a return to normalcy. Show your team members that they can depend on their job and the work they love doing.
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Make sure, too, that you’re communicating clearly and consistently, and be transparent with the growth plans you’ve laid out for the year. This will help everyone feel like they’re on the same page and give them the peace of mind they need to make that goal of growth a reality.
2. Test out new marketing strategies.
The conditions are right for innovation, so try out new growth strategies and tactics. One of the most promising right now? TikTok marketing. While some people view the platform as social media for teenagers, it has increasingly proven to be much more—especially for businesses.
According to Sheryl Teo, founder of influencer marketing agency Popcorn Growth, businesses should absolutely be investing in TikTok to future-proof their brands. Because the platform is growing so quickly, businesses in all industries have an opportunity to take advantage of all it offers. By doing so now, they can also get ahead of competitors who haven’t started marketing on the platform.
“When Instagram was new, many brands dismissed its potential for marketing,” Teo said. “Today, every brand knows it must have a presence on Instagram to succeed. Learning from the past, it’s just as important that brands adopt a TikTok strategy to engage Gen Z and future generations by investing ahead of the curve. TikTok today is what Instagram was 10 years ago—but growing even faster and with even more potential.”
3. Go digital.
The pandemic forced most businesses to immediately shift to virtual operations. It also forced them to take everything online. At the time, this digital shift was part of survival. Since then, though, people expect to be able to engage with any business in any industry virtually.
There has never been a better time for digital transformation—or more of a necessity. To remain relevant to your customers, you have to keep up (and constantly improve) your digital offerings. The good news is that you’re likely in a position to do this. According to a 2020 report from Capgemini, 62% of people say they have the leadership they need to make digital transformation happen; only 26% of respondents felt the same in 2018.
The benefits of digital transformation are worth the investment. Strengthening and streamlining your digital processes increases efficiency in your organization, which helps you be cost-competitive and grow your revenue. Ultimately, digitally driven companies have higher valuations than those that aren’t. It’s easy to see why digital should be a priority.
4. Explore hybrid workplace models.
After a year of being forced to work remotely, even businesses that thought they could never (or would never) do so are reconsidering. Many people crave a return to the office. They miss talking with co-workers, collaborating with their teams, and getting out of the house. But they also want a permanent option to work from home.
Offering the flexibility to work from home, at least occasionally, has gone from a perk to an expectation. Consider establishing a hybrid work environment that allows people to work from the office and from home.
Jeff Schwartz, a founding partner of Deloitte Consulting’s Future of Work Practice, explains this shift well: “Last summer we were asking, ‘Who are the people that need to be in the office to do their jobs and how do we get them safely back?’ The question now given a year of working remotely is, ‘What are ways employees like to work and how do we understand their preferences?’”
A few best practices come into play when establishing how this new system will work. Start by talking with each employee to understand what they want to see from a hybrid environment. Will they work from home most often? Spend their days bouncing between a coffee shop in the morning and the office in the afternoon? Get an idea of what people need first, and then determine how to best manage that expectation.
Also, start to focus on outcomes rather than set 9-to-5 workdays. People who have proven they can get their job done well when working from home with flexible hours will want to keep that flexibility. Prove that you trust them to be autonomous and productive.
Leaders have seen so much change in the past year, but now is the time to take advantage of all the positive and possible changes ahead. Focus on growth while taking the necessary steps to achieve it, and you’ll future-proof your business for whatever comes your way.