In just a few short months, COVID-19 transformed every aspect of enterprise operations, from disrupting the global supply chain to putting unprecedented importance on internal communications.
In 2020, many enterprises were in crisis mode, trying to maintain business continuity while ensuring the health and safety of their workers. As businesses continue to navigate the new normal, goals will shift towards boosting efficiency and increasing output while recovering from the impact of the pandemic.
Here are the five trends that will shape how enterprises rethink their strategies for 2021.
1. Current Business Trends: Building Flexibility into the Business Model
Remote work became the new normal for many employees during the pandemic. But even as businesses reopen and social distancing orders are lifted, it’s unlikely that we’ll see all employees return to the office. One-third of companies anticipate that at least half of their workforce will continue working remotely post-pandemic.
The shift towards remote work is one of the current business trends that has prompted companies to become more flexible.
72% say that they offer flexible hours and scheduling and nearly half say that they’ve implemented flexible policies around how work is done.
While there may have been a stigma around remote work that it hampers productivity, the pandemic has shown the opposite to be true. 94% of the 800 employers Mercer surveyed said that productivity stayed the same or increased over the course of the pandemic. Now that employers have experienced how successful remote workers can be, more flexible work policies will likely become the norm.
What about frontline workers, who do not and will not work in an office or from home? Mercer’s Lauren Mason says that “focusing only on remote working potentially disenfranchises this critical segment of a workforce.”
Companies that employ frontline workers will have to become more flexible in their work policies, too. Frontline workers have been traditionally underserved when it comes to digital communication. During the pandemic, frontline industries have had to find digital tools to keep their employees informed. To maintain frontline worker safety, updating the company bulletin board just isn’t an option anymore.
In 2021, we won’t just see more companies offer flexible work-from-home policies for office-bound employees. We’ll also see frontline industries lean into digital tools in order to offer a more flexible way of accessing information to their employees.
2. Organizational Trends: Cross-Collaboration & Partnerships
Most enterprises have had to adjust their business model significantly to adapt to the pandemic. That adjustment is proving to be a permanent change across all industries. 76% of leaders are saying that current business models will be unrecognizable in the next 5 years.
As 2020 nears an end, business leaders have a chance to reflect on what makes an organization resilient. 94% of Fortune 1000 companies say they experienced supply chain disruptions during the pandemic. Of those companies, the most resilient ones have changed their business models to include more collaborative partnerships to minimize supply chain disruption.
One example is Tractor Supply Co., which partnered with the delivery service company Roadie back in early April to offer same-day delivery to its 1,863 locations. They also announced that they would be hiring to fill more than 5,000 full and part-time roles with a pay raise for hourly team members.
While partnerships between different companies and even industries have been key to minimizing disruption, internal collaboration is one of the organizational trends that will carry over into 2021.
Online collaboration tools have become indispensable for frontline workers during COVID-19, allowing companies to relay critical health and safety protocols. Moving forward, one of the trends management leaders will likely embrace is integrating these tools into more aspects of a company’s internal communication strategy.
3. Current Trends in Management: More Safety Training and Protections for Frontline Workers
While COVID-19 has put employee safety at the forefront of company priorities, the percentage of workers who are satisfied with the safety conditions at their workplace has decreased.
65% of U.S. workers report being satisfied, down from 74% a year ago. One of the groups least satisfied with workplace safety are lower-income workers, who are more likely to hold blue-collar jobs.
While many white-collar workers will be shifting to remote work in 2021, blue-collar workers will still be continuing to work outside the home and have a higher chance of being exposed to health and safety risks. Companies that employ blue-collar and frontline workers will have to introduce new tools and strategies to boost employee safety and satisfaction.
Strengthening mobile communication is a big part of the equation when it comes to improving workplace safety for frontline workers. Having an effective mobile communication platform means that:
- Employees get instant access to information, including up-to-date safety protocol
- Workers can report unsafe work conditions and give feedback on how workplace safety can be improved
- Training new hires during the onboarding process can be done virtually, minimizing unnecessary exposure
- Companies can create courses on workplace safety training to give workers more skills in dealing with potential risks
Empowering frontline workers through digital enablement is one of the current trends in enterprise management. One industry where this transformation is changing workplace safety is food manufacturing and distribution. Wholesaler Bix Produce has been using Beekeeper to train their employees on the proper protocols for safety precautions like entering the building, using masks, and applying sanitizer.
4. Management Trends: A Holistic Approach to Experience Improvement
We often hear about improving the customer experience and the employee experience as two separate initiatives. But in 2021, we’ll see more companies embrace a holistic approach to improving the overall experience for users, customers, and employees.
During COVID-19, safety became the number one priority for both the customers and employees. Most companies that deliver goods or service to customers had to significantly change the customer experience to maintain social distancing guidelines in physical spaces.
The pandemic has not only changed the customer and employee experience but made it clear just how interconnected the two are. A successful customer experience requires a successful employee experience and vice versa. While social distancing policies may ease in 2021, we’ll likely see companies take a more holistic approach to improving the overall experience, from onboarding a new hire to delivering value for a repeat customer.
Improving the employee experience is already one of the top priorities for business leaders in 2020. A HR sentiment survey from Future Workplace found that half of the leaders they surveyed said that employee experience ranked as their number one initiative.
In 2021, one of the management trends we’ll see is the effort to improve the employee experience to increase workplace productivity.
5. Trends Management Leaders Will Focus On: Digital Transformation
It’s safe to say that COVID-19 disrupted daily operations for enterprise-level businesses. But how did enterprise leaders respond to those disruptions? What issues stood out as the most critical? That’s what venture capital firm NEA sought to answer when they analyzed Q1 transcripts from 60 enterprises across a variety of verticals.
The list of common themes might not be surprising, but it does give us insight into where enterprises might be heading in 2021:
It’s clear that enterprise leaders are prioritizing digital transformation in the form of collaboration, communication, and engagement in order to move towards a hybrid workforce.
During the pandemic, business continuity has depended on how well enterprises can use digital tools to connect their employees. While companies may have adopted new tools as a form of crisis communication, there’s no doubt that a centralized, digital platform can offer long-term benefits.
The pandemic has pushed digital collaboration from the nice-to-have to the must-have category. Companies that may have used collaboration software as a temporary fix may need to integrate it into their internal communication strategy.