Five Things Every Company Should Be Doing In 2021
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A few years ago, only 3.6% of employees worked from home half-time or more. Today, the world looks very different, and it’s estimated that 25-30% of the workforce will be working from home multiple days of the week by the end of 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and it has created an enormous shift in the way we use technology in our work. The world will never go back to what it used to be, so how should your business prepare for 2021 and build a future that works? Companies need to look over their digital transformation strategy, update remote working policies, find sustainable ways of managing their remote/hybrid teams, take cybersecurity seriously, and start hiring people with the skills for the 21st century. Here’s a primer on each of these points:
1. Create/update your digital transformation strategy Digital transformation aims to integrate digital technology into all areas of your business. If done correctly, the transformation will result in radical internal and cultural changes, which fundamentally will improve how you deliver value to your customers. Digital transformation strategies from 2019 and earlier are outdated, and as a forward-thinking entrepreneur, you constantly need to reprioritize your digital roadmap and look over your digital strategies. Here’s how:
- Align objectives with business goals, and make sure your digital transformation is in line with the problem your company is solving for the customer.
- Be fearless in the scope of transformation. To keep up with your competitors, you should make large changes by implement new advanced technology. Avoid only making small incremental changes.
- Change the perception and culture of your information technology (IT) department. Traditionally, the IT arm has been used to fix issues internally. However, for companies to be successful in this new digital era, IT and the rest of your business need to co-create and solve critical problems for the customers jointly.
- Apply an agile learning environment to your organization where employees can take risks, fail fast, and innovate. Spotify is an example of a company that has successfully been using an agile transformation strategy.
2. Update your remote working policies Countries around the world are introducing laws and policies around remote working. For example, in November 2020, Germany introduced a law giving people the legal right to work from home. Furthermore, with a remote workforce, legal and tax issues arise. Where does an employee pay tax if their office base is in Dubai, but they are working remotely from New York or London a few months a year? Earlier in 2020, Google decided to call back all their employees to their “employment cities,” and if they to chose to not return, the employee faces a pay cut.
Another area to take into consideration is the savings organizations can make through a hybrid workforce. According to Global Workplace Analytics, companies can save approximately US$11,000/year if an employee works from home a few times a week. Should employees be incentivized to work from home, and if so, what kind of benefits should they receive? Will your employees have access to workspace closer to their homes such as co-working spaces, or will companies follow Dropbox’s path establishing “studios” in various locations where employees can pop in for collaboration work and meetings?
Every company is unique, and throughout 2021, you continuously need to work with your HR department to craft your remote working policies.
3. Find ways to manage your remote teams effectively Entrepreneurs are faced with many challenges when it comes to leading remote teams. How do you avoid a decrease in engagement, information blockage, distractions, and isolation among employees? Here are some ideas:
- The very basic and first step is to use the correct digital tools for the right purpose. For example, use message-based apps like Slack for a quick information flow and video conferencing services that allow face-to-face interactions for meetings. The important part here is to clearly define what tools are used for what type of interactions. It might take some trial and error to figure out exactly what digital tools works for your organization.
- Clarify your new remote working norms, and establish clear engagement rules. For example, daily check-ins create opportunities for social interactions. The key part is to answer the question: how are your employees expected to engage with each other when working remotely?
- Start planning for a hybrid workforce. The world went from primarily working from the office to fully remote in a couple of weeks. In 2021, we will see the rise of hybrid teams, which will pose unique challenges for your company.
4. Take cybersecurity seriously In the first half of 2020, a whopping 35% increase in cyberattacks occurred compared to the last half of 2019. The World Economic Forum predicts that a global cyber pandemic is likely to happen in the near future, which could have devastating consequences for organizations around the world. To prepare and plan ahead for a large cyberattack, you should:
- Look into hiring a Chief Information Security Officer in the near future.
- Invest in scenario exercises to reduce reaction time, and start implementing strategies for cyberattacks.
- Integrate your legal and security team with your IT department to make sure all your digital tools are fully secure.
- Create a back-up plan in case of a sudden loss of digital tools and network.
5. Hire talent and acquire skills for a post-pandemic world According to a study by McKinsey, 43% of companies are experiencing skill gaps in their organizations. Therefore, you quickly need to undertake reskilling at a large scale at your company. Identify what skills are missing, and how these skill gaps could disrupt your company, and create a strategic roadmap to implement and acquire these skills. For example, you can hire people with the required skillset, or you can also use digital talent marketplaces to hire people on demand. If you are not sure what skills are missing in your organization, you can check out Talent Exchange, an AI exchange network that was launched in the midst of the pandemic to identify skill gaps and suggest workers for organizations with those missing skillets. Skills that will important moving forward are problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity. Roles that will be important are software engineers, data scientists, DevOps, UX designers, and cloud computing specialists.
2020-21 will be looked back on as one of the most challenging and disruptive times of modern history. As an entrepreneur, you need to put strategies in place to adjust to the new normal. Businesses that fail to adopt at this critical time are likely to fall behind, and in the worst case, cease to exist.