A year of leading through change

Steve Corfield Profile picture for user stevecorfield December 23, 2020
Learnings from 2020 can inform 2021, says Salesforce's Steve Corfield.

new year

It is no understatement that 2020 has forever changed the way we do business, work and carry out our everyday lives. Technology, developed and deployed at hyper-speed, has been fundamental to ensuring the survival of businesses of all sizes, shifting essential services online and enabling workforces to work remotely. Whereas some companies may have previously seen digital transformation as a “nice-to-have”, today it is an imperative.

Leadership and resilience have been critical to navigating a year of uncertainty. During the COVID-19 pandemic, business leaders have had to adapt their business operations to be more agile and innovative to benefit customers. They have been challenged to get the best out of distributed teams, bringing a new lens to viewing productivity and wellbeing. In addition, the crisis has put to the test companies’ prioritisation of training, up-skilling and re-skilling teams. This is particularly important given the rapid changes we’re seeing in the nature of jobs which the digital economy is demanding.

As we look to a new year, capacity to recover and grow amid unfavourable circumstances will continue to determine business success. Leading with a transformative mindset and instilling resilience in our business models and teams will be critical in future-proofing our companies, careers, and our shared success.

Anything and everything can go digital

Continually, companies must consider how anything and everything can go digital - and how to move fast. Take retailers, for instance. When the pandemic emerged, within days they managed to build queue management apps to help customers enter stores safely. More and more coffee shops and restaurants have set up credit card payment management solutions, enabling customers to prepay before arriving at venues. Others have launched entirely new services, such as delivery and cook-it-yourself meal kits. Listening to customers - and recognising that their behaviours and expectations will always evolve - will help define companies’ digital resilience strategies.

Technology is transforming how businesses engage with customers at any time and from anywhere. Resilience can be found in making customer journeys more connected, by personalising products and services, and embedding innovation into operational models. We’ve seen how Artificial Intelligence inventions such as chatbots have helped businesses to survive, recover and scale in time of crisis. Assessing performance issues and identifying risks has driven smarter decisions, avoiding hardships for companies and customers alike. Leveraging data insights, boosting collaboration across multiple functions and real time decision making must be top of mind for business leaders as they navigate change.

Embrace transparency and empathy

The shift to remote working taught us the power of communicating - upwards and downwards. Consistency in sharing readily accessible information, including what decisions are being made and why, has proved vital to providing reassurance to employees during the pandemic. This radical transparency and focus on trust will only take on more importance as teams become more distributed.

As working arrangements continue to change, to build more resilient teams, we need to cultivate a culture that supports employees. Empathic leadership is about more than reading a room; it’s asking teammates how they are feeling, encouraging them to ask for help and to have tough conversations when needed. Refining support through regular surveys can boost morale and productivity, inform business plans and reduce short-term risks. Keeping your workforce safe and easing levels of stress doesn’t just benefit employees - it also better places companies to take care of their customers. 

Provide skilling opportunities to succeed

Technological developments and customer demands will together shape the jobs of the future - and the skills that teams need to succeed. As the digital economy continues to evolve, businesses don’t just have a responsibility to provide employees opportunities to retrain and transition their career paths, it’s increasingly within their interest to do so. Prioritising continual learning, inclusivity, and developing a diverse workforce are cornerstones to building a more resilient workforce.

Just as technology has played a huge role in keeping people connected and transforming businesses during the pandemic, now more than ever, people need free access to the technologies and skills necessary to succeeding in the changing world of work. How we empower employees with the skills they need and address widening digital gaps throughout our communities will determine our success both as an economy and society. 

Embracing change

Whilst we cannot predict what the future will hold, it is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic won’t be the last crisis we will face. With leadership and technology, by embedding resilience throughout their operations, services and teams, companies can look to the future with more confidence. Customer-centricity and positive employee experience will show us what it means for companies to be resilient. By equipping employees with the training and skills they need, together we can embrace change rather than fear it.

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