BUSINESS & LIFE: Work and Business post COVD-19

Dr. Valda Henry

We thank you for your positive comments on Issue #6, which addressed the issue of Resilience.   Before we delve into the topic of this week, we take a minute to stand in solidarity with the family of George Floyd and all who face systemic racism, discrimination and disregard for black lives.  We hope that just as COVID-19 has irreversibly changed our lives all over the world, that George Floyd’s murder will serve as the catalyst to lead to a worldwide dismantling of systemic racism and discrimination and lead to respect for black lives and all lives facing racism and discrimination.   This week we explore the topic, “Work and Business Post COVID-19.”

In the Caribbean, though we are not COVID-19-free, and we may not be COVID-19-free for a while, many of the restrictions imposed in March 2020, to curb its spread, have been lifted and almost every sector has been re-opened for business.  In some countries, schools remain closed, while learning and

teaching take place online.  As companies begin planning for work Post COVID-19, several factors need to be taken into consideration, as they will be returning from different starting points.  Some companies are deemed essential services and continued operations throughout the COVID-19 lockdowns and curfews.  Some companies were able to shift all of their operations remotely and continued delivering services. Others found it impossible to move their operations offline and so closed for the period, yet others moved services remotely and were available to serve, however, the customers were not available to be served, and so found themselves closed defacto.

In these circumstances, William Arthur Ward’s[1] sentiments appear relevant. He observes that “The Pessimist complains about the wind; the Optimist expects it to change; the Realist adjusts the sails.”  Companies need to be “Realists,” in preparing for life Post COVID-19, for irrespective of what starting point they find themselves in, they have to make adjustments in their operations and services if they are to survive and thrive.

We have examined some of the impacts of COVID-19 in previous issues, however, those lists were and are not exhaustive. The International Maritime Organisation,[2] identified the following impacts and lessons from COVID-19:

  1. Less resistance to change to new methods of working
  1. All projects and initiatives involving digitalization now have the highest priorities.
  2. More support from the government and digitalization of processes in the supply chain, particularly administrative ones.
  1. Existing and new digital services become a priority.
  1. Remote work of employees can be more productive.
  2. Remote operation of business systems (PCS, SW, etc.) is critical for business continuity.
  3. Video conferences and online meetings have proved useful tools as a substitute for face-to-face meetings.

So, how then do companies plan and prepare for work Post COVID-19?  What measures and systems must they put in place to ensure safety of employees, customers, intellectual property and sustainability of the company?

There are many suggestions from varied sources. However, there are a few common threads.  They include:

  1. Greater clarity of
    purpose
  2. Rationalisation and refocus
  3. The use of technology
  4. Increased digitisation
  5. Upskilling and reskilling
  6. Continuation of Remote Work
  7. People-centred and focused

Blair Shepherd, (June 3, 2020), Global Leader, PwC,[3] posits four steps to prepare for work and business Post COVID-19:

  1. Accelerate the Move to Platform – COVID-19 has accelerated efforts to not only digitalize but also transition to a platform model. Platforms create ecosystems of technologies, services and products that bring consumers and producers together, and which can scale quickly and encourage third party collaboration.
  2. Transition to Digital/Virtual Work – the move to remote work is pushing people to learn not only digital skills but also to improve auxiliary skills, such as collaboration, creative problem-solving and openness to new ideas. Managers and team leaders have to learn how to motivate and engage teams from afar
  3. Assess your Skillset and Expand it as Needed – As organisations recalibrate, now is an ideal time to conduct a Human Resource Skills and Competency Audit to determine whether the company has the skillset needed to take it into the future and, if appropriate, to plan on acquiring new skills and competencies needed.
  4. Plan for the Future – Shepherd concedes that planning for the future in uncertain times is tricky at best. However, the key, he argues, is to begin thinking about where demand for work will exist and how best to prepare for those spaces. He advises that the type of work that is robust across several different future scenarios is not a bad way to start.

Ken Adach (April 24, 2020), Partner and CMO, Chief Outsiders[4], suggests three steps to prepare for work Post COVID-19:

  1. Debrief – meet with staff to discuss the impact of COVID-19 and the necessary changes
  2. Gather Insight – Don’t assume anything. He directs that companies should, “Lead with empathy and not competence,” and companies should ask clients and customers, how they can help, rather than stating what they can do.
  3. Re-Plan – COVID-19 requires forward-thinking, new strategies and re-planning on many fronts.

Adach reminds companies that it is, “Important to remember that customers buy value, and value comes from meeting their needs, in their words and actions.”  He assures that if companies focus on value, revenue and profit will take care of themselves.

We, at VF Inc, are planning our return to our Office.  COVID-19 saw the placing on hold of a number of assignments, as our clients grappled with making adjustments due to COVID-19.  This provided the time and space to examine all facets of our business, thus providing a clarity of purpose which has guided and will continue to guide our decisions.  This clarity of purpose has energised us, such that we feel like it’s a new beginning; an opportunity to solidify our position as one of the leading consultancy firms in  the Caribbean – with global reach.

In preparing for work and business  Post Covid-19, we, at VF Inc,  undertook a number of steps detailed below. Some of the steps  commenced at the height of the COVID-19 era:

  1. Keep Connected to Staff – We communicate regularly, stay attune to staff needs and provide needed support.
  2. Remain Available to our clients– We remain available to our clients, and in the height of the COVID-19 lockdown, offered free HR support to select clients to help them navigate the fallout from COVID-19.
  3. Maintain contact with clients – We keep in touch with clients through periodic phone calls, emails and this newsletter, VF Inc’s Voice is one of our ways of maintaining regular contact with our clients and prospective clients. In a further move, we will be officially launching the VF Inc’s YouTube Channel and VF Inc’s Voice Podcast in July 2020. Our new website will also be launched in July 202Review Strategic and Marketing Plans – A comprehensive review of our strategic plan was undertaken.  It necessitated a review of our Marketing and Promotion Plan.  Prior to COVD-19, we augmented our governance structures and a review revealed the robustness of our governance structures.
  4. Conduct of a Human Resource Skills and Competency Assessment – This assessment was based on the Revised Strategic Plan and has clearly identified the gaps which exist, and a plan for closing the Gap has already been formulated for implementation
  5. Develop Business Continuity Plan – COVID-19 laid bare the inadequacies in our business continuity plan. We were able to correct the shortcomings quickly, but it also propelled us to take effective action to prepare a comprehensive Business Continuity Plan that covers a multiplicity of risks including cyber security, natural disasters, fire, flood, viruses & diseases, riots, black swan events.  We know that many companies were also found wanting in this critical area.
  6. Expand Technological Capacity – VF Inc, from inception allowed remote working, and this was an easy transition for us. We however, had to strengthen security to ensure confidentiality of our information, intellectual property and that of our clients.  We also expanded our e-platforms to be able to continue to serve our clients.
  7. Rethink Delivery of our services – We have revamped considerably the delivery mode of many of our programmes, including our training programmes, and human resource consultancy services, including the Job Evaluation and Grading Exercise.
  8. Remain Agile & Build Resilience – COVID-19 also highlighted the need to be proactive and to build resilience to ensure our sustainability.

Our actions appear consistent with the advice provided by the International Maritime Organisation for work Post COVID-19.  They include:

Rationalize– Identify key aspects and people required to ensure continued operations and normalized activities.

People– Understand the requirements of your people (including health, social and transport considerations) and how these can be incorporated into the new normal after COVID-19. Ensure that for key people back-up staff are available, ensure management is aware of key operational and safety procedures.

ProcessesEnsure your authentication and security processes, including cyber security, meet the requirements of your community, bearing in mind increased external accesses. It is also difficult to “instantly” digitalize a process during a crisis, so it is important to plan how to digitalize all the processes that are still paper-based.

Connectivity– Connect beyond your local area, to help create connected supply chains, to ensure that if similar situations occur, critical goods can be kept moving. Use a variety of online videoconferencing tools to support this and to overcome overload of particular solutions.

Test Regularly conduct exercises to test solutions which address possible problem scenarios. Such tests must be done under circumstances as realistic as possible.

Supportive Ensure you are able to provide the support your users and employees require to deal with a post-COVID-19 world. This may include training in online tools such as video conferencing and helpdesk operating software.

International standards– Use of international standards, particularly data reference models simplifies data exchange.

We look forward to hearing from you with comments on this article, suggestions for topics to be covered and sharing of your HR experience, especially during the COVID-19 era.  Please feel free to share this Newsletter with your contacts. We also welcome guest authors and look forward to receiving your articles for publication.  We will explore “Celebrating the Little Heroes of COVID-19: Our Children,” in Issue # 8.  Please share your stories of your little heroes with us by June 9, 2020.

We, at VF Inc, stand ready to serve and be of service to our clients and prospective clients, “with Integrity and Excellence,” in keeping with our Motto.

Until next week, May God continue to keep us in the Palm of His Hands.  Please send us your questions, comments and share your experience managing in the COVID-19- era at info@vfinc.org.  You may also reach us by telephone: 1 767 275 0566/617 0566.

Source: International Maritime Organisation 

“Be open to adjustments.  There’s nothing about this current moment in history that allows for stubbornness.”Author Unknown

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1 Comment

  1. Anthony P. Ismael
    June 9, 2020

    Yet another brilliant piece by Dr. Henry. However, as researchers learn more about Covid-19 there are some truths that are difficult to ignore. For example, those of us who work in large enclosed buildings with air condition and heating systems are sitting ducks, because the air circulation within these buildings is horrible. From an engineering standpoint, it is difficult to retrofit or change entire mechanical systems that were not designed for such a pandemic. It is tough to be an optimist in a city that saw more than 21,000 fatalities within a three-month span, but the business of life continues in earnest as we must return to some form of change and normalcy simultaneously. Such is the crux of dealing with a novel virus that epidemiologist have been unable to treat thus far. In hindsight, hope has and always will spring eternal.

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