Reinvention during and after COVID – Will company culture stand the test of time?

By 18th May 2021 No Comments

“Our greatest asset is our people.”  How often have we heard that corporate cliché?  As most of us know, the reality is different from the slogan.  There are great lessons regarding this slogan to be learned through this time of Covid and there is more that the employers and the employees will have to navigate to fully embrace this slogan.

We are still at a point where no one can clearly tell what is around the corner.  There have certainly been changes in policy and approach to try to effectively reinvent the wheel during Covid, and for many companies, thinking about life beyond Covid is very much their preoccupation.

Many businesses have been affected financially and many have had to make drastic changes—downsizing staff or closing completely.  The challenge moving forward will be reinventing and finding new ways to make the company tick.

Now, imagine working for a company where you don’t have to apply for holiday time or seek prior approval for expenses.  Imagine giving feedback to your boss—in public!  Imagine being trusted to make major decisions without clearance from line managers.  You wouldn’t be the only one if you think such moves are too bold to come out of a boardroom.  But freedom and what they call “talent density” (hiring only a small number of top-quality talent) are two key ingredients behind Netflix’s corporate culture, which have driven the company from a humble DVD rental service 20 years ago to one of the world’s most successful entertainment corporations. Maybe it’s time to follow their lead.

What will it take for companies to reinvent their businesses during and after Covid 19?

A quote from the book ‘No Rules Rules’ by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer:  Most companies are still following the paradigms of the industrial revolution…the biggest risk isn’t making a mistake or losing consistency, it is failing to attract top talent, to help them invent new products or to help them change direction quickly when the environment shifts”.  That has been the ‘catch 22’ for many organizations during this time of Covid 19—the financial need to downsize concurrently with the need to hire or maintain talent to help navigate the Covid world.

Remember when a business stalls and revenue growth drops significantly, a company has less than a 10% chance of ever fully recovering.  So time is of the essence in thoughtfully and creatively making “post-covid” reinvention strategies.

Concentrate on human capital during this reinvention process.

Firstly, companies will have to bring their employees along a shared journey to reinvent their organisation.  This will require providing flexibility to employees—in terms of work time and capital expenditures—to make this reinvention possible.  The process should be swiftly refined, well-oiled and agile. But remember—the key to driving this are the employees.

It should be noted that companies often lose focus when developing and retaining enough of what we call “serious talent”—people with both the capabilities and the readiness to take on the challenge of finding ways to drive new business growth. This is especially true when the business is successfully humming along during the rosy times.  The Covid pandemic has since tilted the scale with companies forced to reduce both head count and investments in talent.  This has had the perverse effect of driving away the very people they could have relied upon to help them make the necessary changes during these challenging times.

Reinvention will require re-tooling their employees to fit the company’s redefined business objectives and enabling them to acquire the skills and experience they will need to begin the company’s next journey.

The reinvention process is no easy fix.  According to data collected by Forbes—only 16% of business attempting to reinvent themselves are successful.  But they all share the same ingredient—people. 

To involve the employees in the journey to reinvent, companies should:

From the on-set, show the employees how the current setup is no longer working for the business, not once, but regularly throughout the transformation program and involve them in the long-term planning process.  This period requires openness and honesty—show them sales which may be on a downward trend, or direct competitors that are currently thriving in new markets/areas.

Define the exact targets the business is trying to reach.  Set realistic profit margins and realistic new product launch times.

Swiftly organise to avoid overload. Senior management will have to engage more in information sharing, consulting on important decisions and quickly and effectively act on those decisions to avoid any delays.

Ensure all employees remain engaged through every stage of the journey.  This could be through different strategies such as:  poll questions to capture feedback and offering opportunities for the workforce to get involved in various internal projects.

Employees need to be taken on their own transformation journey.  Sending them on a one-day course is not enough.  There is a need to have a structured medium-to-long-term training program which will provide employees with different approaches to suit their learning needs and provide them a chance to learn at their own pace.

Ensure the methodology enables employees to regularly see results and changes that will keep them motivated.  An agile, interactive approach reveals changes being delivered on a regular basis which helps to keep the employees interested.

Depending on the complexity of the transformation programmes, there may be a need to hire an outside expert in Change Management Consultancy.  Where necessary, bring on board an expert that has experience in tried-and-tested practices and tools to facilitate changes.

Final thought:

Businesses will have to have a competitive strategy and, from the look of things, this is something they will have to do time and time again.  It is likely that business will go through mini transformations concurrently, and the need to transform again may not be far away.  What is critical will be to master the art of bringing employees on a shared journey.  Investment in human resources is more than ever before, vital for business to reinvent themselves now and beyond Covid 19.  Bold decisions will have to be taken and, over time, many companies may have a changed identity and culture.

It is evident that Covid is very much still here.  Companies need to prepare well for the challenges ahead and ensure that all employees are fit to successfully navigate the long road ahead and not wilt when faced with unexpected or harsh terrain.  But it can be done!!