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Five focus areas for business in 2021

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Five focus areas for business in 2021

Insights from Finsbury Glover Hering’s new Transformation & Change Practice

As the world recovers from the pandemic, what themes do businesses need to focus on to create a “new normal’ operating environment? If we had to sum it up: 2021 is the year to bring together the emotional and the rational to accelerate business recovery.

Transformation & Change icons-11.jpg Transformation If 2020 was a year of relative stasis, 2021 is going to kick off an era of transformation. From High Street brands disappearing, some to the digital world (and some forever), to organisations reinventing themselves, to new start-ups and those who are waking from enforced hibernation, no business will stand still.

What does transformation mean? Future proofing your business against unforeseen shocks? Reflecting on corporate structure and process and adopting the latest in digital solutions? Revamping your HR policies to help motivate and focus employees as they recover from the stresses of 2020 and come to terms of the “new ways of working?” Probably a combination of all three, and sometimes more, for most companies as they move to re-energise in 2021.

Each company is likely to have different priorities and a different focus.

"But when it comes to transformation, a launch is no good if it doesn’t create lasting adoption, and a tick in a project management schedule is not the same as a colleague being able to articulate their role in the change and then acting on that."

Businesses must focus on their story and their adoption and engagement plan to accelerate their strategy and see returns faster. There is simply nothing like a connected group of motivated people who all want the same thing, and that doesn’t happen by accident.

Transformation & Change icons-13.jpg The rise of employer brand Once the preserve of recruitment teams, employer brand is hitting the mainstream, thanks to the increasing recognition of Purpose and Culture as business levers.

These days, a CEO is just as likely to be asked by a journalist about their company’s employees as their investors; and groups that were firmly fixed on the company’s finances now take into account how companies treat their employees when making investment decisions.

Defining your employer brand and taking that story externally, with the help of colleagues, will be increasingly important. And this is not just about what management thinks employees want; it is crucial that policies reflect the real voices of employees.

Transformation & Change icons-14.jpg Cultural integration Reports point to more deal activity in 2021, including M&A. McKinsey’s 2019 research report ‘Value of the Deal’ pointed out that what most deal makers regretted, with the benefit of hindsight, was not spending enough time on cultural integration and people. Having everyone clear on direction, confident in their role and motivated to participate is a necessity.

Cross-border mergers, including growing interest from companies in Asia, which look to have weathered the pandemic better than many, will also test geographic cultural integration. The world may feel a great deal smaller, but working practices, behaviours and norms have never been more different – especially in a time of increased employee stress and insecurity. Integration leads should recognise the challenge and opportunity. Homogeneity and corporate monoculture are not options. Organisations need to find a shared core and a framework that encourages and celebrates difference.

Transformation & Change icons-18.jpg Hybrid working Globally, we have seen a seismic shift to working from home.

2021 will see the world opening up again and we’re starting to recognise that flexible working in 2020 was reactive. In 2021 it must become proactive, fast. Businesses must plan for hybrid working which is far more complex, with some people together in person and others remote. There are many advantages, including attracting talent from a far wider geographic area, saving on office costs. But it’s going to challenge us: learning from others, inclusion, culture-building.

Transformation & Change icons-10.jpg Communication Never has communication been more important. As we emerge from isolation and fully remote working, employees and employers are facing the uncertainty of a “new normal”. Many businesses have already outlined plans to reduce office space. But fewer have developed a robust strategic approach to hybrid working that ensures continued learning and creativity and that maintains a strong culture and fosters inclusion. This is a priority and businesses would do well to engage with others to share learnings fast: we’ll all rise if we see this as a global problem to solve together.

As employees return post-pandemic, it has never been more important to listen. How do companies ensure that employee voices are heard, and that strategic decisions are communicated quickly and clearly throughout the organisation? What are your colleagues telling you? Have global companies taken into account the cultural nuances across their many borders? One size does not fit all.

Leaders should be focused on these topics now in order to ensure a motivated workforce that contributes to greater success in the years ahead.

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By Louisa Moreton, Global lead for Finsbury Glover Hering’s Transformation and Change practice, and Deborah Hayden, head of the Practice for Asia. Finsbury Glover Hering’s Transformation and Change Practice has experts in US, UK, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Dubai, UAE, Japan, China, Hong Kong and through affiliate partnerships in Rest of Europe and South America.