Tuesday, Aug 03

Post Pandemic: The Scramble For A Revolutionized Future Work Place

Picturing the future can be mixed feelings of hope, anxiety, despondency and optimism especially when your habitual way of doing things is rudely interrupted for good by an ominous ‘visitor’– COVID-19 pandemic, which hopes to extend its stay much longer. The light at the end of the labyrinthine tunnel is one of certainty as no pandemic, which has faithfully invaded the world with its presence on this earth, has had a definite and permanent place of abode.

Just like the others, the COVID-19 pandemic will be referred to as a past event which at a point in time caused global havoc and took centre stage in the affairs of men. Be that as it may, what it has indefinitely revealed to us is that the permanent part of the pandemic, things will never be the same again and it doesn’t just rest with human interaction. Organizations were starkly affected by the devastations caused by the virus and as a requisite measure, leaders and CEOs in firms had to quickly think on their feet and hasten their recovery tactics on what was left saving. Quickly, they had to reimagine new ways of interacting with their customers and client and by extension, the employees who deliver these products and services.
Proactively, when lockdown measures were instituted with movement practically halted, production and productivity simmered down and organizations had more to deal with than the health crisis ravaging economies. One significant decision leaders in organizations did was to implement a relatively non-traditional way of conducting work, particularly in Africa. The adoption of remote working globally became the game changer, albeit initially, there were some apprehensions over the effectiveness of staff who may not be effective due to the relaxed and often unsupervised deliverables from employees. However, time has proven this ‘leap of faith’ a commendable move by all standards.

Remotely ‘Gifted’ Employees

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The pandemic has certainly given employees the tensile strength to yet again prove their versatility when it comes to delivering under any circumstance with significant outcomes. According to reports from the Limeade Institute’s Employee Care Report, there is a permanent clarity on the effectiveness of work and that, remote work has left an impression. The report revealed that 100% of formerly onsite workers said they’re anxious about returning to the office, 71% said they were concerned about less flexibility and 77% said they’re worried about exposure to Covid-19. Similarly, FlexJobs, a job search site, conducted a survey on respondents who worked remotely during the pandemic from March 17, 2021 through April 5, 2021. Per its investigation, it found out that, not only do employees want remote work post-pandemic, 58% say they would certainly consider a different alternative to their current job if they weren’t permitted to continue working remotely in their current position. Additionally, some 65% also demand to work remotely full-time post-pandemic with another 33% of respondents preferring a hybrid work arrangement.
Among the prioritised concerns of ‘make a comeback’ to the physical office environment include Covid-19 exposure, less work flexibility and worse work-life balance. People’s preferences for remote work became even more telling when 55% of respondents witnessed an increase in productivity via remote working, although, some 33% insisted it didn’t cause so much a dent in their productivity rating. Also, about 30% reminisced that their ability to collaborate with others have significantly skyrocketed predominantly in a virtual environment when contrasted to a brick-and-mortar office.
While some got the kick out of working in more comfortable clothing with flexible work schedule, others also took the opportunity to engage in one professional development training during the pandemic. Having tasted such freedom in work and still attain productivity and successes in their designated positions, it will be difficult to have employees once again reset to a more confined and repetitive way of working, as some have an office space setup in their homes and made all the necessary ‘work life’ change to their home space.

Convergence Between The Old And New (Hybrid)

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Despite the notorious traction birth with ‘advent’ of remote working and its impact on both the employees and employers with undeniable proofs in the organization, there are some employers who still haven’t been completely weaned off having to see employees’ faces bright and early in cubicles. In navigating through the disruption brought on by the pandemic, management likewise has to bear the brunt captaining their companies through this interruption. Without a choice, it will be dependent on them to determine how and when to start the complex task of striking the right balance to ensure employees are not disadvantaged or unhappy by an unpopular decision they take. These leaders, with slow change system, prefer a hybrid of remote and conventional work from staff. For them, the mere fact that you see people on zoom does not mean you connect in any way with them. A hybrid may have to be the new status quo for global leaders because traditional work priorities have also been deeply challenged during the pandemic. Employees cite work-life balance as more important than securing a comfortable salary. They also noted that living consciously and healthily is as important as finding purpose in their jobs.

The Global Human Experience survey, conducted by JLL, of over 2,000 global office workers, found out that, the current crisis is compelling companies to decouple traditional work and work styles from the corporate office, and 66% of employees expect to work in a hybrid model post-pandemic.

Companies like PwC, Microsoft and IBM are hedging their bets on long-term hybrid work models to satisfy employee demands for flexibility. That being established it is also critical to note that ensuring the mental health and wellness is essential in pacifying new workforce priorities in the office of the future. Employees are eager to maintain the flexibility of widespread remote work established during the pandemic and are interested in working from home, an average of two days per week. This hybrid approach is the most sought after, with nearly three-quarters of employees wanting to have access to an office.

Furthermore, JLL’s earlier Human Performance report suggests that 80 percent of high performers have missed their office greatly during lockdown.

The Future Of Work

Truly, one major way we can predict the future of work is to understand people’s remote work experiences since the pandemic commenced. The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs 2020 report, as automation and the coronavirus redefine work suggests that, the world is facing a "double-disruption" scenario as employees are leaning more to a remote or ‘pseudo remote’ way of working in the form of a hybrid. Certainty is tossed out of any future equation when assessing and realizing some form of definiteness in global matters and the COVID-19 pandemic and others before will continually prove that.

The future of work is defined and its definition is hinged on dynamism in intents and organizational culture. Experts are of the opinion that, the future of work may look and sound different, with “offices redesigned as collaboration spaces and quieter, as employees split time between work and home. And, new technology will have some workers in roles they didn’t expect to fill”.

That notwithstanding, with more warmth and good-naturedness displayed by employers, they can transition their employees into a future of work that will support their physical, mental and financial wellbeing. Meanwhile, new technology that may arrive sooner than expected may prove to be a benefit to productivity and career development.

In the midst of all this, technology has subtly played a significant role in the interplay between employers and employees in realizing their projected goal. The outcome from the pandemic will not only rearranged work habits, contrarily, it is bound to spur the demand for technology that many employers didn’t expect they required for several years. The eruption of technological adoption has left some worried that machines could render obsolete those jobs traditionally performed by people, while others point out that digital revolution has brought with it new job opportunities and higher levels of productivity.
Navigating the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath will be one of the biggest business challenges of our time. Keeping operations going while lessening the risk to employees, have ensnared most companies to adopt and adapt to new ways of working. This move has led to most offices, factories and other facilities being practically uninhabited. Despite the obvious truths, the reality of work still ongoing, cannot be underestimated but appreciated, especially as the overlapping display of unity from various entities continuously prove the strength in numbers and unification of purpose.

Data Monetization: Providing Cutting-Edge Market For Business Leaders

Data Monetization: Providing Cutting-Edge Market For Business Leaders

Globalization has accelerated the growth and appeal of life. More than just providing convenience, comfort and limitless creativity through wireless connectivity, the daily churning of innovative ideas and products has appreciably compressed time. Invariably, time and speed has become the template for living in this current dispensation as we are confronted with novel saturation of products and services which are gradually tipping conventions and the culture of getting things done.

From what started out as the industrial age where we were confronted with brick-and-mortar factories and conglomerates idyllically dotting the great expanse of the earth, signalling transformation and growth, things have shaken up quite a bit.

The technological age we find ourselves in has found a new earth and happy place in data and the internet of things. Clearly, with the help of the current pandemic, which has given credence to our need to technologically evolve and transform, data has become the currency of success for all and sundry across every discipline.

The impartiality of technology, in requiring no ‘formal’ education to benefit from it through sale of products and services, has opened a new door of wealth creation for interested parties.
Data monetization has become the latest buzzword in most conversation and meetings. Companies and businesses are the biggest participants when it comes to using data and analytics to generate growth for its organization. Although many companies are launching into data focused businesses, barely few have managed to achieve significant financial impact. To attain such confounding success, business leaders ought to incorporate the right strategy and culture in the organization. Data monetization, as a means of such growth, is still in its early days—though results suggest that the fastest-growing companies are already ahead of their competitors.

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UNDERSTANDING THE CONCEPT OF DATA MONETIZATION

The successful framework and foundational context of any organization or company is dependent on their understanding of what they are launching into. With data monetization being fairly a novel concept particularly in Africa, it remains a largely huge market. As such, for these businesses to rake in revenue, they must first set up the fundamental building blocks of a successful data-and-analytics program.

An increasing share of companies, according to McKinsey are using data and analytics to generate growth. Based on a survey, they realized that respondents at these companies are “thinking more critically than others about monetizing their data, as well as using data in a greater number of ways to create value for customers and the business”. Also, they are adding new services to existing offerings, developing new business models, and even directly selling data-based products or utilities.

“Moreover, responses from the organizations that are seeing the most impact from their data-and-analytics programs offer lessons to others striving to make the most of their data. Those companies have, according to respondents, established a strong foundation for analytics in a few ways: clear data-and-analytics strategies, better organizational design and talent-management practices, and a greater emphasis on turning new data-related insights into action”.

Interestingly, data monetization is changing the way business is done and has significantly changed business practices in sales and marketing functions. Across industries, especially in high tech and in basic materials and energy report the greatest number of their functions are being transformed by analytics.

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DATA MONETIZATION IN AFRICA

Undoubtedly, the African continent has many possibilities and potentials strapped to its feet for take-off. The continent hasn’t been left behind in the data craze as the amount of data collected by businesses across Africa continues to grow. Now more than ever, tools that can process this valuable asset and turn it into actionable information are becoming increasingly important for companies. Though budding, monetization is already more prevalent in certain industries. It has significantly created opportunities for companies and big data solutions, including artificial intelligence, predictive analytics and machine learning, are able to sort through huge data sets and return commercially useful insights, which conventional technologies are unable to perform.

Report from Frost & Sullivan, a consulting firm, revealed that the Middle East and Africa’s big data analytics market is forecast to grow by 28% every year until 2025, further reaching a revenue of $68bn. For all intents and purposes, the technological growth globally has opened a ‘can of worms’ whereby businesses and companies generate innumerable bytes of data. These data are generated by people every day via a whole lot from online shopping to phone apps, watching on-demand TV right down to buying insurance. Despite the fact that much of this data is largely left unstructured or unanalysed, harvesting just a small section of relevant data can prove extremely valuable.
The Chief Executive Officer of African data science competition platform Zindi, Celina Lee, reckons that African businesses want to operate more efficiently, extend their reach into different markets or scale their businesses, as such, introducing big data solutions is critical. “With the digitisation of everything from financial services to logistics to even the provision of public services, Africa is becoming more data-rich than ever, and it is up to the organisations to harness the value of this asset”.

In spite of the commendable interest being displayed by the African market, certain challenges threaten to put a spoke in its wheel of progress. Essentially, the promise inherent in big data programmes is intended to improve both the public and private sector. However, their true impact is limited by complex problems. One of the most severe issues is a lack of home-grown data science talent across the continent. Young Africans who desire a career path in data reckon the process cumbersome and a struggle to access high-quality education and hands-on training. With this, CEO at Consultancy Frost & Sullivan Africa, Hendrik Malan, intimated that, “Many of the global companies in the digital sector have poured billions of dollars into research and development. If the partnerships are structured responsibly, protecting our data effectively, Africa can take advantage of the innovation and focus on tailored execution in the region”.

CASHING IN ON TREASURED ‘DATA RUSH’

Without mincing words, data monetization has some great benefits for businesses and corporate organization. It isn’t just key international corporations which stand to benefit from big data initiatives. Smaller enterprises, local governments and non-profit organisations are all harnessing the power of data to transform how they operate. The benefits range from “improving the accuracy of flood predictions in Malawi to helping the South African government better map the locations of informal settlements and allowing insurance firms to offer tailored services by anticipating the churn rate of customers; big data can change how people live and work”.

In a much similar light, gathering and analysing big data can have wide commercial application. In-depth personalisation and accurate customer segmentation can be achieved by analysing troves of customer data. In countries where informal traders dominate the retail market, the gathering and analysing of mobile data can help to create a comprehensive picture of the preferences, perceptions and needs of consumers.

“With mobile penetration on the rise, it could provide insights to tailor offerings to the local market and fuel a stronger retail sector. If Africa is going to take advantage of intra-regional trade, we need a better understanding of the region’s requirements,” explains Malan.

While examples of projects already utilising big data are found across Africa, a tipping point is yet to be reached where these tools are commonplace. Even with the challenges facing big data, virtually every business can find a way to benefit from the insights gained by analysing data as the amount created by individuals continues to grow, say experts.

“We’ve made many mistakes exporting raw materials and then importing final products back into the region. We should not repeat the sins of the past and ship our data off to be beneficiated elsewhere. Data is the diamond rush of the decade – we should treat it as such.”

concludes Malan.

Data monetization will indeed, in the near, be a sought-after commodity. In light of this, Africa has been tipped to gain tremendously from its application as technology gradually takes over every sphere of influence.

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Trial by Fire: CEOs navigating the path of terminating employee ‘permanent’ appointment

Trial by Fire: CEOs navigating the path of terminating employee ‘permanent’ appointment

Creased brows, hollow eyes, heavy sighs of near despondency, anxious sniggers of hope, recouped struts of near confidence, dented whimpers from parched throat and layered folds on the foreheads, maps out not just exhaustion from overworking at the office or sleepless nights spent in meeting deadline of a contracts. Beyond that, there is a seething smoke from a blazingly ill-omened phenomenon asphyxiating and clogging the life expectancy of a worker in an organization.

You’re fired! The most dreaded words in any career discourse depending on the perspective of deliberation can alter the trajectory of one’s life. For the gutsy and defiant; it’s just another bump in the road of success, but for the delicate ‘china tea cup’, a chip can as well mean damnation.  The term may sound like the catchphrase from the Apprentice show, where Donald Trump will authoritatively belt the phrase out to panicky ‘employees’ from his swivel seat, but the year 2020 paints a more realistic picture of the dismissal of staff by employers.

Through no fault of theirs, employers have had to painfully sift through loyal and hardworking employees to retain those the company deem indispensable. The issue of who bells the cat in breaking such news to already broken employees who are bereft of any hope as the virus malignantly chips away their desires and aspirations, is at best doleful.

Caught between a rock and a hard place? CEOs are definitely not in for a swell time having to lead employees to the sack ‘guillotine’ as if the impact of the pandemic isn’t deathly enough to strike a jugular punch. The proportion of domestic workers who were significantly impacted varied across regions and time, depending on the timing and extent of lockdown measures.

Thus, in Africa, only 34.6 per cent of domestic workers were significantly impacted on 15th March, but this number rose to 78.7 per cent by 15th April. In the Americas, where the number of new cases per day remains high, around 74 per cent of domestic workers were still significantly impacted by 4th June. In Asia and the Pacific, 79.4 per cent of domestic workers were significantly impacted by 15th May, but a much higher proportion (87.5 per cent) were impacted in the South Asia sub region.

Finally, in Northern, Southern and Western Europe, the impact fluctuated from 36.6 per cent on 15th March, before peaking at 50.1 per cent on 15th April. These numbers are significantly lower than in other regions, in part because more domestic workers are in formal employment as measured by registration to social security. While registration to social security helps reduce the impact on domestic workers, as we will see, formal employment alone has not fully protected domestic workers from the impacts of lockdown measures (ILO June 2020).

Psychology of job loss

Regardless of how philosophical one may tread on the lines of the unpredictability of life, there are certain parts of our life and wellbeing we instinctively and consciously decide to sweep under the carpet of rejection and the destructing impact of losing a job and stable source of income, is definitely one. Paradoxical is the defining position of an employee, as the veil of job security within a ‘permanent’ role which he/she may have applied for, is starkly becoming increasingly momentary.  What is dissolving the permanence of job retention till the grey years of retirement for most is likely to gradually disappear from job advertisements and mechanical planning strategies. In a world gravitating rather rapidly towards the virtual world and a subsequent submerging of real life experiences in real time trapped  within the ‘submarine’ of the pandemic, it is difficult to justify hiring permanent staff when you can outsource and contract for specific roles with a simple Google search.

This shift is likely to push employment into a more slight state of existence; “employees” becoming their own bosses and undertaking multiple contracts for different organizations at any given time will be the norm (McKinsey Global Institute, 2016). Ultimately, employment will be about outputs, and not inputs.

As the virus continues to devastate lives and businesses, many leadership teams have been forced to make the difficult decision to lay-off and furlough their teams. Regrettably for humans, the loss of a job has long-lasting effects. The psychology of job loss is consistent with what we see in most situations which concern loss and grief.  

Research by George Bonanno (2010) from Columbia University highlights that “people are more stressed out when they fear losing their jobs, than they are when they actually get laid off.  When massive job layoffs come closer to home and are observed in their communities, people are more likely to feel they are next, and their well-being drops significantly as a result.”

Also, recent statistics, according to The Entrepreneur, from governments around the world highlight that many employers will be separating from their employees in the coming months. In April, Australia’s Department of Treasury indicated that its unemployment rate would double from 5.1% to 10%. According to Larry Elliott, a journalist for The Guardian: “It matters a lot that the official US unemployment rate rose by more than 10 percentage points to 14.7% in a single month, that the real level of joblessness is actually around 25%, and is likely to reach 30% before it peaks.”

Bearer of Bad News

Leaders in various organizational position have had a tough call to make and it will not get any easier, as the surge in COVID cases increases, largely affecting economies, trickling down to protracted profit margins and the often avoided conversation of layoff. Conversely, if by dint of good luck a company happens to experience more sunny days than stormy nights, then a salary cut or furlough will suffice in the stead of getting chucked out. A case in point is a message from Co-Founder and CEO Brian Chesky of Airbnb, dated May 5, 2020, expounded on their lack of choice in having to lay most of the workers due to a plunge in demand.

Out of our 7,500 Airbnb employees, nearly 1,900 teammates, according to Mr. Chesky will have to leave Airbnb, comprising around 25% of our company. Since we cannot afford to do everything that we used to, these cuts had to be mapped to a more focused business.

“When you’ve asked me about layoffs, I’ve said that nothing is off the table. Today, I must confirm that we are reducing the size of the Airbnb workforce. For a company like us whose mission is centered on belonging, this is incredibly difficult to confront, and it will be even harder for those who have to leave Airbnb. I am going to share as many details as I can on how I arrived at this decision, what we are doing for those leaving, and what will happen next.  Let me start with how we arrived at this decision. We are collectively living through the most harrowing crisis of our lifetime, and as it began to unfold, global travel came to a standstill. Airbnb’s business has been hit hard, with revenue this year forecasted to be less than half of what we earned in 2019. In response, we raised $2 billion in capital and dramatically cut costs that touched nearly every corner of Airbnb.

Although the Airbnb CEO expressed some optimism over the company’s recovery, he maintained that the changes it will undergo are not temporary or short-lived. “Because of this, we need to make more fundamental changes to Airbnb by reducing the size of our workforce around a more focused business strategy”.

Expatiating the need for a more focused business, Brian reechoed sentiments reverberating along every scene in most organizations morphing to accommodate the ensuing changes brought on by the pandemic and as travel in this new world will look different,  he reckons the company needs to “evolve Airbnb accordingly”. “People will want options that are closer to home, safer, and more affordable. But people will also yearn for something that feels like it’s been taken away from them — human connection. This crisis has sharpened our focus to get back to our roots, back to the basics, back to what is truly special about Airbnb — everyday people who host their homes and offer experiences”.

Airbnb’s approach to employee reduction had a clear set of principles, guided by their core values, for how they would approach reductions in their workforce. These principles include;  Mapping all reductions to our future business strategy and the capabilities we will need, doing as much as they can for those who are impacted, unwavering in commitment to diversity and optimize for 1:1 communication for those impacted.

Issues of severance, healthcare, equity and job support were adequately tackled by Airbnb, however, not many employees were privy and privileged to receive such transparency and support during ‘their last moments. “Employees in the US will receive 14 weeks of base pay, plus one additional week for every year at Airbnb. Tenure will be rounded to the nearest year. For example, if someone has been at Airbnb for 3 years and 7 months, they will get an additional 4 weeks of salary, or 18 weeks of total pay”.

Brian asserted that, a crisis brings you clarity about what is truly important. Though we have been through a whirlwind, some things are clearer to me than ever before.

A recent poll of 114 human resources and business professionals conducted by the Guelph Chamber of Commerce, in collaboration with the Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics at the University of Guelph, reveals that temporary layoffs were the leading worker reduction strategy used by businesses to respond to COVID-19. This aligns with research indicating that layoffs have become the most popular management tool to cut costs and restructure an organization. Arguably, grits of humans can be well likened to the formation of diamonds. Life’s sudden upheavals bring our true worth, value, and strength to the surface. The incredible pressure we face during hardships and fiery trials cause the hidden treasure within us to emerge; as this pandemic has unraveled globally. However, a diamond’s resilient nature makes it stable, pure, and strong, but it doesn’t happen overnight. In light of this, the ‘friction’ between CEOs, COVID-19 and staff layoffs are just right recipe for initiating a better trajectory in organizational success.

CEOs ‘Jockeying for Positions’ in a Post-COVID era

Times and seasons all too well depict the capriciousness of life. Sunny days pave ways for stormy nights, calm and diamond sparkly sea goes menacing with choppy expressions of death even to the best of sailors. The footfalls of the supremely audacious figure whose very presence dominates corporate air into submission have been reined in by pensive glares and creased brows. Much more than punctured ego over their now slippery grip on organizational matters, the big shots within the business enclave still have their firm grip on one thing which is surviving the blazing pandemic; Leadership, albeit sparingly.

A virus-free existence is a cul-de-sac so deeply entrenched and unachievable that its allure is defeated. Evolution plays a nice feature in the three-part play of “Pandemic, Organizations and Leadership” where captains must curtsy to innovations, and reformed ways of doing things, an accepted status quo. In any case, the marvelous diversity of life rests on viruses which, as much as they are a source of death, are also a source of richness and of change. The trajectory for most companies in the pandemic has been a repetition of hopeful lamentations of surviving in the pandemic.  What we learned from these leaders was regardless of culture, industry, or position, traits of innovation, elasticity and grits are what we cling to in times of need.

Businesses have fallen prey to the predatory inclinations of the pandemic and has forced CEOs from the top of the food chain to grapple with the barest minimum in anticipation and optimism for a better post-COVID recovery. Right in the thick of surviving, CEOs have felt the need to adopt a brand new perspective to maintain sanity in their organizations, reroute structures, plans and project in resonance with the changing times. Demands, supplies, necessities and operations in businesses have gone full circle and evolved to provide bespoke services to people who hitherto were not part of their niche market. Boardrooms have lost the timbre of breakfast meetings by transitioning into “hard talks”, brainstorming session, cerebral decision process which elicits cathartic relief for a seamless operation.

McKinsey posits that, now more than ever before with the current pandemic, “CEOs are recognizing that the barriers to boldness and speed are less about technical limits and more about such things as mindsets toward what is possible, what people are willing to do, the degree to which implicit or explicit polices that slow things down can be challenged, and bureaucratic chains of command”.

Garment of Humanity

In a moment of crisis, everyone looks to their leader and this has become more glaring to CEOs in this pandemic moment. Expectations, hope and cluster of questions are usually directed to these leaders who by default are expected to be the “Houdini” of the moment and conjure some swift solutions to make all the problems disappear. One striking yet sterling phenomenon the pandemic has unearthed irrespective of the decimation of lives and livelihood is the communal spirit of solution-finding expedition by all and sundry in all disciplines. “Perhaps the most notable feature of how CEOs are showing up differently is that they are showing more of their humanity”. As such, there has been a tear down of bureaucratic trappings and an adoption of an all-inclusive portfolio of decision makers to yank organizations out of the quagmire of depletion.

CEO of AmeriHealth Caritas, Paul Tufano, explains, “This has been a sustained period of uncertainty and fear, but also a great opportunity to forge a stronger, more cohesive and motivated workforce. If CEOs can step into a ministerial role, extending hands virtually, truly listening, relating to and connecting with people where they are; there is enormous potential to inspire people and strengthen bonds and loyalties within the company”. Corroborating his assertion, Alain Bejjani, CEO of MAF, “The people you are leading have big expectations of you. They want you to be perfect and often forget that you are human. But the more human you are with them, the more trust and empathy they lend to you. They understand you better. That gives you the ability to do so much more, as people give you the benefit of the doubt.”

 

Revamping of Leadership

Global disruption of activities has trickled down subliminally to a shakeup and a reflection of the title of leadership and their true place in organizations, especially in this pandemic altercation. Leaders have been subjected to a rude awakening of their somewhat shifting positions into a more coordinated regimen.

David Schwimmer, CEO of London Stock Exchange Group, says, “People are looking to me for a different kind of leadership. In a normal environment, it’s about business leadership and setting up strategy, as well as culture and people decisions. In this environment, it’s about helping people maintain morale. It’s about people being prepared for whatever may come in the face of uncertainty.”

CEO of Guardian, indicates that “Like many New York financial-services firms, our culture and corporate communications tend to be a bit more formal. Pre-COVID-19, when I was preparing for a company-wide video or speech, that formality, in the form of rehearsals and professional staging, was standard practice. That culture had to change overnight because everyone’s at home. Now, I’m more casually dressed, and it’s more intimate and personal. I’ve made some of my videos outside with the dog, something that we’d never have thought to do before. The feedback has been terrific. Our employee engagement scores, confirmed by regular pulse surveys, have been consistently on the rise since going remote.”

 

Technology and Time redefining schedule and productivity

The COVID-19 experience has made it clearer than ever before that CEOs must be extremely intentional about how they use their time. McKinsey views it as, “many have adapted by booking ‘flight time’ into their schedule so as to avoid spending all day, every day, on videoconference meetings”.

Outside personal time and energy management, managerial adjustments that CEOs have made to decision making and execution hold great promise for the future. Arvind Krishna, the new CEO of IBM, expounds on his company’s two-speed model of decision making. “Your CMT [crisis-management team] will handle all of the stuff around health, safety, employee confidence, and client confidence. That lets the others focus on running the business. I think it’s a reasonable model for three to nine months. The bigger question is, ‘How do we learn from this and evolve better for the future? What structural changes do we make?”

One significant aspect of structural change that most CEOs are grappling with is how much of a physical footprint their companies need, now that the ability to work virtually and productively has, by and large, been proved. If companies do move to a more virtual model (50 percent or more virtual, up from 20 percent, for example), what does that mean for team building, compliance, distribution channels, and so on?

 

Recalibration of futuristic endeavors

Like an unforgettable rhyme, with all its horror, COVID-19 has left CEOs and staff now looking inward and capitalizing on their innate and somewhat latent potential to erupt ingenuities and initiate organizational strategies. Michael Fisher, CEO, Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center Hospital, puts it better by saying, “I keep pushing myself and our team to think about how we use this inflection point to reimagine our potential together, as opposed to allowing our organization to just go back to the comfort of ‘Let’s do what we’re doing.”

Quintessentially, most CEOs have found rare opportunity in the not so normal occurrence by immersing themselves via connection and also motivation within the company.  The “Berlin wall” of invincibility surrounding the desk of CEOs have been torn down to let in some sunshine of warmth, human-feeling and sensibilities to the staff. Steve Collis, CEO of AmerisourceBergen, says, “one of the smartest things that we did the very first week was to set up a daily executive-management meeting at 5:00 p.m. That’s important from a decision-making point of view, but it’s even more important for touching base and showing empathy. We’re now in each other’s homes—you’re seeing my study, and we’ve met each other’s families… I asked all my direct reports, ‘Is there someone who wants me to reach out to someone who’s doing a great job or someone who’s struggling? It’s been a great gift to be able to do that for the people in AmerisourceBergen.”

At his recent top-300 executive meeting, Verizon Communications CEO Hans Vestberg shared a visual showing how he’s spent his time over the past three months during the crisis and how his energy has changed: “Ultimately, my job is to give energy, empowerment, and vision to the organization. If I’m down, I’m not really using the only asset I have as a leader. And I have bad days like anybody else. I tell my leaders, ‘You need to self-assess so you know what you’re good at, and double down on that in your own leadership.”

According to Mckinsey, Michael Fisher of CCMHC has begun to operationalize these insights by being explicit about what is on his “to do” and “to be” lists. As Fisher explains: “I never purposefully gave thought to whether there’s a way to be really intentional about how I want to show up every day. So, I’ve added a ‘to be’ list to my repertoire. Today, for example, I want to be generous and genuine. I hope I’m that way every day. But today, I want to make sure it stays top of mind.”

CEOs are gradually moving from the perceived condescending, dictatorial, petty and cold wall to one of fellow feeling, responsive to crisis situation, communicating more and expanding their networks. In part because only another CEO confronting the pandemic can fully identify with today’s leadership challenges. Similarly, these leaders are also benefiting from each other in this hard times and AmerisourceBergen CEO Steve Collis says, “from an external perspective, I’ve been a beneficiary of amazing calls with other CEOs who have been willing to share their knowledge. This has been such a growing experience”.

Really, it’s no surprise that CEOs are seeing the benefits of connecting in new ways during this crisis. The urgency of the moment has given emphasis and firmness to the nature of the discourse.

Re-engineering the wheel of businesses beyond the COVID-19 pandemic

Re-engineering the wheel of businesses beyond the COVID-19 pandemic

Companies and large organizations are still grappling and trying to come to terms with the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses. They are dusting off old books and implementing every trick their exhausted minds and strained sight can conceive despite the odds. The economic waters are still choppy and most companies have been sucked into the whirlwind of closure, but there’s still some fighting chance for others as they are steering the ship of innovation on relatively ‘old’ phenomenon which have enough bearing on their survival and dictates their mission to the North Star of dominance once the wind of the pandemic blows over.

One fascinating implication of the pandemic on businesses is that, there has been a shakeup in the organizational structure of most companies as they have had to adopt online strategy in remaining a top priority amongst their client who have the windows of the internet to move, view and make transactions. Technology, which seemed but a luxury and a convenient accessory you brace on the sophistication runway has become a handy tool in chipping off redundant policies, strategies and bureaucracies within the corporate landscape which isn’t needed in the current dispensation.

Interestingly, organizations who were previously semi-inclined to online machinations are now ‘tinkering’ their businesses with digital transformation and are adapting quite well in the crisis than their peers who are averse. For these companies, their business models and working processes mean that they are able to pivot more rapidly or accelerate changes already in motion. Conversely, businesses which are digitally weak or averse find themselves in a dilemma as they are caught between evolving by making drastic changes to entrenched business ideals or become fossils which are only referenced as failed enterprises. Albeit the former seem a much better prospect, their resistance is shrouded in conventions of hierarchy which calcifies any change and stumps any engineered business continuity plans. Software companies who are providing collaboration tools are rather expectantly experiencing high level of demands to meet the evolving behavioral patterns of customers. Technology however, isn’t the only determining factor altering the face of businesses.

 As COVID-19 smokes out innovations from the burrows of organizations, there’s an astounding exposure of the deep seated and often latent power in a swivel chair waiting for an economic shock to be nudged into action. A survey conducted by McKinsey and Company found that companies globally are finding ways to serve their communities and customers. It said, “Many are rising to the occasion. Almost every leader we speak with has an inspiring story of radical, positive change in how work gets done and what it can accomplish”. It chronicled the journey of some businesses who wanted to have their cake and eat. For instance, “a fast-food chain that had to shutter its operations avoided layoffs by partnering with a health and wellness retailer, thus helping the retailer meet spiking demand in a newly designated “essential business.”Also, One large retailer dusted off a pre-pandemic initiative to launch a curbside-delivery business. The work plan said 18 months. When the lockdowns hit, it went operational in two days. Another financial-services company transitioned more than 1,000 of its global operations staff to work-from-home arrangements, equipping them with new technology within 72 hours to ensure business continuity and finally, retail conglomerate in the Middle East retrained 1,000 people in two days, redeploying them from a suddenly stagnant business (movie theaters) to a booming, critical one (grocery retailing)”.

 The assertion from the survey conducted was that, organizations which are on a treadmill of staying in business and on demand may very well be hunkered down by exhaustion as their venture may be largely unsustainable. Amid the fear and uncertainty, people are still energized as “companies make good on purpose statements, eliminate bureaucracy, empower previously untested leaders with big responsibilities and turbocharge decision making. One executive McKinsey interacted with said,

“our senior team meets every morning for 30 minutes. It’s incredibly productive. We make decisions and go. We don’t have full information, but that’s OK—we can’t afford not to move.”

It observed that the pandemic is revealing certain dissatisfaction in the organizational workspace which is being reformed as the ‘sovereignty’ and ‘invincible’ tags associated with bureaucratic organizations, are gradually shedding of. In lieu of this, the mere fact of their persistence in denting and flattening the curveball is commendable.

The three tenets which McKinsey and Company proposes to alter the face of the ‘new’ organization when the phase of the pandemic remains a nightmarish memory are premised on: who we are, how do we operate and how do we grow? For any organizational structure, the purpose, value and decisions become the fulcrum which gravitates it to the victory lap.

WHO WE ARE (Corporate Identity)

Identity has always been the currency for transacting business within the bank of humanity and business sector. We make deposits of ideas by investing in brands, garnering a formidable team who understand the innate corporate spirit and value and also make withdrawal on profits and competitive upper hand across board.  Under the current circumstance, many companies ironically stand the risk of being complacent because in as much as they want their businesses to outlive them, stay relevant and solvent, their corporate purpose cries wolf of betrayal as most plans and projections are definitively in the now. In other words, purpose means profits regardless of how unsustainable they are. Undoubtedly the crux of any human venture is trapped within the vault of profit, but corporate purpose acts as the surveillance system which ensure optimum security on its protection. McKinsey identified that,

“What makes purpose real is following through on its implications and letting it guide the choices you make”. Organizations need to be intentional with their culture as “successful, high-performing culture has its own unique behavioral recipe for how it runs the place”.

It indicated that, Rodney O. Martin Jr., chairman and CEO of Voya Financial, describes seeing the benefits of a performance culture firsthand during the earliest, most bewildering days of the current crisis. He recounts how middle managers at the company announced its new work-from-home guidelines and encouraged their teams to feel comfortable making the shift—right away, if they chose. The decision came from people who would normally never make it, and it arrived without hand-wringing. But it wasn’t a surprise to Martin. It was in keeping with a cultural value the company had intentionally prioritized: caring for one another. “People here do the right thing,” Martin says. “The message has very much been ‘we care about you”.

OPERATIONAL APPROACHES

Evolution and innovation are the vanguard of the operational element and success of organizations. Ordinarily, companies which would have smirked at the thought of having to overhaul operations within their environment have presently taken keen measures to safeguard employees and ease financial and operational coverage. Most reputable organizations have had to reduce output and suspend operations in affected regions to cut back losses. Companies are inducing the free flow of their creative juices to refresh the norm of transacting business. McKinsey highlights this by saying, “As companies adopt new ways of working at speed and at scale, three lessons are emerging: a vindication for flatter, faster, nonhierarchical structures and approaches; the need to turbocharge decision making; and a reminder of the role of talent in making everything go. By focusing on three thematic areas such as “a vindication for flatter, faster, nonhierarchical structures and approaches; the need to turbocharge decision making; and a reminder of the role of talent in making everything go”, organizations are likely to remain robust and forge a more dominant face in the corporate environment.

“Talent should underpin every strategic choice and other business decision you’re making right now. Companies that overlook the importance of their people will always miss the upside potential of what their colleagues might have been capable of. They will fail to capitalize on the opportunities that inevitably arise from this or any other economic shock”.

HOW WILL WE GROW?

Assuredly, the phase of the transient crisis will regress and things will once again ‘normalize. Things which normally would have happened in businesses will be considered anachronistic as ideas and models being implemented currently will hopefully become the norm. Recovery may move painstakingly slow but the impression on organizational structure will become indelible. Most organization will likely retain ideas which are currently being implemented. In order to fully mature in operations and profits, McKinsey advised “three organizational characteristics which are proven sources of resilience and are worth noting”.

It highlighted companies should adopt an ecosystem mindset where all companies rely on the support of an extensive network of external people, vendors and partners. Secondly, they should embrace data-rich technology platforms where the ability to gather, organize, interpret and act on data and analytics as this will be the defining competitive differentiator of our lifetime and finally, companies should learn how to learn. By this, organizations that equips their employees with the ‘metaskill’ of learning how to learn, adapt, and change quickly will be better able to thrive and succeed.

The bane of every organization is reliving the trivialities of the same culture despite going through a life-altering occurrence as this pandemic. Hopefully as this pandemic runs its full course, the positive impact will be the running order for most companies.

DEVELOPING THE BUSINESS MINDSET & PRACTICES OF OUTSTANDING CEOs

DEVELOPING THE BUSINESS MINDSET & PRACTICES OF OUTSTANDING CEOs

“In business, what’s dangerous is not to evolve.”Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon

The Chief Executive Officer’s (CEO) job is as difficult as it is important. The CEO is responsible for the overall success of a business entity and for making top-level managerial decisions. Although they may ask for input on major decisions, the ultimate and final decisions lie on their authority. Name the top CEOs in the world and one will find a few things they have in common that distinguish them from the rest; It starts with their mind-set and what they do differently that set them apart. 

Understanding the Peerless Role of a CEO

Little is solidly understood about what CEOs really do to excel. For all the scrutiny of the CEO’s role, McKinsey’s long-time leader, Marvin Bower, considers the CEO’s job so specialized that he felt executives could prepare for the post only by holding it. Many CEOs today express similar views in their experience, even asking other CEOs how to approach the job doesn’t help, because suggestions vary greatly once they go beyond high-level advice such as “set the strategy,” “shape the culture,” and “get the right team.” 

The incomparable role of a CEO is the most powerful and sought-after title in business, more exciting, rewarding, and influential than any other.  Talk of the biggest moves of a company and that is what the CEO controls, accounting for 45 percent of an organisation’s performance. Despite the dazzle of the role, serving as a CEO can be all-consuming, lonely, and stressful. Just three in five newly appointed CEOs live up to performance expectations in their first 18 months on the job. The high standards and broad expectations of directors, shareholders, customers, and employees create an environment of relentless scrutiny in which one move can dramatically make or derail an accomplished career.

A Paradigm for CEO Excellence 

A leader is bound to set the direction for the company and have a plan in the face of uncertainty. One way that CEOs try to reduce strategic uncertainty is to focus on options with the firmest business cases. Research shows, however, that this approach delivers another sort of outcome: the dreaded “hockey stick” effect, consisting of a projected dip in next year’s budget, followed by a promise of success, which never occurs. The CEO decides ultimately (where do we want to be in five, ten, or 15 years?). Good CEOs do this by considering their mandate and expectations (from the board, investors, employees, and other stakeholders), the relative strengths and purpose of their company, a clear understanding of what enables the business to generate value, opportunities and trends in the marketplace, and their personal aspirations and values.

Strategy: Make bold moves early. 

To move “boldly” is to shift at least 30 percent more than the industry median. Making one or two bold moves more than doubles the likelihood of rising from the middle quintiles of economic profit to the top quintile, and making three or more bold moves makes such a rise six times more likely. CEOs who make these moves earlier in their tenure outperform those who move later and those who do so multiple times in their tenure avoid an otherwise common decline in performance. A good move is matching talent with value. The best CEOs take a methodical approach to matching talent with roles that create the most value. 

Learn the art of effective resource reallocation

Resource reallocation isn’t just a bold strategic move on its own; it’s also an essential enabler of the other strategic moves. Companies that re-allocate more than 50 percent of their capital expenditures among business units over ten years create 50 percent more value than companies that re-allocate more slowly. To ensure that resources are swiftly reallocated to where they will deliver the most value rather than spread thinly across businesses and operations, excellent CEOs institute an ongoing (not annual) stage-gate process. Such a process takes a granular view, makes comparisons using quantitative metrics, prompts when to stop funding and when to continue it, and is backed by the CEO’s personal resolve to continually optimize the company’s allocation of resources.

Give Equal Attention to Performance and Health

Ask successful investors what they look for in portfolio companies and many will tell you they’d rather put money on an average strategy in the hands of great talent than on a great strategy in the hands of average talent. The best CEOs put equal rigor and discipline into achieving greatness on both strategy and talent. When it comes to putting great talent in place, almost half of senior leaders say that their biggest regret is taking too long to move lesser performers out of important roles, or out of the organization altogether. Many CEOs also say they regret leaving adequate performers in key positions and failing to realize the full potential of their roles. The best CEOs think systematically about their people: which roles they play, what they can achieve, and how the company should operate to increase people’s impact.

Combine speed with stability

“Agility” is one of the most widely used and misunderstood management buzzwords of the past decade. For many leaders, agility evokes speed in decision making and execution, as opposed to the deliberate pace dictated by the stable, standardized routines of large organizations. The facts show that agility requires no such trade-off. On the contrary, companies that are both fast and stable are nearly three times more likely to rank in the top quartile of organizational health than companies that are fast but lack stable operating disciplines. Excellent CEOs increase their companies’ agility by determining which features of their organizational design will be stable and unchanging (such features might include a primary axis of organization, a few signature processes, and shared values) and by creating dynamic elements that adapt quickly to new challenges and opportunities (such elements might include temporary performance cells, flow-to-work staffing models, and minimum-viable-product iterations).

Pursue Teamwork: Put dynamics ahead of mechanics

The dynamics of a top team can strongly influence a company’s success. The best CEOs take special care to ensure their management team performs strongly as a unit. The reward for doing so is real; top teams that work together toward a common vision are 1.9 times more likely to deliver above-median financial performance. In practice, CEOs swiftly adjust the team’s composition (size, diversity, and capability), which can involve hard calls on removing likable low performers and disagreeable high performers and on elevating people with high potential. CEOs should also calibrate individual relationships, maintaining distance to be objective but enough closeness to gain trust and loyalty.

Decision making: Defence against biases.

Cognitive and organizational biases worsen everyone’s judgment. Such biases contribute to many common performance shortfalls, such as the significant cost overruns that affect 90 percent of capital projects. Behavioural economist Dan Ariely, one of the foremost authorities on cognitive biases, admits, “I was just as bad myself at making decisions as everyone else I write about.” Nevertheless, CEOs sometimes feel as though they’re immune to bias (after all, they might ask, hasn’t good judgment gotten them where they are?). Excellent CEOs endeavour to minimize the effect of biases by instituting such processes as pre-emptively solving for failure modes (premortems), formally appointing a contrarian (red team), disregarding past information (clean sheet), and taking plan A off the table (vanishing options).

Social purpose: Be part of the bigger community

Many corporate social responsibility programs are little more than public-relations exercises; collections of charitable initiatives that generate good feelings but have minimal lasting influence on society’s well-being. Excellent CEOs spend time thinking about, articulating, and championing the purpose of their company as it relates to the big-picture impact of day-to-day business practices. They push for meaningful efforts to create jobs, abide by ethical labour practices, improve customers’ lives, and lessen the environmental harm caused by operations. Remember, visible results matter to stakeholders.

Personal working norms: Do what only you can do

CEOs can easily become overwhelmed, which is understandable given the sheer breadth of their role. As the dean of Harvard Business School, Nitin Nohria has said, “CEOs are accountable for all the work of their organizations. Their life is endless meetings and a barrage of email. Plenty of research also suggests that many CEOs are beset by loneliness, frustration, disappointment, irritation, and exhaustion. While no CEO can escape these emotions completely, excellent CEOs know that they will serve the company better by taking command of their well-being

Becoming an exemplary CEO requires authenticity. Remarkable CEOs indulge in merging the reality of what they ought to do in the role with who they are as human beings. They deliberately choose how to behave in the role, based on such questions as: What legacy do I want to leave? What do I want others to say about me as a leader? What do I stand for? What won’t I tolerate? The world’s best CEOs answer these questions according to their strengths and motivations, as well as the company’s needs, and create mechanisms to track how they are doing. By expressing these intentions as part of the rationale for their decisions and actions, CEOs can minimize the risk of failure.

In what seemed like a ‘lost decade’ for the global economy in 2020, the story is quickly changing as global growth prospects are fast improving in the beginning of the new decade. The prolonged spread of COVID infections and pockets of resurgence in most parts of the world prompted analysts to forecast global growth to register its worst decline in years in 2020.

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