Whether you meet with an accident or a lesser anticipated epidemic, it always pays to have a plan. This article endeavors to highlight the major trends for 2021 that will ultimately inform your business strategy in the next normal.
The world looks strikingly different now than it was a year ago. 2020 led more business transformations than the last decade altogether. One of the truisms of this crisis has been that it accelerated those trends, which were already underway – migration to cloud, switch to digital operations, uptake of e-commerce, contactless payments, online learning, and more.
What do these changes mean for 2021? We explore ten shifts stimulated by the coronavirus crisis that will permanently reinvent the way of working. A summary of the major business strategy trends and agendas to guide you to the year ahead.
Historical correlations hardly hold in a crisis. The dynamics of COVID-19 crisis proved that extrapolating from the past is not always helpful. In 2021, for every decision, forward-looking data or projections will become as important as past trends. It will be paramount to make smarter, better and resilient decisions.
Every situation is different – be it trade wars between countries or pandemics. While how a crisis will evolve can be projected from similar past events, future-looking data is pertinent to assess the peculiarity of current circumstances and understand the challenges that are likely to arise. Although future can never be predicted with 100 percent certainty, the attempt will provide additional means of comprehending the risks involved and carve the best strategy going forward.
For instance, a fashion boutique would likely see its revenues drying up in the times of a crisis when customers will not probably attend occasions where party-wear dresses can be worn. On the other hand, comfortable yoga wear may see a surge as more customers take to exercising at home.
Diversity and inclusion efforts will come to the forefront. Organizations will not shy from asking embarrassing questions from themselves. For instance, why they have gone for decades without bringing gender or racial equality in the workplace? Why have they not actively recruited people of color?
2021 will see companies making significant efforts to demonstrate their pledge to diversity. D&I will not be an issue on paper. Firms will bring changes to the top tiers as well as at the bottom to truly make it a part of the business. The motto for companies’ diversity agenda will be best represented by:
Clean energy and clean tech, albeit lofty goals, will rise in prominence for entrepreneurs. Coronavirus crisis has pushed businesses further closer toward being socially and environmentally conscious. Climate change, and social issues matter quite a lot to the new generation of consumers. This will drive the agenda toward ‘net zero’ carbon emissions. Over 200 organizations of the likes of Apple, Microsoft, and Apple have pledged to net zero goal.
It will entail reviewing – how businesses engage with the end-users, how they run their operations, how they develop their products, and more importantly, how they leverage virtual world for low-carbon business?
Businesses with no physical address will emerge in the post pandemic era. COVID-19 has given an unprecedented digital focus to the operations to such an extent that leaders never thought was possible. This is among the biggest business transformations in the past year, which will continue to show its impact in the years ahead.
A tech company, for instance, could have a registered office in a metro city, but with no large office space as everyone work remotely in the organization. For company-wide meetings it could additionally lease coworking spaces for a few days.
This operational independence and innovation will enable companies to downsize their leases and physical spaces and foster a culture of virtual offices, which are cheaper and quicker than pre-COVID-19 period offices. So, where will this model take organizations in 2021?
At its core, it will allow the business to be accessed, delivered and enabled anywhere, and take it where their customers, employees, employers, and clients are – making even the remotest corners of the world reachable.
COVID-19 crisis has shown that we don’t need to be in the same place to get the work done. Several anecdotal studies have revealed that people working from home are more productive and take lesser sick-days and fewer breaks (Stanford University, 2015). Commuting to office seems unnecessary and time-taking now. As remote working becomes mainstream, recruitment will cease to be tied to locations. This is a cost-saving measure for companies, which will permanently change hiring.
More than one’s proximity to the office location, talent managers will give priority to the skillsets, talent, mindset, and culture-fit. Ability to show up to the office will no longer figure in the hiring decisions. Companies will look for self-motivated people who can deliver without the need for supervision.
Superstar big cities, typically considered as the engine of nations’ economies, will lose workforce to the smaller parts of the countries. This trend is already evident across the world with the uptake of remote working. People are moving out of the economic hotbeds back to their hometowns.
This will prompt businesses to move to small towns and rural areas. An influx of remote workers will bring with them the opportunities for economic development and raise the standard of living in those cities as an attractive market takes birth – albeit with initial convulsions.
Having everyone working remotely makes it hard for teams to sit together, interact, and brainstorm new possibilities. This is bound to limit innovation and new findings for businesses. However, an impediment of remote working, it will not merit revoking remote work option.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be instrumental in bringing people together remotely and prompt innovation. It will track employees to deduce what they are working on, their interests, and make introductions accordingly. In return, employees will generate further data by evaluating the suggestions made by the AI so the model could learn and better simulate.
For all the merits of remote working, it has its downsides too – the biggest one being an absence of human touch. Remote working has blurred the line between professional and personal. In 2021, HRs will see a rise in the number of complaints from dissatisfied fellow employees.
Companies will need to introduce online behavioral guidelines for employees. Providing training to employees on what is appropriate behavior and communication for digital workspaces will be a vital part of the job of talent strategists and HRs.
Another challenge will be of security and privacy. Cybersecurity mesh will help companies scale their operations to remote locations in a reliable manner.
The combination of the internet and free services will see its end in 2021. As the need for quality triumphs quantity for online consumers, they will be more forthcoming to pay for advert-free, quality content. Without which, the digital space will seem overwhelming and full of reliable as well as unreliable information making it as hard to filter.
Coming years will see a rise of online services, which are secure, paid for, and ad free. Two motivations will underlie these moves – the need for quality content and the priority for data security in order to prohibit their data from being sold to the third parties. Simple subscription-based models focused on the consumers will be popular. Netflix, Amazon, and others already offer paid services.
Digital disruption is permeating every aspect of businesses and their operating models. Incumbents will need to make big and bold decisions to stay ahead and relevant. Platforms and network effect will help businesses achieve scale and secure the market as well as profits.
Converting business into a platform means enabling a large number of participants to grow on each side. Apple, for instance, reimagined its iPhone and operating system as more than products; but as a platform for two types of participants – app developers and app users. By doing so it generated value for both.
Businesses that fail to learn the new rules of platform strategy will struggle to survive. Community, network and resourcefulness of its participants will be the new age assets.
Events of the past year have raised many questions for strategy leaders on how they should move forward. 2021 will be the defining year for fundamental changes. It will set a few changes in the stone and weed away the rest. It’s time to spearhead bolder and broader growth initiatives. Learn to make smart moves and anticipate the future with powerful business strategy certifications to position yourself for success in 2021 and beyond.
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