The Reopening: An Unwritten Future

It's likely to be a bumpy ride—but opportunity abounds. Three ways to reboot and outmaneuver uncertainty.

The on-and-off reopening we’re experiencing in North America isn’t a flick-of-the-switch restart. Re-entry is kicking off quickly for some, and it will creep along for others. There’s a pretty good chance we’ll have to hit the brakes along the way and reset our strategies.

In this “never normal” reality, we have new rules and a whole host of complexities. But let’s not lose sight of the opportunities. As I talk with our clients, my peers and my colleagues, it’s clear that as we look into a wide-open and unwritten future, we are seeing businesses accelerate large-scale, digitally-led reinvention programs, the kind they’ve envisioned for some time.

The question is: What’s the best game plan for rebooting – and doing it fast? Based on our research, what’s working for our clients and for Accenture, here are three solid bets for a strong comeback.

1) Protect your people: compassion and trust are the new currencies. Sixty-seven percent of furloughed workers reported a decline in their mental health since the outbreak began. Worries like these must be met head-on. Whether people continue to work at home – as could be the case for as many of 37 percent of U.S. jobs[1] – or return to workplaces, the stress won’t end when we open back up. People will still be grieving and experiencing anxiety about their health and the wellbeing of loved ones. Whether your people are working remotely or in offices, make sure they are safe and cared for. This is something you’ll be measured by. Here’s how:

• Reassure your people that you are on top of CDC-approved protocols and that you are doing everything you can to make their workplaces as safe as possible. Technology can help: Look into thermal temperature scanners, digital tools to track employee health and software to organize employee shifts to maintain social distancing.

• Turn furloughed workers into flexible workers, retraining them in skills that will enable them to refocus on areas of higher demand.

• Refocus HR policies to support the most vulnerable people, including those with disabilities, single parents and those who lack adequate health benefits.

• Make mental health and well-being programs a top priority and support them. If people see that you are comfortable with conversations about mental health, they will be, too.

• Communicate early, transparently and often to build trust and help people feel less nervous about how companies and governments are using their data, especially with increased levels of employee monitoring and new security measures.

2) Commit to an elastic cost structure. The No. 1 question I’m getting from CEOs and other leaders is how to unlock structural cost savings. Because staying in business requires liquidity, cash is king. They must secure short-term cost reductions and invest in cloud and data technologies to radically improve cost structures and position for growth. The winners from the Great Recession were the ones who moved strategically and with agility.

3) Get future-ready. I’m also hearing from CEOs and other leaders that they wished they had moved more aggressively to upload their operations to the cloud. The crisis is creating the opportunity for them to address this. Now is the time to increase capabilities in virtual operations, collaboration tools and security by becoming more digital, data-driven and in the cloud. We all knew machine learning and automation were the future; COVID-19 accelerated that future.

The Age of Acceleration

Over the last several weeks, some of the largest and most complex companies turned on dimes, shifting faster than ever. The need to respond to the unpredictable has revealed the possible and there’s a new premium on speed. The winners will build cultures of continuous reinvention, quickly, to outmaneuver uncertainty and they will be the ones who look back on the crisis as the darkness before the dawn.

 

[1] Source: “How Many Jobs Can Be Done At Home?,” Jonathan I. Dingel & Brent Neiman, April 2020


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