What Business Leaders Should Focus on in the New Year

January 28, 2021  |  By Phoenix Management  |  3 Minute Read

2020 was a challenging year for businesses. The economic uncertainty and temporary closures that stemmed from the COVID-19 pandemic caused financial forecasts to miss the mark and business plans to shift. As 2021 begins and promising vaccines are being distributed, it’s important for business leaders to consider the overall outlook and opportunities in the New Year. Below are some key areas to focus on:

Operating in Short-Term Sprints with Long-Term Goals

Starting in March 2020, many companies paused planned initiatives as they rapidly shifted gears to account for the unforeseen impact of the pandemic. Rather than continue on their current trajectory, most focused on short-term performance metrics so they could remain agile and quickly pivot strategies based on the results of their efforts. Certain industries, like pharma/biotech, software, and the technology sector only paused briefly during the first few weeks of uncertainty at the start of the pandemic, and then continued on to perform well throughout the remainder of 2020. These industries have momentum entering the new year, and so can more accurately project future performance as the next phase of the pandemic—vaccine distribution—begins.

For industries that were highly vulnerable to the pandemic, like consumer durables, energy and utilities, industrial equipment, real estate, retail, and hospitality, 2021 must be considered in two waves:

  1. What initiatives will bridge the gap between the start of the new year and when mass distribution of vaccines can allow consumer behavior to return to normal? Such plans should operate in the short term, and must be highly agile as each state develops and executes its own plans and timelines for rollout. A core component of these plans is positioning a company to capitalize on market opportunities when businesses begin reopening without restrictions.
  2. As operations return to normal, how can businesses capitalize on an audience exhausted with temporary closures? Critical to the success of the second wave is, as society starts down a path to reopening at full capacity, how can a business excite and engage their target audiences more so than their competitors can. Reinvigorating customers and inspiring them to return to old habits will be challenging but necessary for businesses to recover.

Developing More Comprehensive Strategic Planning for the Future

Decision making is tricky in uncertain times. In an Achievers survey, one-third of leaders said that before the pandemic their strategic decision making was very aligned to company values; during the pandemic, this dropped 20%. Budget decisions were similarly impacted, with a 23% drop in alignment when compared to pre-pandemic estimates.

As businesses exit a period of uncertainty, it is critical to realign priorities to company values and establish sustainable practices that can withstand crisis and turnaround situations. Strategic planning is essential, and must cover any potential setback during the recovery period.

Deciding How the Team Will Work in the Future

Millions of employees moved to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Upwork, 41.8% of the U.S. workforce is still working remotely as of December 2020. And 36.2 million—22% of the workforce—are projected to be working remotely by 2025, which is an 87% increase from the number of remote workers before the pandemic began.

Companies are now deciding whether the team should stay remote, head back into the office, or take a hybrid approach. There are pros and cons to each choice, and many organizations are anticipating a flexible workweek for employees. More than half of executives—55%—surveyed by PwC in 2020 expect to extend remote work options for their office workers, with the option to work from home at least one day per week post-COVID. Only 39% of companies did so before the pandemic.

If companies remain remote, businesses need to keep employees motivated in the long-term. This can be done through better communication, firm goals and milestones, and set check-ins. If the team is back in office, businesses should use all of the recommended COVID-19 protocols to keep employees safe and secure.

Leveraging Digital Transformation

Companies have been on a steady path toward digital adoption for years—and the COVID-19 pandemic only accelerated that effort. According to a McKinsey Global Survey of executives, companies accelerated the digitalization of their customer and supply-chain interactions and of their internal operations in 2020 alone by three to four years.

Predications indicate that many of the digital initiatives instituted to meet the needs of the COVID-19 crisis will remain for the long term. It is critical for businesses to invest in the digital transformations established first during the COVID-19, and to continue to investigate best practices and establish permanent infrastructures to support a connected workplace and a more digital customer that are meant to stand the test of time.

The New Year Brings New Opportunities for Success

2020 was a year of unanticipated changes and challenges. Organizations that faired best were able to quickly and dynamically maneuver initiatives to embrace a more digital workspace and marketplace.

Phoenix professionals provide the experience and insight businesses need in times of uncertainty. Our team is experienced in working in periods of crisis, and we offer a range of turnaround services that can help companies navigate through complex business scenarios and market conditions. Contact us to learn more about how to start the year off right.

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