Post-pandemic recovery, inflationary pressures, recession fears, supply chain bottlenecks, and geo-political issues are all topics that businesses will continue to face in 2023. With both direct and indirect impacts to the business, these external issues can be difficult to manage, as they are outside the control of the business.
While important, these outside forces can distract executives from addressing internal issues, which if left unattended, can critically impact the functioning of the business, and limit its ability to respond to a business environment that is vulnerable, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, VUCA, (HBR, 2014).
These are three key issues (opportunities) that executives need to pay attention to and recommendations for how to address them.
- Achieving Growth
Growing a business in uncertain times is risky. Some businesses decide to maintain their current position, or even retreat. Businesses need to devise a surgical approach to introducing a new product or expanding to a new market. Growth tactics need to be defined at more micro-levels of product features or customer segments, with clear, objective, measurable parameters of success. Pursuing growth needs to be iterative, applying a ‘test-and-learn’ approach with calculated risks (MIT, CISR, 2018). Achieving growth is possible with a more tailored and incremental approach.
- Building Agility
Executives have demonstrated their abilities to be adaptable and responsive over the last few years. The next step is to leverage technology to gain deeper insights of the business starting with operating costs, components of the supply chain and customer preferences. Implementing analytical capabilities across these dimensions will provide ‘real-time’ monitoring of the business and identify actionable insights, which can be used to respond to the changing marketplace. These systems will also allow the business to conduct ongoing scenario planning across different variables which will help reduce uncertainty (Deloitte, 2022). Leveraging technology helps to increase a business’ agility and effectiveness in uncertain times.
- Retaining Employees
Changing employee expectations and the generational shifts in the workplace are two forces that highlight the importance of employee retention and engagement (Mercer, 2019). Businesses need to revise their policies around flexible workplace arrangements, reward, recognition and wellness programs and developmental opportunities to ensure they align with the needs of today’s employees (SHRM, 2022). Transforming the employee experience can be accomplished by talking with employees to understand their expectations, assessing the opportunities and limitations for the business to meet those expectations, and developing an action plan with SMART short, medium, and long term goals. Partnering with employees to modernize the employee experience increases employee retention and attraction.
Investing in these internal aspects of the business will provide a ‘laser-guided’ approach to growth, strengthen a business’ capability to adapt to an environment with increasing complexity and uncertainty, and develop an environment in which employees feel included and engaged. These are not quick fixes, but the pay-off is certain.
Nigel Taklalsingh | Contributing Writer