5 critical steps leaders must take to be prepared for the future of work

By Shawn Casemore

February 25, 2021
There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. At least that appears to be the common belief among many of the business owners I’ve spoken with.

The pandemic and resulting challenges have created a steep hill for many businesses to climb. For some, the last 12 months have been a struggle to sustain their business. Others have had difficulty in keeping up with demand. One of my clients, a manufacturer of consumer products, simply can’t keep up. Despite being forced to close in 2020, and with a large percentage of their customers still closed today, demand for their products is through the roof.

Fortunately, we’re about to crest the top of the hill. The increasing availability of vaccines coupled with pent-up consumer demand and growing consumer confidence all point toward an economic boom, according to Morgan Stanley. But there are other challenges we’re going to encounter on the way down.

The ability to find, attract, and retain good people is becoming increasingly difficult. Unemployment numbers might seem high right now, but consider how quickly that will change once the economy reopens.

The question we need to ask ourselves, then, is how will an economic boom impact our business?

Employees are prepared. Many have used the past year to upskill in preparation for changes in their career seeking more stable and pandemic-proof employment.

Additionally, the flexibility and benefits that have resulted from working remotely are quickly becoming the expected norm.

Some other examples include:

    Demands by some employees to continue working from home, forming hybrid teams of both in-office and remote employees.

    More time off, a result of many employees feeling as if they aren’t able to unplug while working remotely.

As more job opportunities open up, employee loyalty diminishes and wage demands increase.

Combining rising customer volume with increasing employee expectations and diminishing loyalty can paint a dire picture in the months and years to come. There is a looming “war for talent” lurking.

Don’t get me wrong. These are all good things that may seem a ways off, particularly if you are still struggling to keep your doors open. Either way, the perfect storm is brewing.

There are five critical steps you can take right now to prepare:

Identify your MVPs

In basketball, team coaches and owners recognize which are their most valuable players. They strive to support these players, protect them, and above all, retain them. They are the key to the future of the team.

Leaders must identify their own most valuable players. Which employees manage critical relationships with customers? What individuals have knowledge that is crucial to continuing the business operations?

Share knowledge

Having identified your MVPs, ask yourself how you can ensure critical relationships, knowledge, and expertise become extrinsic.

Is your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software being used effectively to capture key information about leads and customers? Should you consider introducing knowledge capture software like Capterra or TeamWorks to ensure business processes are up to date?

Plan for emergency scenarios

Most businesses have scenario plans to deal with emergencies such as evacuation and fire drills. These plans begin with asking “what if” questions.

This same approach is necessary to create contingency plans for MVPs who may decide to leave the business. What if one of your most valuable sales agents left? How would you respond? What gaps exist that would need to be addressed immediately?

Expand cross-training

One of the key ways to protect your business in the event of the departure of an MVP is to equip other employees with their same skills. Cross-training, although not new, is often treated as a singular event.

The problem, however, is that with the rapid and ongoing changes in business, a single cross-training event isn’t sufficient to transfer knowledge and ensure it remains current.

How can you further develop the skills of your team to avoid disaster if an MVP was to leave? What training is critical and how can you ensure your team members remain current?

Nurture your culture

The pandemic has for many eroded their business culture. While employees work remotely, fewer face-to-face meetings occur, communications diminish, and culture has taken a back seat to survival. Yet it’s the culture that attracts and retains employees.

Consider how to rebuild and restructure your culture in this new era of remote teams and online work. What changes in communications and team activities are necessary to maintain a strong connection among your employees and leadership?

The extent to which a boom may impact your business may seem unclear. What is clear, however, is that the war for talent that existed before the pandemic is on the horizon.

Preparing now to protect your MVPs and ensuring their knowledge is available to others will protect your business and its customers over the long-term.

Shawn Casemore is a speaker and facilitator who works with entrepreneurs and business leaders to align their teams, “wow” their customers, and grow their businesses.

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