Many businesses have had to face some serious lessons throughout the last eighteen months or so, often being forced to rethink their strategies in some detail. Quite a few of those valuable lessons anticipate being carried forward into 2022, and whilst some will have been tough to learn, often they've involved a process of reflection and analysis.
In many cases those insights have gradually been accepted and appreciated for the revised priorities and perspective they've brought into life.
How are you looking forward to 2022, what will your focus be?
The year ahead promises to be a time of greater flexibility, with quicker thinking, adaptability and receptivity at the forefront of any planning. Being ready with quick responses to new opportunities or prepared to adapt when the situation yet again shifts has been an important acquired skill, learned as many of the old ways of doing business have changed.
A positive approach to new ideas and methods of working has been a fundamental component to survival and any eventual success throughout this time. Being able to quickly jump onto a request and, for example, deliver online courses or reroute the direction of products, goods and services, as happened with farmers diverting supplies from hospitality to supermarkets, or adapting business meetings to be held online instead of in person, has meant that some businesses have thrived and had unexpected success.
Staff wellbeing has to be very much considered, with the implications of many staff returning from furlough or having worked very different hours, often from home. Many staff will have had to juggle home schooling, the stress of being distanced from family members or had financial or health concerns throughout this time. No one has been unaffected mentally, physically or financially.
Returning to work requires some sensitivity, as staff get used to dealing with things they may have never given much thought to before. Travelling for work, deciding how to dress, coping with the varying demands of each day; things that have never been issues may now surface as issues as the return to work has to be faced.
Some co-workers may have found their priorities to be quite different from the last time you were together and some may prefer continuing carrying out some duties from home. It can require a period of negotiation between staff and the demands of the business to find a solution that accommodates all.
Extended home working involves checking that the appropriate software is installed, with data security, staff training and capabilities all important priorities. Continued investment in staff relationships is important, so that all feel part of the team, as well as measuring performance and accountability. It's important to maintain a team dynamic, especially when working from home.
Staff support may include regular meetings, updates, training sessions and an open door policy where you listen to what they have to say. Staff are a major asset and overhead in many businesses and may have valuable suggestions and ideas to contribute. Giving them responsibility for implementing their ideas may re-inspire their commitment to work.
Team building is an important consideration, but whilst some teams enjoy group activities others many prefer a more softly, softly approach. Even socialising together may have to be carefully managed, with some staff preferring a convivial, more restrained restaurant meal, whilst others want drinks and a party vibe. Being aware of each other's wants and preferences is an important step in listening and supporting your staff whilst rebuilding your business's vision for the coming year.
Customers may also have different priorities, demands and expectations. In hospitality customers may prefer to continue with table service rather than queue at the bar to order. Customers may, in general, adopt a more cautious approach and prefer a less noisy atmosphere, want healthier options, a more environmentally friendly approach to business, less plastic packaging. Some may prefer the convenience of trading and communicating online.
Where do you feature on your list? If you neglect yourself and become unwell, who will be the person to replace you at the helm? If you don't look after you who will? Taking care of yourself must be at the top of your list of priorities, because you may well be both the business and the brand, the vision behind it all and most certainly have a presence that's important to your customer base.
This coming year promises to be a year where enthusiasm and flexibility succeed. People still want and need to trade and do business, especially with providers who listen to them and provide excellent client care. Adapting and finding your new normal gives you the opportunity to reflect on what works well for you in every way, as you look forward to a positive new year ahead.