Maintaining organisational agility in the face of disruption

EXCLUSIVE: Swift and decisive action, aided by the adoption of technology and a people-first approach, can help organisations adapt to business disruptions, shares Workday.
By: | June 22, 2020

Businesses, much like the people running them, thrive when there is continuity and stability. How companies react to the disruptions and uncertainty brought about by crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, will go a long way towards determining if they can thrive in an ever-changing world of work.

Speaking to HRM Asia, Jasie Fon, General Manager, ASEAN, Workday, observed, “COVID-19 has had a profound impact through its scale and reach, and it will undoubtedly change how we live, work and interact with one another for many years to come.

“Amid high levels of uncertainty, the pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation agenda and highlighted the need for companies to be structurally and technologically agile. The new world of work can be relentless, and many businesses will need to be prepared to accommodate disruptions on a global level to thrive in the workplace renaissance.”

One trend that may be here to stay, Fon suggested, is remote working. Companies in turn, will need to manage employee autonomy and trust, redefine productivity and re-evaluate the employer/employee relationship beyond the boundaries of the office space.

New workplace norms may arise, while well-entrenched ones may simply cease to exist. Citing US infectious diseases expert Dr Anthony Fauci, who cautioned that “we may never shake hands again”, Fon added, “In time, perhaps business rituals such as bowing may gain popularity again, and the phrase ‘we’ll shake on it’ may become defunct.”

Using an analogy of a leaking lifeboat adrift in the open ocean to describe companies in the current crisis, she said, “It will require all hands on deck to plug the gaps, as well as everyone rowing in the same direction in order to get to safe habour.”

At a time when crisis response plans and business continuity planning are coming under unprecedented pressure due to COVID-19, strong leadership will need to come to the fore.

Fon explained, “This includes a centralised and technology-driven approach by senior management to meet challenges head-on and mitigate any vulnerabilities that are exposed. This, however, is easier said than done as it requires the entire C-suite to collaborate together and pool their common knowledge and resources to help lead their organisations through uncertain times.”

And while many businesses may simply be looking for stability ahead of continuity at a time of uncertainty, Fon urged companies to remain agile, and be ready to take swift and decisive action, beginning with how they manage one of their key assets.

Adopting a people-first approach

When it comes to dealing with COVID-19, Workday’s response has been unequivocal – their people will always come first.

“Getting this step right and doing right by your people will ultimately lead to better collaboration and customer-centricity in your business approach,” said Fon.

She also recommended that, besides protecting employees’ physical health through measures such as sanitising environments and implementing social distancing, companies should also pay attention to the mental and social well-being of their employees.

As stress levels rise due to worries over job security, social isolation and the need to balance between work and family obligations, company leaders need to constantly check the pulse of their organisations.

Fon elaborated, “This can take place through various means, like regular and unofficial employee feedback, establishing and maintaining open channels for communications between different teams and managers, and more structured internal communications such as virtual town halls.”

She also pointed out that should remote working remain the norm post COVID-19, communicating clearly and in a timely manner will assume more importance, as blurring of corporate and personal spaces occur.

“However, companies should be mindful not to overstep this, be more mindful of their employees’ concerns and allow them to disconnect and reconnect with the workplace in an easier fashion.”

The elevation of enterprise technology

Adapting to the upheaval in the workplace can be a daunting prospect for many employees. To overcome this challenge, companies need to ensure a holistic platform for employees to communicate and continue to work with their colleagues remotely.

This, said Fon, will require investment in infrastructure, training and time but ultimately, will be a decision that will reap handsome rewards, as enterprise technology continues to be elevated as a solution to achieve business goals amid COVID-19.

For instance, a centralised platform that digitally transcends offices or even countries, that makes use of applied data analytics, enhanced artificial intelligence/machine learning, as well as real-time interactivity, can potentially help companies mitigate the damaging disruption of the pandemic.

Fon concluded, “When the dust settles and we can emerge from the other side ‘even better and stronger’, this will be the foundation that positions companies for future growth. Getting this technological foundation can help companies survive the pandemic, and even possibly thrive.”