Life as we know it has changed; our notions and presumptions in business as well as our personal lives have been truly shaken. As organisations continue to respond to uncertainties arising from the Covid-19 crisis, a plan to resurrect businesses in an efficient, organised and coordinated manner is a priority. Businesses will find it difficult to restart their operations post the crisis and an immediate return to pre-COVID-19 levels seems difficult, if not impossible. The current situation poses an interesting conundrum for business leaders and entrepreneurs. Will they survive the crisis? Can they thrive in a post Covid-19 world? Or can they do both?
Organisations, which prioritise on emerging stronger from this crisis will be the ones that can navigate this period of uncertainty successfully. In turning current challenges into a competitive advantage, it is important for organisations to consider the following.
Dynamic crisis management
A crisis management framework can never be static and business recovery from the Covid-19 crisis could be prone to additional disruption. Crisis management teams (especially the ones led by senior leaders) should continue to be engaged in simulations and war room exercises to scale up their responses and mitigation quotients. At the same time, it is important to have a business continuity plan for the crisis team as well. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us that a crisis spares no one and should a situation arise wherein the crisis team is unable to perform its roles, a continuity plan ensures that the business remains operational in its absence.
Engaging the workforce
There are three key aspects to consider while readying the workforce for a restart once the situation normalises. The first aspect would be to look after employee health and safety concerns. Some organisations may follow basic guidelines on social distancing and safety, and some may go beyond and implement more stringent measures than those prescribed. It is important to provide comfort to workers and a safe work environment with practical operational considerations. Organisations must acknowledge that a single case of infection in a workplace could create a prospective containment zone.
Motivation and productivity of extended or staggered work from home (WFH) situations will require fresh thoughts. While a feeling of alienation arising from the lack of human interaction can result in low employee morale, sub-optimal WFH conditions can be disruptive to productivity in the long term. Enhancing productivity and monitoring and curating new well-being programmes for employees are steps that should be taken towards managing workforce productivity.
Skill enhancement of the workforce will be essential. Enhancing the knowledge base, reskilling employees around technology, and remote working and effectively communicating with them when personal interactions are reduced are some considerations that may need to be addressed on priority. The agility of the workforce in taking up new tasks and reskilling themselves periodically may need much more focus in the future.
Constrained or back-ordered supplies, restrictions on the movement of goods, non-availability of labour and burdened ports contribute to significant supply chain disruptions across most sectors for both essential and non-essential goods. As businesses plan to resume operations post the lockdown, resurrecting supply chains and making them more resilient will be most challenging for organisations.
Obtaining permissions for operating facilities and movement of people, vehicles and machines may be needed for extended periods of time to keep up with changing regulations. Intelligent analytics around supply chains, modelling of disruption as well as recovery scenarios, and planning or prioritising efforts and resources will all assume greater significance.
Finance and liquidity
Cash is king and strategies on curtailing costs and prioritising expenditure are keeping organisations engaged in these disruptive times. When organisations enter the recovery phase, reimagining cash flows in a changed business scenario will become the new imperative. Focusing on tighter control and newer avenues of revenue generation, controlling leakages, converting sales to cash speedily and stringently controlling expenditure will be prioritised.
With frequent decision making resulting in larger business impact, there will be increased pressure from stakeholders for timely, relevant and accurate financial information. Organisations will need to consciously put additional measures towards proactively building trust around financial information.
Moving the digital needle
Digital transformation will require immediate acceleration and organisations will be required to upgrade their current digital frameworks and transform them into Fit for Future models. The Covid-19 pandemic has providentially kick-started a movement towards rapidly accelerating digital transformations across businesses. As analysts are predicting a significant change in future demand patterns, there is an opportunity to augment the power of digital, given the prospective shifts in consumer preferences and spending habits and in the prediction of future demand. A recovery plan based on intelligent analytics and a digitally enabled workforce provides a competitive edge for organisations to create long-term value from this crisis.
The Covid-19 virus has indeed crashed the ‘systems’ of businesses worldwide and a mere reboot or reinstall may not be sufficient. Recovery from this crisis requires an upgrade that protects businesses in the present and makes them resilient for the future. For businesses looking to resume operations soon, emerging stronger from this crisis is now an imperative and no longer an option.
Views are personal.
Deepankar Sanwalka is partner and leader, Advisory Services, PwC India; Gagan Puri is partner and leader, Forensic Services, PwC India; Vishal Narula is executive director and leader, Crisis Management, PwC India