4 ways firms can future-proof their businesses amidst disruption

At the start of the first lockdown, the disruption caused by the pandemic was a huge equaliser for everyone – it didn’t matter whether you worked for the biggest company in the world, or a small organisation.
Woman at home sat at desk working on a laptop

Most of us had similar fears around the uncertainty of our businesses or what the world would look like.

Fast-forward to today and the disruption has led to a revival in how we approach work.

Currently, 57% of employees expect to be in the office for 10 days or less each month, according to Webex.

So, as we navigate this transitional phase of hybrid working, business leaders must think thoroughly about the next steps of how to future-proof their businesses.

What we can be certain of is that, as social beings, we’ll have to build a set of new habits to see us through this period of volatility; and it will vary from person to person, as well as from one organisation to the next.

The hybrid working model has resulted in the idea that work is not necessarily where you are, but what you do.

Business leaders will have to be savvier and look further into:

  • their organisation’s values
  • the culture they want to cultivate
  • what the overall structure of the business will look like in order to move it forward

We recently hosted a webinar with the Law Society. Kion Ahadi, director of futures and insight at the Law Society, and myself discussed:

  • the challenges small businesses are facing
  • the future of work
  • how to embrace disruption

Here, I outline some of the key takeaways from the session.

1. Using tech to maintain productivity

The ability to communicate effectively with other people, whether it’s our managers, customers, or partners, is fundamental to everything we do.

Video technology such as Webex, has been a powerful tool in this regard as it’s enabled us to see people’s faces, have meaningful conversations and keep that connection going when we have not been able to meet in-person.

Re-evaluating everything from the technology we use, to our behaviours, is also crucial.

For instance, within Cisco, there's been a big re-evaluation around what is expected of a leader in a hybrid work model – with an inherent focus on areas such as mental health awareness.

So, we have to be really conscious of a lot more issues than we might have done in the past.

2. Getting the balance between productivity and wellbeing right

The pandemic swiftly burst the myth that working at home means being less productive – as people who worked from home in 2020 had fewer sick days and were actually more productive, according to ONS.

Achieving a balance between productivity and employee wellbeing is critical in today’s world of work.

To adequately navigate the changes occurring, business leaders need to have several touchpoints with people.

They must now be very conscious about how people feel and ask if everything is okay.

In the past when everyone was in the office, people felt part of a team, but in a hybrid world, that might not always be the case. Leaders must find ways to continue to promote a team environment.

An organisation’s brand and culture are what attracts people to it and in most cases, it’s the team spirit and how they interact with colleagues that keeps them in the business.

At Cisco, we've introduced a new training program to help leaders within the company recognise the signs of low mental health, and to ascertain if someone's really struggling.

Leadership training courses on wellbeing can enable managers to see the signs earlier as to why an employee’s productivity may have dropped.

If an employee isn’t being productive, it's probably because they're not feeling engaged or stimulated by the job, or because they don't see a longer term career trajectory for them.

So, it's about finding out what the causes are, rather than just focusing on how you can force a level of productivity from them.

Supporting the wellbeing of your staff will be key to future-proofing your business.

3. Keeping your business cybersecure

Security has to be at the centre of every single decision when an organisation is driving its digital transformation.

You shouldn’t have to forego quality for high security.

When working with your vendors, partners, or whoever it might be that is providing the technology solutions, the first question you should ask is if security is at the centre of what is being built.

If it's not, you should probably have a rethink about what you're using.

Your data is critical. What you share is critical. Fundamentally it’s yours and doesn’t belong to anyone else unless you sign it away. So, you need to make sure you're not signing that data away.

Businesses also need to understand the difference between public and private cloud, and be certain that the vendors they're dealing with are clear on where security sits within their list of priorities.

You can figure this out by reading their terms and agreements on what they would or wouldn't do with your data.

For example, Facebook is a public cloud. So, I wouldn't put business content or business information or documents through it.

Also, I wouldn't exchange data on platforms like WhatsApp because it’s also a public cloud. On a public cloud, anyone can have access to your information.

At Cisco, we offer businesses products – such as Cisco Umbrella – which is in the private cloud.

We’re in the business of selling security and have a whole security department. Therefore, we intertwine our products with core security.

4. Evolution is inescapable

Change is the only constant, and in this regard, businesses will do well to embrace change, as well as the needs of its employees.

The industries that will move forward, in terms of bringing in and attracting the best talent, are going to be those that are set up to offer flexibility to enable talent to be the best they can be.

But remember, it’s not one size fits all. The new future of work will take time, effort and focus.

Get in touch with Cisco to learn more about how you can help your business to embrace disruption and flourish.

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