A positive attitude to change, being open to new technology, adaptability – these are three of the six traits that help ‘future ready’ businesses succeed, even as businesses around the world have faced disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the new Future Ready report by Vodafone Business, ‘future ready’ businesses (FRBs) can be identified by six unifying characteristics, including a positive attitude to change; are open to new technology; have clear steps towards business transformation and a detailed strategy; they are up to date with trends and uncertainties, and are adaptable. These are the attributes of the most resilient organisations and their responses to common business challenges before, during and beyond the Covid-19 crisis.
“A main differentiator is that FRB’s see the crisis as a natural time to experiment with new ways of working and have made broader, smarter investments in new technology,” says William Mzimba, Chief Officer of Vodacom Business.
“In South Africa, there are three key areas that bear scrutiny and have yielded valuable insights: digital transformation, resilience, and returning to work after lockdown,” he adds.
Societal attitudes and consumer expectations have changed, forcing businesses to focus on ethical behaviours or to find a purpose beyond their core offering.
Insights from the report indicate that:
- Customers are more informed and influential than ever. 70% of businesses identified customers as the most powerful and influential group ahead of ‘people on social media’ in second place, and ‘businesses’ in third.
- Brands needing to have a purpose alongside their core business’ is also disproportionately recognised by 74% of FRB’s.
- 93% of South African FRBs rated social responsibility highly vs. 85% of businesses overall.
Social responsibility is a key differentiating behaviour among the most ‘future ready’ businesses. Behaving in a responsible way helps control brand perception in the eyes of customers.
To keep up with these changes, the majority of businesses are actively investing in new technology to leverage deep consumer insights and help address the rising consumer expectations.
- 51% of FRBs vs 37% of overall businesses are more likely to seek data-driven insights to enhance their customer experiences and gain a greater understanding on consumers’ opinions of the brand.
Research showed that many businesses are already adapting, planning for new business practices and even entirely new business models for a post-COVID world. FRBs have taken significant steps in new technology investment in direct response to Covid-19.
These organisations are investing heavily in new solutions like cloud storage to improve their cybersecurity systems, new software or hardware designed to support employees to work flexibly and remotely, and to provide employees with new smartphones and tablets.
“In 2020, we’ve seen a paradigm shift. Timeframes for innovation which used to take years and months changed to weeks and sometimes days. Investment in the African tech space continues to grow and at the current rate of development it won’t be too long before we are talking about it breaching the $1 billion (R15 billion) mark,” says Mzimba.
Return to work
Throughout the pandemic, businesses that offered support to their employees saw the most benefit throughout 2020. Accommodating flexible working hours was the most widely adopted action.
- 71% of FRBs are moving towards a ‘connected working environment’ with flexible working hours, and they are taking advantage of the latest collaboration software available to get work done.
- FRB have also been likely to consider employee wellbeing throughout the pandemic.
A noticeable trend within the report examines how businesses are rethinking how they combat skills shortages and expand their talent pool. 63% of FRBs intend to invest in re-training or re-skilling personnel and are generally expected to embrace a number of measures even more broadly than businesses overall.
- FRBs are increasing consideration of neuro-diverse candidates – recognising that many are gifted in various skills suited for the digital age.
- 63% are planning to invest in more “connected” working environments to attract prospective employees aged 24 or under. Offering greater flexible working hours flexibility is also seen as a useful to allure juniors.
FRBs are using technology to create digital workplaces that appeal to younger workers, and that make it easier for all kinds of employees to work more flexibly, with a focus on their wellbeing at all times.
COVID-19 has given us time to reflect and realise that work can be done differently and from anywhere. 2021 will likely be a year full of major transitions, as businesses adapt to ‘the new normal’, the implications of 2020 will play out across the next several years.
With such a range of trials already confronting businesses this year, the need for more all-encompassing business continuity planning and strategy development has never been more vital.