In the wake of Covid-19, millions of small businesses across the globe have suffered the economic and even social brunt of the crisis. Much has been said over the past year about adapting to the “new normal”, and the ability to adjust to new business practices, channels or models to accommodate the new reality could very well be the key to survival.

According to Lyndy van den Barselaar, Managing Director of ManpowerGroup SA: “There  are certain sectors that were simply not able to drastically adapt to social distancing protocols; old age homes and care facilities rely heavily on personal contact and emergency services cannot function remotely. Even industries that increasingly embrace automation and digitalisation still necessitate teams of people in order to perform efficiently.”

She continues: “However, those businesses and organisations that have managed to successfully adapt and become accustomed to new ways of working are presented with the opportunity to advance these adaptations as we move into the future.”

The following are a few suggestions on the ways in which small businesses can adapt their models to better function in the new reality that we are facing.

Embracing the digital age

With the outbreak of Covid-19 many businesses were rapidly thrust into the digital age. While this move may have presented fewer challenges for those businesses that had already invested in the use of technology, others faced numerous hurdles associated with the changing of processes and functions.

For those businesses that are prepared to reinvent themselves, the shift to digital – or improving existing digital operations – will certainly assist in withstanding these trying times.

Getting staff back to work

Over the course of the year, many businesses were forced to close their doors and encourage employees to work remotely. As a result, a substantial amount of companies have become rather proficient at managing and overseeing a more extensive remote workforce.

Rather than rapidly reopening and going back to the way things were, it is advisable to investigate other approaches that may be better for your business going forward.

Perhaps you found adapting to social distancing fairly painless and reached the realisation that a large portion of your team could perform their duties from home. If this is the case, then consider whether bringing everyone back immediately is really necessary. For those members of staff who need to be in the office, perhaps a more flexible approach can be employed, whereby different people come in at different times or on alternating days.

According to Van den Barselaar, “If ongoing remote working has become part of your business’ new normal bear in mind that it is of great importance to maintain a sense of togetherness. Keep empowering your teams with various means of communication such as video calling or regular virtual meetings to brainstorm and share ideas.”

Seeking out new ideas

There are numerous online and social media platforms which are continually being updated with regards to the ways in which other companies and industries are adapting the ways in which they work. Although you may already be implementing some of these initiatives, it is important to continue to seek out new ideas. Further to this, engage with your team by asking individuals for their ideas and encouraging employees to make suggestions which could benefit the organisation.

“Remember that your employees have direct knowledge of your business and may have suggestions regarding new strategies, products, or even business opportunities,” says Van den Barselaar.

Listening to staff and customers

During times of dramatic change and uncertainty, it is essential that you listen to both your staff and to your customers. If conducting regular feedback and contact sessions with these groups wasn’t already part of your approach it is vital that you begin to start as soon as possible. “As a business you are likely more adept at listening to what your clients are telling you, but the current circumstances demand that you also pay attention to the needs and concerns of your workforce,” notes Van den Barselaar.

Considering that most of your customers will also be adapting to their own version of the new normal, they will more than likely be willing to cooperate with the changes that you are making to your operations. However, you will need to go to extra effort to ensure that your staff remain motivated and engaged so that they are more ready and enthusiastic to embrace any transformations.

Advancing through evolution

During these trying times many businesses have been faced with the decision to either close down permanently or change. The fact of the matter is that many of these changes are likely here to stay. Now more than ever, the dexterity and agility by which you are able to react to this unanticipated crisis can help equip you with the skills and strategies to remain resilient against future challenges.

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