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Working from home is just the tip of the iceberg for businesses navigating their way through the Coronavirus crisis. Adopting a common digital language and learning as the new working is now a matter of urgency.

Every industry all over the world is starting to feel the full, destructive impact of COVID-19, from whole offices self-isolating, to events cancelled, likely cuts to marketing budgets, hiring freezes put in place and share prices falling.

It sounds like a corporate apocalypse - dust gathering in deserted offices while disillusioned, disconnected employees muddle along at home in their pyjamas and stare into their fridges.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. This crisis could be the kick businesses need to truly modernise, and set the tone for what the company practices and workplace of the future will be like – as Wired has already hinted at.  

As an international, digital business, we’re already using the tools for collaborative, productive remote working, like sharing information via Slack, or conducting meetings via video-conference. We’re used to the idea that significant members of your team aren’t always sitting next to you.

But we’ve never been in a situation where our whole team has had to work remotely for a prolonged period. So this week, we joined the likes of Apple and MediaCom in trialling our whole office working from home.

For the most part, it was business as usual. But working from home is just the tip of the iceberg for senior leaders under pressure to keep their businesses not just running, but productive and innovative in the face of such chaos.


The role of digital transformation in a crisis

There’s nothing “disaster recovery” about what we teach. But we do enable the businesses we work with to put in place the fundamental principles of modernisation through technology and data, allowing them to respond more quickly and effectively to significant disruptions. It’s what we once referred to as digital transformation, but without the end date.

Think about how technology and data underpin communications, customer operations and logistics – some of the most important aspects to be influenced by Coronavirus that businesses will need to rethink and up their game on in the coming months. They’ll need to be looking at how to optimise the delivery of their products and services to the right places, while communicating extra clearly and frequently what’s happening.

This also ties into social media monitoring and handling, which will need to become even more responsive and intuitive as reputations may need protecting. Behemoth institutions still structured in specific silos, and not centrally managing data and technology, will find it difficult to react and adapt.


Establishing a common digital language

Because digital has brought all elements of customer service closer together, we look at it as an interactive service layer that sits between the functions of a business and its customers – what makes it “customer-centric” and now makes everyone connected to customers in some way.

It’s about understanding that the ultimate conclusion of digital transformation is customer centricity – improving customer service by understanding the technologies that do that, and how they impact on your job and the people around you. In an epidemic situation like this, companies need to foster that understanding as effectively as possible.

That is through speaking a common language when it comes to digital and technology, which is something we have seen businesses struggle with. Imagine CEOs waking up one morning and telling everyone they need to speak and do business in French, when only one corner of the business can and everybody else is trying to do their job without being able to. That’s essentially what’s happened with technology.

Digitally savvy companies, that speak a common language when it comes to the technologies they are using, will come out the other side of this stronger than those struggling with siloed thinking and working.


Learning is the new working

Of course, like speaking French, you don’t just wake up overnight and know how to speak digital. This is why a mindset of “learning is working” is crucial, especially in a situation where under pressure teams may need to do more with less in the face of budget cuts and hiring freezes.

Essentially, business modernisation is about rapid change and the ability to keep pace with it. Unless learning becomes an innate part of an organisation, they will struggle to compete, and even more so in extraordinary circumstances. The onslaught of Coronavirus means that singing from the same digital hymn sheet is now a matter of urgency. And dare I say it, with increasing amounts of the workforce homebound, the environment for learning becomes more comfortable, appealing and manageable. It’s a great chance to turn a crisis into an opportunity.

Of course, those budget cuts and hiring freezes will come with the question of where further slashes can be made in order to keep heads above water – and learning may seem like an easy target. A need to help the businesses we work with tangibly demonstrate the value of learning means we’ve moved beyond reporting on course completion rates to measuring business impact.

For example, a goal may be to increase the percentage of eCommerce spend by 30 per cent over the next two years. We then identify what behaviours need to change within teams to achieve that. Once senior leaders can tie learning to a tangible level of strategic business impact, it becomes more difficult to justify cuts, even in the pressure-cooker climate that may be set to erupt.

Is being at home every day and rethinking our operations thanks to a deadly virus what we want? Of course not. But there may not be time to take stock of the fallout before making changes. It’s happening now, and we’ve all been thrust into navigating this new business environment – one that may not be the same as it was before.

Is it time to modernise your business? Try our learning programme with a free trial here. 

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