The first quarter of 2021 is almost over. Vaccines are being distributed and we’ve heard that all adults are supposed to have the vaccines by May. I ‘m sure we were all glad to see January 1, 2021 show up and see 2020 ride off into the sunset after wreaking havoc. I for one was glad to say “Good Riddance”. 2020 was tough for many reasons. Sure, we had a pandemic. There is that. In addition to that, we also watched as our country was pulled apart for many reasons. Someone once said, “Life’s Best Lessons Seemed to Be Learned at the Worst Times”. I would say for a lot of us, 2020 would fall into the category of worst times. Did we learn some lessons? While we might not admit it, I think there are some things that organizations can take away from the last year that will be helpful in the future.
What the business world experienced probably yielded several lessons but there are 6 that I would like to focus on.
- Remote is not a bad word. During the pandemic, many organizations were forced to move many of their employees to remote working. Up to this point, many organizations had considered remote working taboo because of the perception that individuals didn’t get as much work done at home. “They will find other things to do” or “they are not disciplined enough to work from home”, they said. I am sure there are examples of where that is the case, but I can point to many more examples where individuals were and are able to get as much or more work done at home because they are not interrupted constantly by people popping into their office with “I’ve got a quick question” or conversations at the proverbial water cooler. Some individuals were even working while teaching their child at home and getting both of them done pretty well. Organizations should continue to allow remote working as a flexible alternative for their staff even after COVID.
- Essential Worker was redefined – Roles that many organizations used to think of as easy to replace and not really important, quickly became essential. The lesson learned here is every individual is important to the success of the organization, no matter what position they are in. This is something that we all should remember even after the pandemic is over.
- Organizational Agility is critical – Many organizations saw their primary market and resulting revenue shrink almost overnight so many of them had to pivot their strategy and go in a different direction very quickly. Agility and the ability to pivot will be critical as the economy continues to recover after the pandemic. And related to this: Always have a plan B
- Ingenuity and Creativity are as important now as they were in the Industrial Revolution and when the DotCom era was just getting started. We have seen many organizations such as restaurants, retail, hospitality who have had to change the way that they do business. We have seen organizations start producing products that they never even dreamed of because they couldn’t produce their core product. Online sales skyrocketed, curbside became a new normal. Some of the strategies and products created during this period will continue to be viable and important moving forward.
- Prepare to do more with less– The pandemic required many organizations to reduce their workforce greatly. This has required them to learn how to do more with less. Some of them may have had a plan to do this but many did not and had to adjust on the fly. Preparing to do more with less means taking the time to cross-train your workforce so that when that time comes, they are prepared to do other jobs besides the one they are in now.
- Cherish the moments you have with family and friends – This is not really a lesson learned for business so much as it is for us as individuals. The pandemic ravaged and continues to ravage the US and world population. In the US, more people have died because of the pandemic than in all of World Ward II. Many people lost loved ones and didn’t even really get a chance to say goodbye. Time with those individuals was cut short very quickly. The lesson for all of us is that you never know what time you will have so cherish the moments you have when you have them.
I’m sure there are many more lessons learned but we only have so much room here. The important thing is that we all should have learned some sort of lesson.
Was it worth it? Not even close but it would be a shame to go through a year like 2020 with so much negative and not come out with some positive takeaways.