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Change performance during the coronavirus

Enacting Change During COVID: Take Control of the Critical

COVID-19 is adding unprecedented urgency and complexity for all businesses managing change investments. Re-examining priorities, curtailing or deferring spend, and refocusing key resources are more important than ever for companies looking to regain control of the critical.

Amid the pandemic, annual progression plans are being transformed into daily decisions and course corrections around this new norm of unpredictable resource availability. Splitting change agendas and portfolios into ‘critical’ and ‘non-critical’ (those initiatives that either can or can’t be safely progressed) is therefore an absolute necessity in order to ensure conservation of precious funding, returns on investment, and business continuity.

Expediting ‘cost savings’ and operational efficiency for our clients has been a priority at Match over the past 20 years and we know better than most the choices that drive a balance between market presence and growth, with OpEx constraints.

For one of our clients, in the life & pensions sector, this meant accruing annual cost savings of £200m whilst growing revenues by 40%; for another, a local authority, we achieved £395m savings over three years while maintaining critical services.

In the current unnerving climate, we still harbour the same ambitions for businesses in need of guidance. And we’re striving to help clients in two distinct ways throughout the duration of the coronavirus.

An industry linchpin

Firstly, we’re leveraging our experience to ensure that the approach to cost saving is agile and responsive to the emerging situation. We are providing our clients with tailored consultation, planning for a realistic set of scenarios and specific impacts relative to their sectors and business.

We’re helping them align to realistic expectations while taking proactive steps to prepare for both the expected downturn, and a potential forthcoming rebound.

Understandably though, many businesses are apprehensive about taking such ‘proactive’ steps at this time. In unprecedented scenarios, making investments or enacting change feels like a gamble. In this respect, many businesses take reassurance from the knowledge that everyone else is going through the same challenges and are responding in a similar way.

It’s human instinct to not want to fall behind, or miss out, but how do you know what everyone else is up to? Well this is where our second primary role comes into play.

We have a portfolio of client organisations across a broad spectrum of sectors, and we remain in constant communication with them, in order to both guide and learn from what they’re experiencing. We are therefore perfectly placed, acting as a linchpin, to filter core knowledge, fundamental responses and recurring market trends so that nobody feels like they’re going through this alone.

Being an industry linchpin also grants us unparalleled access to more tailored areas and disciplines of businesses, rather than just C-level.

Already, we have seen significant capability and knowledge gaps open as a result of company restructures, redundancies, IR35 and partner offboarding. And to mitigate this, our relationship with HR, finance, hiring managers and at administrative level is strengthening to give more refined insight, support and comfort around the actual issues being created.

The show must go on

Change may not seem like a priority when the biggest change at hand is the one being forced upon them. But when the significance of cost savings and wider industry understanding are ramped up to the extent they are at present, an informed change management consultant has never been more valuable.

Our overriding message now, is that battening down the hatches may seem like the wisest course of action but it will ultimately do more harm than good. For decades we’ve been encouraging the art of adaptability and true agility. Now, more than ever, is the time to exercise such initiatives.

Many organisations’ customer behaviours are changing. Employees are having to create a proper digital working infrastructure in their own homes. This isn’t business as usual.

However, for most, the show must go on, and companies still need to be able to deliver the aforementioned critical aspects of their business. Can they do so via their usual approach? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be done.

Remote working’s teething problems

How people work has changed overnight, with Arran Stewart, cofounder and chief visionary officer for the automated job-matching site Job.com, reporting that 44% of companies previously not willing to entertain remote working are now being forced into just that.

Stewart goes on to predict that companies will see that workers can be productive at home, and that this will almost certainly lead to longer-term changes in behaviour among companies previously resistant to remote working.

Virtual working has been so successful for one of our clients that, in just three weeks of enforced virtual working, they have already decided to close one of their three offices and move to a radical new remote working, hot-desking strategy.

However, this is a difficult shift for many other businesses to make with immediacy, and without time to properly initiate the transition. Already, clients have reported back teething problems with the resultant remote working option. These include:

  • The volatility and instability of digital communication tools
  • Space issues at home to retain the same level of focus as employees would have in the office
  • Sharing workspaces with spouses, partners or family members for the first time – creating difficult, if not inhospitable, environments
  • Not having the requisite digital infrastructures to perform the same functions at home in a secure and accurate way
  • A general lack of digital proficiency among older workers in particular, who aren’t geared up or trained in some platforms or digital tools

It’s all well and good saying that a move towards remote working and a direct replication of in-office operations would save the company money. But if work isn’t being carried out to usual standards or is taking three times as long, then money is likely being lost rather than saved.

And that’s why organisations shouldn’t be afraid to seek assistance from facilitators who can make these conversions more seamless and successful.

How can we help?

At Match, we of course look to tailor our service and guidance depending on the bespoke needs of each client. And, at present, such needs revolve around these aforementioned notions of ‘wellness’ and ‘technical capability’.

The first topic, wellness, addresses a lot of the logistical issues raised earlier upon this mass move towards remote working.

Ultimately, we advise to get into a healthy routine as quickly as possible. This might mean swapping your commute time for an online yoga or exercise activity. It revolves around eating well and consistently, and it includes retaining communication with colleagues, friends and family even when face-to-face interaction isn’t possible.

The second is of course more technical, driven by a – pleasing – recognition that the way companies are operating at present is perhaps the way they should have already evolved before; and certainly how they’re likely to remain in the future.

Despite many organisations’ fears, a business can be run through the optimisation of digital tools and a cloud-facilitated business. And we’re already called upon to fill vital roles in areas of programming, assurance, and digitisation so that this transition is accelerated (both to cater for needs throughout COVID-19, and the new norm beyond).

Such ingrained agility also entails backfilling client staff who fall ill, as well as in areas of risk management and priority assessment. Again, areas that can be addressed proactively even if every instinct is urging to safeguard and wait out the storm.

We’re adapting too

To be able to help sufficiently, we do realise that there is an onus on providers in our space to also practice what we preach, and to be equally adaptable in a changing climate.

Investment propositions are understandably not top of organisations’ list of priorities at present, and consultancy fatigue may set in as a consequence. Operators like Match need to not only convince of the importance of prioritisation, staff upskilling, risk management, and digital transformation. But that we can put together a package and offering that suits their current capabilities at this time as well.

This is reflected in our guidance around interview processes which are now being conducted digitally, and indeed the onboarding process which now incorporates online inductions and even VR-enabled tours to make new candidates feel welcomed and settled.

These are all key steps through which we can help our clients by facilitating their productivity at a time when it’s easy to go dormant and retrench.

Additional propositions around pricing packages to align with inevitable budgetary fears or limitations are also in the offing as we look to be every bit as adaptable as we want our clients to be.

Even in a crisis such as the unprecedented pandemic we face now, there is still work to be done. It may be a changing work dynamic, but ‘change’ is something we have always urged organisations to embrace, if done so in a considered and informed manner.

A question we urge clients to ask themselves now is: ‘what does normal look like when you return?’

The answer should be: more digitally savvy, operationally flexible, and forward-thinking than ever before. The time to plot that journey is now, and we’re on hand to guide companies along the route.

We’re putting the full Proteus and Match portfolio of capabilities in your hands, so that you too can come out of this all the more grateful for change and in control of the critical.

 

Written by James Fowler - Director - Match Performance

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