The NEW or NEXT NORMAL for the Company

Remote working

… currently also called
WfH (Work from Home) / Home office / Working together apart

How will we work in the future?

Companies were technically prepared for home office but most of them have postponed a change. Now they have been forced to do this overnight and realized: It works! Although many of us started to make videocalls with ridiculous backgrounds and noisy surroundings, at least we all got started. The pandemic forced us to this mind-shift. Remote work lowers the costs of the company because of a reduced need of office space and the respective expenses.

Thus, the “office in the company” model with its peak after an exponential growth of the tertiary sector after WW2, when in many countries two thirds of the active population worked in a physical office, has come to an end. This represents a big cultural transition. The way to work of the company of the future will be different.

To start, the company must question itself: What is the role of the office? What of the HQ?

Questioned about the future of remote working, enquires of many companies show all the same answers: Nobody wants to go back to 100% office work, and nobody wants to work 100% remotely. So, there is no more doubt that the generally aspired future of work is the hybrid model: Partially remote work and partially office work. The challenge in 2021 for each company will be to define the right balance between these two parts.

A lot of employees discovered that home working means an improvement of their life. No time lost in commuting hours, more flexibility in time management, more time for the family and more freedom from formal constraints.

However, despite these improvement with remote work, we want to keep a portion of physical presence in the office because we need the exchange with other people.

We enjoy an informal chat and joking at the coffee machine. We seek mentorships from experienced colleagues. We share personal information with trusted friends at work in a face-to- face conversation. We use gestures and body language to express our feelings.

A videocall just cannot transmit all this. So, it is important to physically meet from time to time, otherwise we will become unproductive and sick. The physical encounters give common identity, exchange of experience as well as inspiration and confidence.

During the pandemic, there may be companies that establish work in shifts, that is, during the morning there will be a team present, in the afternoon another one.

Working from home also means a complete shift from “working hours” towards “working for results”. This needs trust between employer and employee, and people who really bought into the goals of the company.

Also, the companies acknowledge more flexibility and agility in the remote working model and even an increase in efficiency. Company meetings went from FOMO (Fear of missing out) to JOMO (Joy of missing out), which means, people organize themselves to accomplish their parts without passive and void presence times, so often there is more focus on the essential topics.

A popular model is home working in combination with co-working spaces, as used by many self-employed today. Even several companies can use such office space at the same time. There is a common coffee machine, there are meeting rooms, maybe even a fitness studio.

Conclusion: It is worth and necessary to invest in a good and professional home office. Even for the times after the crises. Companies shall support the employees in doing this. The remote working model came to stay, at least in a hybrid working formula. So, companies must rethink their office space and have the courage to adapt the needs to the new reality. Over time, these investments will be compensated with lower overhead costs, particularly for office expenses.


For leaders/CEO’s

In the NEW NORMAL, the market and demands will continue to exist.

In the NEW NORMAL, the market and demands will continue to exist. The only question is: who will be able to supply the new products/services required? The winners will be the most flexible companies which adapted themselves to the new reality, namely the new customer needs.

Adapt

  • To be intelligent these days means to put in practice for your company Darwin's statement about intelligence and survival: It is neither the most intelligent, nor the strongest, nor the biggest that will win the struggle of survival, but the one who can adapt the fastest and better to changes.
  • A quote of Neil Rimer (Index Ventures): Adversity builds and shows the real character. Crisis sharpens the mind.
  • A quote of Brad Smith (President of Microsoft): History proves that complacency is the biggest danger for a company. This is valid even after the crisis. You have to earn your license to operate every day.
  • After recovery (of the impacts of the pandemic), quickly pass on to discovery, by adapting to the new market demands.
  • “2020 was the year of the biggest digital training course in human history” (Quote Steven Van Belleghem).

Plan

  • The pandemic made the planning timeframe much shorter. This does not mean that the overall company vision changes. But the planning phases for step-by-step achievements are nowadays much shorter.

Speed up

Speed is king: In a rapidly changing environment, the company does not have to have the best product. You rather must be the fastest in delivering the customer what you have promised to deliver. (Jack Ma, Alibaba).

  • Speed up with Digital Lean Management. “Get rid of the army of project managers and process definitions”. Read the story of CI&T when they introduced Digital Lean Management, making the company more agile through Lean Thinking.

Digitalize

  • Leaders, not the IT-staff, have the crucial role in the successful implementation of the ongoing digitalization. This can only be successful using a very collaborative working method, where everyone feels free to bring forward his ideas. The leader has to guide the team through this process, being at the same time aware that a hierarchic pyramid of command is useless to achieve this goal.
  • The question is not: Which technology are we going to use in 2030? Leaders should not have debates about the kind of technology. The question is: How are customers going to behave in 2030? What will they expect as a service/product delivery? First comes the vision (that’s the leader’s task), and then the technology to make the vision real (that is the IT team task).
    Steve Jobs never cared about the technology.More bytes and more speed never were his guidelines. He was not focused on more bytes and more speed as his guidelines. In a time when we all were using mobile phones just to make phone calls, he announced: “The iPhone is our life in our pocket”. At that time, we didn’t really understand what he wanted to tell us. But now we understand it. He had the vision, and he managed to engage his IT engineers to make that vision happen. “Start with the customer experience, and then work backwards” (Quote Steve Jobs). Albeit the fact that he has been a tech freak, he never forgot that it is always about the customers.
    In the currently ongoing intensive digitalization process, leaders must not lose themselves in technology questions, but rather streamline their whole organization around the fundamental purpose of the business: serving the current and future needs of the customers.
  • The pandemic crisis demands a “beginners mind” of company leaders, like a startup entrepreneur. Even of leaders of big companies. This means: Everything is possible. Let’s see how we could execute and implement this.

Time management

Obviously, any leader must have a strict time management, and shall use great tools to achieve this goal. However, do not think primarily about your time.

Think about the time of your customer. It is the scarcest, and therefore the most valuable resource he has. There are two thing that you can do with the time of your customer: (1) You can save his time, and you can (2) enhance the quality of his time (make it more relevant and fun).
To save your customers time, you must make sure that inefficient processes are avoided, and that the customer has an easy and convenient experience when willing to buy your products and services. If this experience is not only smooth, but also cool and entertaining, more often he will get back to order from you.

Communicate

  • Videocalls do not transmit the messages with the same expression as a face-to-face conversation. On one hand, the lack of body language and gestures make it more difficult for people to naturally classify the information received. How important is this? What do I have to prioritize it?
    On the other hand, in the remote office, the receiver of the information gets more easily distracted. The micro is on mute, so let me quickly pass a message to my kids in between. Therefore, as a leader, in a videoconference mode you must overcommunicate important things. Overcommunicate means to say it again and again until you are sure that the message got through. Though, this does not mean that employees are bombarded with videocalls. Just be very clear about the priorities.
  • The limits of digital communication, together with the mind-set of the new generation, implies that leaders have to explain more the rational of their decisions.
  • Instead of communicating by email with your staff, filling up the inbox day by day, consider smoother and more flexible channel-based communication tools like Slack, https://slack.com/intl/en-pt/.
  • In the new working environment, the company management shall make a clear distinction between synchronic and asynchronic work. Ask only for synchronic work (like videoconferences) when really necessary. Otherwise register the message and the employee can consult it during the day when best suitable for him/her.
  • Often, an introduction minute with questions about the wellbeing of everyone, the families or an exchange of ideas how to cope with some pandemic challenges relaxes the team, in order to be afterwards more focused on the business issues.

What is the mission?

People want to work for good companies. They want to be part of business for better. Specially in these times, leaders must ensure with more communication than normal that everybody in the organization understands why and how your company is good for the society.
Empowering people to believe in their own capacities and ideas is more important than ever in this fast-changing world. Make sure to give them everything they need to be organized and creative.

  • Institutionalize in the company the joint analysis of customer feedback. The customers are the most important source of information. Companies increasingly establish fix roundtables (e.g. 1x month) with customers and the representatives of all departments in order to analyze their feedbacks. Ultimately, this helps to make sure that everybody in the company understands better why changes will be made.

International ad hoc Teams

  • Covid-19 has not only enlarged the geographical reach in terms of marketing, but also for collaboration. Companies can more easily scale up and work with international teams for any kind of project.
  • Many companies have established a system of “Work Packages” with “Solution Groups”.  A “Work Package” is a project to solve a specific problem. A “Solution Group” is an international ad hoc team, composed either of people of the same company or of external partners. They all may be based in different countries. The team leadership is flexible, mostly switching between 3-4 people. So, everybody on a worldwide level can contribute to a project. This international collaboration saves costs by reducing the applied resources of each individual branch and drives innovation within the group.

Care

Be aware that in the new remote work conditions, your employees may face mental health challenges. At home, not everybody has the self-discipline and structure to keep his days efficient during many months in a row.

  • And people who don’t have a family may getting feel alone or even abandoned. The are a growing number of reports of such situations.
  • Although in the middle of the crisis financial issues get dominating, as leader show to your staff that you put people first and that you genuinely care about their wellbeing. Try to be indulgent and patient during the crisis period. Support them to make the necessary changes.
  • Extrovert people struggle more with a lockdown situation. Particularly marketeers may suffer a heavy impact because they are the most visible face of the company, the first point of contact in times when the clientele is confused and struggling themselves.
  • It is up to each person to develop the best technique to reduce stress. The is no common recipe, everyone has to find its way: Meditation, mindfulness, breathing exercises, go for a walk, telling a story to somebody in order to change ideas, etc.
  • Working at home implies cameras in the private space of your employees. Do not be intrusive to their personal life. Don’t comment the marriage photo, which is accidentally visible behind your colleagues back, unless you have that level of confidence.
  • A huge load of videocalls may cause “ZOOM fatigue” or “Remote work burnout”. Here are some ideas how to fight it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cj2_ZRhRo4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wcCk6YOvk4g
  • Finally, care about yourself. A leader must not be a superhero. No leader alive has experienced to go through a pandemic like the current Covid-19. Admit your struggles to the team, invite them to develop ideas to address problems you don’t know how to solve. They will understand and even appreciate it. Above all, stay authentic, one of the most important characteristics of a good leader.

For marketeers/CMO’s

Be Online

  • Companies which are nowadays not online on at least one marketing channel will probably not survive. Technology and smart logistics are crucial elements for the future. Close to real time order processing and high service quality are of outmost importance. The companies that dominate the “iron triangle” (a term used by Alibaba) between (1) presenting well and selling online, (2) logistics and (3) payment processing will be the winners.
  • Being online gets your product or service to many more geographies. Don’t forget to take the maximum advantage of that.
  • Anyone does anything online. The internet is a fix and indispensable part of our daily life. So the simple rule is that you have to be where the customer is. That´s why advertising is more and more relocated from other channels to the internet.

Channels

  • Reinforcement of omnichannel marketing (e.g. Youtube, Instagram, Facebook Shop, Twitter, TikTok, Snapchat, WhatsApp, physical POS’s, Ads, …). Omnichannel customers have a more emotional connection to the brand than customers of only one channel. Example: Twilio, https://www.twilio.com/ a cloud communication platform for customer engagement through all channels.

Social Media

  • Social media become increasingly social commerce. Instagram, Youtube and Facebook Shop are nowadays important sales channels. Social media sales channels want to be fed with ephemeral but always very authentic fastly proceeded information, don’t wait to make it perfect. More important than being perfect is to be ready to respond to comments. Stories of other users nurtures the relationship with the audience.
  • Niche social media networks (like Houseparty.com, Twitch.tv, …) are more target-oriented and ads on them are less expensive.
  • Keep in mind that social media is not just a digital platform to spread information, it is to engage with the customer audience. Therefore, companies must give marketeers the necessary resources to enable them to quickly reply to feedbacks and comments or even complaints. Engaged customers want to share their opinion with others.
  • A negative comment is not a problem, as long as you are quick in replying to it. Therefore, the real problem is: NOT to engage with the customer. Be first a good listener. Then, speed and agility are important. The customer needs to understand that his message got to somebody. This can avoid harmful “social media shitstorms” against your company.
  • Do not get frustrated by few engagements. Social media are a roller coaster. Sometimes it hits, sometimes it fails. Never take something personal.
  • Do not engage only the customer. Engage yourself. Have fun talks with customers. Have fun giving them feedbacks. Share your passion of the product. The customers feel and respond positively to it.

Customer care and community

  • The first step of customer care is to show that you really care about him, and you are not only after his money. Ask yourself: How can I help my customer? How can I make him happy? What can I give him?
  • The customers stay engaged in the community if they see value in this community. The content must be real and not just a one-time gimmick to attract their attention. Put yourself in their shoes and question yourself: Would I bookmark and go back to it? People participate when they think it is valuable to them.
  • Be consistent with your audience engagement. Keep a certain rhythm of posting content (1x week, 1x day, depending on your business).

Events

  • Instead of permanent physical shops, there is an increase of use of concept stores and temporary pop-up shops for punctual marketing events or for the launching of a new product. Example: Appear here (UK), www.appearhere.co.uk, Pop Up Shops (CH), www.popupshops.com/en
  • Physical events for customer engagement got more difficult or even impossible. There will be an increase of online events on virtual platforms, like for example: b2match, https://www.b2match.com

Branding

  • People lost confidence in traditional media and advertising. They trust more their friends. Word-of-mouth has always been a big marketing driver. However, the fact that people spend less time together at the workplace means that there is less offline word-of-mouth activity. Less time together in a relaxed atmosphere (like coffee breaks or after work drinks), implies less sharing of stories about experiences. Thus, to compensate a company nowadays must focus more on a great online word-of-mouth mechanism. That’s why Influencers and brand ambassadors are today more important than ever.
  • A new and fast-growing phenomenon is the creation of artificial influencers. They are easy to handle: available 24/7, no service fees, never sick, never personal issues to solve. And sometimes they are so real, that the audience is not aware that it is not a human being. Check out the example of the digital avatar influencer Lil Miquela (https://www.instagram.com/lilmiquela/), who by the end of 2020 was followed by 2.9 million people. Two years after the launch on Instagram in 2016, Miquela (created and operated by the LA-based startup Brud) had to confess that she is not a human being. This surprising confession brought some teenagers close to suicide attempts.
    Another example is the black digital supermodel Shudu Gram: https://www.instagram.com/shudu.gram/, which was created on the computer by the English photographer Cameron-James Wilson.
  • If you have a niche product, use a micro-influencer. Although he does not have an audience of millions, he has the audience who buys your product. He is an expert in a specific aera. This can be more effective in terms of sales than a very wide spreading influencer.
  • Marketing is a value driver for the company. Brands without a strong message of the company values will get insignificant. Particularly young customers want to see their brands investing in and giving benefits to the community. Therefore, it must be clear who is your audience. Why should they care about your company? Transmitting this message will create brand loyalty.
    And even if the customers already know well the company: Good branding reminds them of the values that the company stands for. This is more important in times of crisis.
  • There is a switch from brand customer to market customer. The customer buys primarily on online-marketplaces which are trustful and convenient. In a second step he searches for brands on this marketplace.
  • Love brands inspire people. Obsession brands make them feel that they need your company. Love brands connect the affection of people to a brand, nearly like they connect to other people. Love brands are sometimes even a stimulus for a personal change. However, loved brands are places where you like to go to from time to time. That’s why aggressive marketeers aspire to create obsession brands. This is a brand that people love so much that they feel the need very regularly to go back to it to engage and consume from it.

Video

Consumer behavior

  • Consumer behavior got more conscious and more political than ever before: I want to buy products from sustainable production, no pollution, no children work. All this shows a change of mindset from a consumer mentality to a more conscious customer mentality. Less products but products with more quality: make the product last.
  • I want to use it a long time, and then I reuse, repair and recycle it.
    Example: The company Tony’s Chocolonley (https://tonyschocolonely.com/int/en) which made in 5 years with chocolate (being a product of a highly saturated market), without any advertising (!), a turnover of approx. 50M€. How did they do it? With a strong political statement: Our chocolate is completely free of slavery or child labor. > Pure word-of-mouth marketing from activists. By buying this product the customer makes a political statement.
  • Through digitalization and AI, products and services get be more and more personalized. The customer wants a tailormade offer: a product that fits well to him in his current situation. This only can be done with data collection, which on the other hand raises sensitive privacy and data protection issues.
  • The new customer generation doesn’t aim to be become the product owner. He just wants to be able to use the product when needed. Temporarily renting is a valid option. Example: Cocoon, https://www.cocoon.club/ (quality woman bags for every occasion).

Storytelling

Often the marketeers tell the founder story and not the founders. Why does this business exist? What is its mission and purpose? Which problem does it address? > Share the vision and passion with the customer.


For HR and education directors/CHRO’s

  • The crisis caused the destruction of many companies. This is a moment when a lot of talent is available on the market.
  • The rule of “hire slowly and fire quickly” continues important for the time after the pandemic.
  • Find talents which speak not only different languages, but above all the language of the next generation, particularly for the purposes of leadership and marketing.
  • Less fix employees, more people and experts “on demand”.

AI-Interviews

  • HR interview and E-Learning are increasingly produced by videos using AI with real looking, but synthetically produced characters (digital avatars), in as much languages as you like. Examples: Hour One, https://www.hourone.ai/ ; Soul Machines https://www.soulmachines.com/
  • HR interview and E-Learning are increasingly produced by videos using AI with real looking, but synthetically produced characters (digital avatars), in as much languages as you like. Examples: Hour One, https://www.hourone.ai/ ; Soul Machines https://www.soulmachines.com/

Future skills

Covid-19 showed clearly that the future is unpredictable. Therefore, teaching fix procedures will not be very useful, because they will change. Rules and procedures that adults have learned in their generation often are not valid for future generations anymore. So, the learning and hiring process must focus on permanently important skills by identifying deeper lying patterns.

What do we need to stand ready for the future, and even more importantly: What skills do our children need?

Above all the other skills:

  • Having common sense. This means confidence in one's own cognitive abilities, which also means that a person has the courage to ask questions when he/she doesn't understand something.
  • Having values and principles: Integrity, character, assuming responsibility, respect for others and the community, and understanding what really matters in life. This enables a person to make the right decisions from early on.

Basic skills:

  • Online skills: Easy navigation, information research and awareness about sensitive spheres, e.g., where can I reveal which data?
  • General knowledge, eg., about checks and balances in a democracy, the economic and ecological systems etc.

Information handling and problem-solving skills:

  • Information selection out of the data abundance: What information is relevant and credible, what is rubbish? Ability to distinguish real news from fake news (in all different media channels).
  • Capacity to learn quickly (e.g., new digital tools) and adapt to new situations.
  • Understanding statistics and assess risks correctly.
  • Ability to act on the grounds of rational thinking and objective criteria, by having the impulses under control.

Behavioral skills:

  • Being proactive and assuming responsibility.
  • Self-awareness of feelings needs and desires. Honesty with yourself about these feelings.
  • Capacity of facing the facts as they are.
  • Curiosity to learn new things.
  • Creativity to find solutions and to develop visions and dreams.
  • Social sensibility.
  • Even when trying to carry out a job with perfection, having the courage to fail.
  • Stress resistance: Having the ability to develop strategies to cope with stress situations.

Practical skills:

  • Basic survival skills: Plant knowledge, making a fire, etc.
  • Craft and garden skills: Knowhow to build basic tools and equipment. House maintenance. Growing food.
  • Basic administrative skills: Know how to prioritize. Keep your home management under control.

Social skills:

  • Being an active part of a group which has to take decisions.
  • Carrying out and even coordinate teamwork. Willingness to cooperate.
  • Ability to communicate and explain own ideas, knowledge and interests.
  • Ability to talk about feelings and needs.

Conclusion: On the long run, the generalists win against the specialists. The broader the skills and knowledge base, the better one will be able to adapt to new situations. This is a fundamental ability in a fast-changing world.

However, future skills not only mean being able to deal well with changing scenarios. Future skills also mean the ability to shape the future. It's not just about preparing children and young people for the labor market of the future but empowering them to help decide what the labor market of the future will look like or even whether there will be such a thing at all. This ability is not only important in 2050. It is also important today because today's decisions foreshadow what the world will look like in 2050.