Globally, economies are being reopened while the fight to flatten the COVID19 curve is still on. The highly volatile ‘new normal’ is unfolding under our feet. Meanwhile, we’re being challenged to make sense of it and maximize gains or at least minimize losses. Leaders in the public and private sectors are under pressure to provide answers as the search for normalcy continues. This is probably distracting them from doing what successful leaders do best: ask great questions.
As a strategy partner, I work with my clients on raising and answering the right, sometimes very complex, questions. But over the last few weeks, we have been deliberating over some basic questions. To help envision a few alternative or coexistent scenarios for the new normal, we raised these questions with leaders in the energy, health, and coaching industries. The answers reinforce the complexity of the evolving new normal. But when it comes to what it takes to be on the winning side, the answers were not so different from what we would have heard prior to the coronavirus outbreak. We all probably just had assumed that we had more time to address the imperatives of innovation, sustainability, empowerment and engagement for example.
In this first article, we summarize the major insights provided by our respondents in answering our first question:
Which individual behavioral shifts will characterize the post-COVID19 new normal?
The first question is about the personal and professional behavioral shifts that will prevail even as the world recovers from the health and economic crisis. It is critical for every leader to make a habit of raising this questions to improve intelligence about client preferences, end user demand, and employee dynamics. The results of our survey show consensus around four areas of behavioral changes that are already transforming the landscape in most, if not all, public and private sectors.
- Flexibility toward remote working. A conservative attitude toward physical proximity is expected to continue for some time, at least until real progress is made on an effective vaccine. Also, as employers experience cost savings and begin to trust the performance of remote workers, it is anticipated that many could follow Twitter in rolling out their indefinite remote working policies.
- Virtual communications and team dynamics. Virtual meetings are expected to be an acceptable norm unless in-person meetings are an absolute necessity. Organizations and employees are also expected to continue to seek creative ways for remote team building and operations and virtual relationship building.
- Personal health prioritization. Most of our respondents expect individuals to become much more aware of their health conditions and view improving their mental and physical health as a priority. This will affect how they view work and the work environment and their personal and professional habits.
- New spending and buying habits. The economic crisis and resultant financial pressures and fears that followed COVID19 containment efforts are expected to linger for some time. Individuals and businesses have already become much more conservative spenders, an attitude that could stay beyond the economic crisis. Also, there is consensus that the growing preference for online shopping is here to stay not only to adhere to social distancing measures, but also to have access to a wider range of choices when it comes to product pricing and quality.
These and other behavioral shifts are presenting new growth opportunities for some industries such as online retail and technology. At the same time, unprecedented risks have surfaced for other sectors such as the airline and energy industries. Challenges on both sides require creativity from leaders in considering game-changing behavioral shifts and addressing their implications on demand for their products or services, their supply chains, and/or workforce dynamics for their organizations.
To continue to provoke thought around the ‘new normal’ scenarios evolving for different industries, we will follow up with three other blogs covering survey results for three more questions:
- In what ways will leaders continue to approach their businesses and employees differently even as we recover from the crisis?
- Which societal and business values are going to prevail in the post-COVID19 world?
- What will take for businesses to be on the winning side in the ‘new normal’?
In the meantime, start thinking about how the ‘new normal’ could be shaping for your organization and larger industry and what it means for your priorities as a leader.