“Not Your Mom’s Global Markets”: Readying for Return – Global Re-Readiness ChecklistArticle by Lucie Newcomb, June 7, 2021
by Lucie Newcomb, CEO, The NewComm Global Group, Inc
Over the past year plus, many workplaces, particularly in the United States, have shifted to remote work and, in many cases, Global Business activities have ground to a relative halt in light of stringent travel constraints and other COVID protocols. Now, with vaccine rollouts slowly proliferating and offices and retail establishments beginning phased reopenings, how can international businesses, many coping with the business equivalent of PTSD, be sure they are Global-ready once again and, if not, become so?
Many economists forecast that the U.S. economy will grow by more than 6% this year; at least four percentage points faster than its pre-pandemic trend. Other countries are also in for unusually fast growth…The second big lesson from [past] post-pandemic booms relates to the “supply side” of the economy—how and where goods and services are produced. “Though, in aggregate, people appear to be less keen on frivolity following a pandemic, some may be more willing to try new ways of making money.”
“The Economist” 4/29/21
The focus of this blog post is to provide Global Business leaders with a brief overview towards formulating your own Global Business Readiness plan redux and shifting from a reactive stance, due to the unraveling nature of pandemic conditions, to a proactive and strategic position in getting capacities up and running at a time when your clients and customers may still trying to find their feet; especially if they are in Emerging Markets.
Global Re-Readiness Checklist
The coronavirus pandemic has offered a few silver linings, one of them being the opportunity to reset and transform; often accelerated through digital transformation. Nowhere is this more prevalent than the workplace where even Global Readiness must be revisited in detail. As typical organizations are “finding their feet” on how they will operate going forward, our current conditions and volatility have had foundational impacts for Global Business units around the world. How will you and your team get ready (again)? Here are some tips:
- Structure/Business Model – If you are part of a larger organization, be sure you understand which decisions have been made at the core business level about structure, particularly operationally, before mounting an internal Global Readiness audit, and secure a seat at the main table if at all possible. What, if anything, has changed in light of the pandemic? What type of organizational structure and plan is needed to deliver on any adjusted pillars internationally?
Here’s a quick look at some possible organizational models going forward, with new organizational models often gaining traction on the fly:
Work From Anywhere. WFA has demonstrated its value, not least of which is the broadening of the pool of talent available to businesses worldwide. This brings challenges which require agility and forward-thinking from HR functions. Recruiting, remuneration and legal compliance issues all come with country and culture specifics. Similarly, onboarding, team building, productivity, motivational efforts all need new approaches even when assisted by technology.
Work From Home/Remote options brings with them many psychological dimensions both for the organization and for the workforce due to the lack of live personal interaction with results that may need to be managed appropriately. Globalists are no stranger to remote work, often working virtually across time zones and perhaps having a strategic advantage in this case.
Hybrid model. The hybrid model combines work at the office and at home. For many employees, this has the appeal of better time management, reducing time and expense resulting from commuting. Organizations are able to formulate optimal scenarios to elicit the best levels of productivity and engagement, suited to organizational priorities and work functions. This may mean some employees working only remotely; some only from an office; and others alternate between the two. Flexibility and an intimate knowledge of business operations and employees are key components for managers and HR teams to succeed on this path. It also allows for a re-think of existing processes which, if transparent, inclusive and fair, will translate into higher engagement and buy-in. Efforts to reduce employees’ potential sense of isolation and reinforced shared values would best be built into the strategy. Global Business professionals also tend to have mastered the agility, flexibility and ambiguity to navigate and leverage this model.
Office only. For some, returning to the prevalent pre-pandemic model of “seats in seats” makes the best business sense. It may be linked to the type of manufacturing or services provided but for others it just simplifies how to manage people and processes by returning to the “known”. The downsides of remote work such as isolation, reduced networking and collaboration, digital exhaustion will be largely eliminated. However, the aspirations for flexibility from the workforce which transpired through forced new habits may prove to be challenging in retaining talent when more opportunities are available with other companies adopting a WFA or a hybrid model.
Thinking through these scenarios and adopting a plan aligned with the organization’s culture and goals are paramount to a successful transition to a post-pandemic, customer-focused setup. For Global Business professionals, it’s unrealistic to try to combine dissonant internal structures but rather be at the table when the primary structure is being decided and function as the voice of the global customer. Then, set up a concentric Global Business hub accordingly.
- Operational issues – These will be even more integral to a successful re-launch globally. Once the core business foundation has been confirmed, how will or will not your Global activities and operations align? How do they extend and apply to your International function and operations, especially in terms of interfacing with and supporting your clients and customers; an area particularly impacted hard by the pandemic, from global supply chains to travel bans? How do pandemic constraints, or slowly emerging from them, affect your ability to serve your Global customers and what if anything can be done about it?
Digital tools. Solutions like Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems may be leveraged further to assist with identifying prospective clients and connecting with existing customers.
It’s no surprise platforms like Zoom have enjoyed meteoric success during the pandemic, personalized contact remains the best way to connect but may move to a more obvious combination of physical and virtual, particularly as companies and employees reassess the need for travel. It has become acceptable business practice to connect virtually, enabling salespeople to canvas remote geographical areas saving on travel time and expenses, with the advantage of being able to schedule the intervention of other company members or outside experts in one forum. Emailed video sales presentations targeted and individualized for each stage of a buyer’s journey are another way in which the sales funnel has been optimized.
Focus on empathy. Shared feelings of anxiety, uncertainty and isolation have created empathy and a sharper focus on adaptability, as well as reliance on networks (personal, professional and community-based); physical and mental wellness across countries and continents have emerged, along with deeper levels of customer intimacy and relationship building opportunities. Translating this in ways that strengthen relationships with customers, especially in Emerging Markets, can create new business opportunities going forward.
Global Supply Chains. Is the current demand for shorter supply networks and more local sourcing a lasting trend? If so, how does this affect your procurement strategy? Port congestion and increased lead-times may have lasting effects on freight routes, costs and a re-balancing of commercial and container traffic between continents (did someone say, Suez Canal?!). What navigational strategies can you formulate to keep customers satisfied and coming back for more?
- Skills/Capacity-building – What changes have happened that might require adjustments and/or skill-building from you and your team to enhance your ability to move forward in serving your International customers? What about procurement shifts? Sales processes?
The high levels of anxiety and stress experienced by many, combined with digital burnout felt by others, have resulted in many experiencing a sense of work overload even before Global Business activities resume. Addressing these issues by allowing for some level of task re-organization and encouraging staff who support others are key focus areas. Recognition of soft skills that connect people together can go a long way in alleviating the psychological effects of the pandemic and build up employee stamina and resilience. This includes sharing lighter-hearted conversations and fun interactions that create the tissue of human bonding.
- Workplace Culture: What now? Along similar lines, what are the cultural and personal dynamics that have shifted and may require internal attention prior to a sustained outreach program? Are your colleagues burned out from WFH? If so, what do they need to do or receive to recover? Is a refresh of the company mission, particularly in terms of serving global customers, needed?
Individuals have had a tendency to shrink their network down to those closest to them in the harsher lockdown levels. To remain truly global, team members must be encouraged and given time and opportunities to reconnect with their outer networks and re-establish these relationships.
An informal survey of prevailing sentiments suggest the following capacities are especially needed at this time, particularly to embark on a new level of Global Business success, even if only transitional in nature:
– Flexibility (ambiguity)
– Vision, Clarity and Focus
The lack of live personal interaction has likely resulted in a noticeable slowing-down in innovation drives. Informal exchanges of ideas walking down the hall or In the cafeteria or more formal generations of innovative thinking through brainstorming sessions have often been missing. For Global Business leaders, this may mean considering the establishment of facilitators in future meetings which may include remote and non-remote participants to ensure all voices are heard and all ideas can flow freely, even if only during an introductory, transition period.
- Customer Check-In – Although this is an internal audit checklist, any customer-driven organization will need to have at least a dipstick level knowledge of what’s going on with clients and customers in order to ensure their teams are fully prepared to support any changes or new conditions. How have you been reaching out to customers and clients, if only to touch base during the pandemic, and how do you envision helping them with their own relaunching back into global markets?
Global businesses are exposed to a multitude of actors and scenarios which are particularly vulnerable to the levels of uncertainty felt today. Taking the time to analyze, understand and plan for both the internal and external dimensions in relation to the five critical areas detailed above will enable Global Business leaders to position themselves with the right tools, strategies and programs to address and support customers’ expectations as the world starts to normalize, even if it is likely to be an adjusted norm.
Lucie Newcomb is the Founder and President of The NewComm Global Group, Inc., a Silicon Valley-based International Management consulting firm that specializes in Global Go -to-Market (GTM) for companies, products and services and Global Leadership for Technology and Services organizations. Contact us today for a free assessment and consultation: https://www.newcommglobal.com/resources
How #COVID-19 changed the world: #G-7 evidence on a recalibrated relationship between market, state, and society https://brook.gs/2PAEQwo
General work structure scenarios:
Seats in Seats:
Leadership and Culture
https://www-forbes com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.forbes.com/sites/alisacohn/2021/04/19/loc kdown-was-hard-on-your-psyche-re-opening-may-be-worse/amp/
Global Supply Chain