All great change is preceded by chaos

2021 forced many businesses transformation challenges out into the open. Those that rose to meet them have accepted that things won’t ‘return to normal’ and instead continue to build and rebuild the connections and experiences required to stabilise and optimise for refocused growth. 

2022 starts with a wearier expectation of continued change and having been at the forefront of driving rapid transformation throughout the pandemic here are a handful of my learnings translated to a set of expectations that I believe businesses need to be addressing over the coming months in order to achieve sustainable growth.

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Set boundaries for your business

If you’re going to succeed in 2022 you can’t please everyone. The increase in adoption rates of digitised services from Zoom to same day delivery in 2021, taught us that we will lose both employees and customers seeking pastures new, that’s OK. Let them go and focus on where your strengths are in servitude to those who will be with you for your next chapter.

If you're not sure where to focus, start with your owned data from the last two years and map the abandonment and adoption rates within your business to your relevant marketplace(s), this helps with finding your space to grow against friction by being where you are needed.

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Empower your employees, on their terms

In continuation of the vast adoption of remote working services, all the major players (Zoom, Cisco, Microsoft, Google and Salesforce) made their pledges last year to meet the collaboration demands of both remote and hybrid working. We can expect the relevant hardware and software to continue to come from them, you simply need to be ready to adopt it. As pertinent, is considering your companies hybrid hierarchy; how might you ensure people in the room don’t have dominance to those that aren’t? Could you invest in sound and light technology for offices? Could you maybe invest in your employees that need better support at home?

Last year started to see long term employees leave companies in favour of those that were actively supporting remote and hybrid ways of working. Embrace this and you will welcome a new wealth of intellect into your business by attracting talent from new geographies and fields, don’t embrace it and you will get left behind in favour of those that are.

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Remember your employees are also your customers

Businesses often fail to realise that they have the biggest free beta Customer Experience (CX) audience within a simple set of conversations. Your employees live and breathe your frontline every day, so value their opinions and listen to what they have to say. If they buy your products and services from you, they will be better equipped to encourage a wider customer base to do the same. I refer to this as bridging the Employee Experience (EX) to CX gap.

To quote Simon Sinek, ‘Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first'. Harness the brutal honesty your employees will impart to you given half the chance, it will be the most candid and useful insight you can find and it's free! (you will most likely need to reassure them it’s ok first). 

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Place human value before business value

I say this every year, but because it never ceases to amaze me how many times I have to remind senior stakeholders I’ll keep saying it: You must architect everything you do around human needs and desires and place those before the needs of your business. It doesn’t matter what you have to sell if people don’t want to buy it from you. Listen to what your customers (and employees) want, meet them on their terms (whenever and wherever they are) and earn their trust to do this time and again. Business growth will follow.

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Invest in connectivity

Having products in stock and the logistics in place to get them to customers speedily is simply a base requirement as we emerge from 2021. Connectivity at the pace of life across every interaction point between a human and their experience with your business must be delivered without friction to be trusted. Trust is important because it lends to pricing power over the marketplace.

This means your technology and data architecture must be able to make the critical connections at lightning speed in a holistic way from beginning to end. If you’re not already, start thinking about investing in connecting your operations experience (OX) with real time logistics and inventory data connected to your EX. Then consider if your strategy is robust enough to handle closed loop data cycles as you eliminate structural silos. These kinds of programs can take years and we probably have a further two or three to get set up for wireless first becoming mainstream and hybrid intelligent marketplaces.

IDC is a wealth of information on this thinking if you would like to read more.

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Be inclusive and enabling when it comes to social impact

It was slightly easier to put social good and climate issues toward the end of boardroom agendas in 2021 as the rising pressures of the pandemic were clearly set to stay, but people are weary now and starting to look forward again with renewed focus and greater expectation.

We’re still seeing pledges from a multitude of businesses both big (like Amazon) and small (my corner coffee shop) but people want to know what the roll out strategy is, what can they do to take part? Breaking down the initiatives into simple inclusive communications can make a world of change, quite literally.

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Be inclusive, full stop.

Everyone has learnt something about themselves and those around them in the last year, personally I think the pandemic has brought out both the best and the worst in people. Businesses have changed more rapidly than ever, but what is a business without its people?

Frances Frei runs a leadership course about Trust, in it she talks about her ‘Inclusivity Dial’ which I have stolen with pride (credited to her of course) many times since. I have adopted it as a coherent way to help dispel the tick box approach to diversity and highlight that by allowing for all the change we see in people to come together, we can ensure we don’t exclude by proxy.

Simply put, if you’re hiring the black woman because you need to tick a box so the white man therefore doesn’t make the cut, that’s not good enough. inclusivity without omission is how we build businesses reflective of the audiences we exist to serve. Yes, it’s bloody hard, but as leaders that just means we should try harder. Encourage your people to bring all that they are to all that you do - it really does make a difference. When working with clients I ask the same of them, that way we build inclusive cultures together.

I can’t grant you access to Frances Frei’s course but this podcast is worth 40 minutes of your time if you’re interested in finding out a bit more.

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In summary; put your people first, every single time.

If you are where you’re needed then sustainable growth will follow.