Firms can weather the storm and thrive despite the current climate

Tim Skinner
Q What questions should businesses consider when planning investment during a difficult economic period?

A The Institute for Fiscal studies said this week that the current economic environment – “austerity” – is likely to be with us until 2018. Organisations will thrive if they embrace this outlook and design into their processes, people and infrastructure the ability to rapidly react to market opportunities and risks. This ability to act in an agile manner, identifying and monetising new opportunities and threats, requires employees to be supported by a collaborative infrastructure. This enables people to work effectively as teams across functional and geographic boundaries to facilitate rapid decision-making and the implementation of plans.

Q How can companies better engage their employees in their investment plans?

A To paraphrase Tom Peters: ”listen to your employees”, they are the closest to the customer and the business. Most respond well to being listened to and seeing changes that demonstrate the listening was not in vain. In today’s connected world, listening to your employees, however remote, has never been easier. Social media, business video and mobility all enable organisations to communicate quickly and effectively. Generation Y, those born in the 1980s and 90s, are the embodiment of this communication culture, blending work and play together with a mix of technology and attitude.

Q How can businesses effectively prepare themselves for an unpredictable future? What place does a focus on innovation have in this preparation?

A The future is predictably unpredictable and becoming an innovative organisation creates value for customers, employees and shareholders. The ability of your people to harness their creativity is accelerated when they have a clear understanding of your organisation’s goals and strategy, supported by an infrastructure that gives access to relevant information quickly. Couple this to the ability to team with the people best able to help them, and innovation will happen on a macro and micro scale.

Q To what extent is an effective business infrastructure useful in weathering a difficult economic environment?

A This week’s weather challenges are the perfect analogy for answering this question. Companies that invest in inherently flexible and mobile infrastructure will minimise the disruption to their customers during the economic and environmental storms battering the UK. Companies that create the ability to work regardless of location, using video to cover a missed meeting (because the rail lines were flooded), or automatically moving customer calls to an alternative contact centre or home workers, are more likely to thrive in adverse economic and weather conditions.