Wednesday 20 May 2020 5:00 pm

Tech-savvy businesses will define the new normal

Paul Smith is Executive Vice President and General Manager of Salesforce UK & Ireland

As the UK starts to turn a corner in its response to the coronavirus pandemic, the role of leadership and technology will be crucial in helping businesses and communities overcome the challenges that lie ahead.

We’re already seeing businesses re-imagine their operational models, revenue streams, and supply chains. Decisions and innovations which previously took weeks are being made and delivered within days.

Read more: City A.M. launches Save our SMEs campaign

By stepping up for communities, too, we’re reminded how business can be the greatest platform for change. As business leaders we have a responsibility to continue to support those who are impacted, and as we help our employees return to work safely, prepare them for the jobs that will be transformed or will emerge during this crisis.

Progress will be a phased approach

We think of this crisis in three distinct phases: the crisis response; recovery and getting back to work; and the new normal. Whereas the initial phase demanded a fast shutdown, the second phase to return to physical locations will require a structured approach.

Technology will support return-to-work readiness across locations, employees and visitors. Shift management, compliance to new health and safety regulations, and implementing more agile and sustainable work practices add to the great digital imperative heightened by this pandemic.

As the demand for digital services accelerates, transforming our workplaces also means re-defining how we learn, develop and up-skill our people. As companies look to overcome the immediate challenges of today, employees need to be equipped with the skills required in a world that’s becoming rapidly digitised.

Eurostar is a great example – the company has re-deployed colleagues across the business to match changing business priorities. Where a huge proportion of the company’s crew and operational staff saw their workload negatively affected, managers have sought to equip them with the skills to deal effectively with customer queries – helping maintain their high customer service standards.

Business is a platform for change

Having spent much of the last decade re-rebuilding trust amongst stakeholders, the pandemic is testing to what extent businesses’ values are actually reflected in their actions. How businesses plan and behave now will shape the way they will be viewed after the crisis. How they balance new and persistent challenges, like bridging existing skills and educational gaps, will determine our success as a society long into the future.

Few of us will go back to the way we were before. By using technology and influence for good, innovations that come from this pandemic will be retained for the long-term benefit of everyone and construct the path to the ‘next normal’.

By putting values into action we can show that business really is the greatest platform for change.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.