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Twelve insights to help build your business recovery roadmap

Sep 11, 2020

We all know a financial storm is headed our way, but how do we cope when it does hit us? Graham Reid gives us twelve steps that can be taken to navigate the perils of post-COVID economic recovery.

After the storm comes rebuilding. And there’s a lot to do. COVID-19 has profoundly affected the norms of business across every industry and geography. From new ways of going to work (or not), long-lasting shifts in customer psychology and behaviour, and radically transformed operational networks and business portfolios, the world in the second half of 2020 is very different from the start of the year, for better as well as for worse.

The only thing that’s certain about the recovery is that there’s still a huge amount of uncertainty about what form and how long it will take, with different countries – even different regions within countries – continuing to be impacted in different ways, and no certain cure for COVID-19 yet in sight. What should the working world expect from the pandemic recovery period? How is it best achieved? Outlined below are steps organisations and individuals need to take, not just to get back up and running, but also to become stronger and more resilient in the process.

1. Reimagine and transform

The world is slowly adapting to the impact and waking from the nightmare of COVID-19. But getting back up and running requires more than just business as usual. It’s a two-geared process, a balancing act between transitioning safely into a new working world and taking steps to engage in the transformation of working conditions and practices that COVID-19 has unleashed.

2. Address client anxiety

The behaviour and decisions of consumers are what keep the business world ticking. But COVID-19 has dealt a massive – and potentially permanent – blow to the way they interact with businesses. As just one example, 44% of global consumers indicated they would be more likely to do grocery shopping online as a result of the pandemic. Firms looking to survive will understand this and will adapt accordingly.

3. Rethink the workplace

Some businesses have been able to opt to continue remote working practices for the foreseeable future, but for many others, a swift return to work is vital to remain financially viable. To do this safely for their staff and customers, organisations need to prioritise cooperation, communication and accountability, and supplement with cutting-edge technologies and working processes, including crowdsourcing, risk apps and collaboration platforms.

4. Maximize your people’s potential

Concern for the wellbeing of your workforce isn’t just about a duty of care – it's a business imperative. Led by an integrated Human Resources response, rebuilding will mean effectively engaging with the workforce, understanding and reacting to employee expectations of the care provided by employers and the ability to match workforce capability to financial and risk considerations.

5. Identify legal issues

Even if the worst of the crisis may seem to be over, with interim regulatory measures still in place in much of the world, the full aftermath is yet to hit. As the world moves on from the peak of the crisis, from cancelled contracts to employee class actions, COVID-19 is likely to leave a range of legal turmoil in its wake. Modelling potential outcomes, identifying potential risks, and capturing relevant data is critical for businesses looking to weather an anticipated storm of litigation.

6. Learn lessons from those a few weeks ahead

When re-opening, it can be instructive to look at what has happened during reopening elsewhere – both in other industries and markets. China was the first country affected, and at the beginning of May, it became one of the first to re-open. Here we can look at key lessons from its experience, from assessing supply chains to preparing for future virus spikes.

7. Adapt operations, increase resilience

Even before COVID-19, business was facing pressure to act more responsibly, and the crisis will only accelerate that. As we look to an uncertain recovery, likely to be more saw-toothed than smooth, the pandemic presents us with a chance as much as a challenge. With such a significant economic and social impact, radical changes in how we operate are not just possible, but necessary. This is a chance to segue from a growth economy to a value-based one, prioritising long-term value and resilience and the needs of multiple stakeholders over short-term growth. Flexibility has always been a business advantage, but it will now be critical to survival.

8. Forecast more effectively

Making smart financial decisions post-COVID-19 is critical and, in such a radically changed world, only companies with effective forecasting and scenario planning strategies can do so with any confidence. However, in a webcast survey by EY, only 9.2% of respondents were very confident in these areas.

9. Adapt to shifting expectations

For good or ill, what consumers expect of companies is changing. As we move from crisis to whatever comes next, businesses need to be ready to adapt to changing customer attitudes and needs: reshaping their portfolios for new business realities, creating new and responsive digital customer journeys, and taking the right steps to ensure transparency moving forwards.

10. Identify the right divestments

In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, firms proactive about reviewing and strategically divesting their portfolio outperformed their peers. The same may well prove true of the COVID-19 aftermath.

11. Encourage inward investment in your region

COVID-19 hit Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) hard. While 23% of investors surveyed indicated an intention to delay investment plans entirely, 51% expected minor delays in FDI plans.

12. Stabilise the economy

Reassuring and supporting individual customers in the immediate crisis is one thing, and something all businesses can work toward. But banks will have a particularly important role to play in the longer-term, post-crisis stabilisation of the global economy. Businesses will need to build close relationships with their banks to manage the inevitable risks of an uncertain environment and secure ongoing access to the capital that will be essential for their long-term recovery and growth.

Graham Reid is Head of Markets in EY Ireland.