The COVID-19 pandemic has altered lives around the globe, forcing people, governments and businesses to reevaluate how to operate on a day-to-day basis. Some countries have fought the crisis well, while others are still struggling to contain its spread. There has been a lot of talk about the “new normal” and there is a growing sentiment that things will be very different moving forward. A brand new study conducted by Vodafone Business of telecom giant, Vodafone, has identified the key ways in which businesses have prepared themselves for the new world we will face. These “Future Ready Businesses” all have an increased focus on adaptability as well as employee welfare.
A Look at the Study
Anyone with international experience—or who regularly watches soccer—knows that Vodafone is a household name outside of the United States. In an effort to parse out how companies best adapted their business practices to the current state of the world, the British multinational telecommunications company used its global network to conduct a study identifying the behaviors of what they deemed Future Ready Businesses (FRBs).
The study initially researched the views of 1,813 businesses from Europe, the USA, Asia and Africa, all varying in size and sector. A second phase of research was conducted when Vodafone Business explored the practices of 800 companies based in the UK, Spain, Italy and Germany. Both phases of research were supplemented with qualitative interviews.
In order to discover what practices and philosophies made up FRB’s, Vodafone “us[ed] a regression model to show what behaviors and attitudes were most closely linked with confidence in future financial performance and being well prepared for what the future holds.” The results of the research phases lead Vodafone researchers to identify twelve criteria shared between FRBs. Those criteria were then used to determine six common characteristics. Those characteristics state that an FRB:
- Has a positive attitude to change. They embrace change and are excited by the future.
- Is open to new technology. They acknowledge the power of technology to solve business challenges.
- Takes clear steps towards business transformation. They have a roadmap in place for how technology can transform their business.
- Sets a detailed strategy. They have a wider business strategy for the future that is documented, specific, funded and measured.
- Keeps up-to-date with relevant trends & uncertainties. They have clearly identified the forces shaping their business & refers to key thought leaders to help.
- Is adaptable. They can react quickly to new trends or challenges and is quicker to market than its competitors.
A Look at the Results
The six characteristics outlined above essentially reinforce the idea that there needs to be some changes in the way that business is conducted and that adaptability is paramount. Vodafone Business CEO, Vinod Kumar, emphasized the technological aspect of the change by saying, “Industries that hadn’t embraced technology are seeking to move swiftly into digitalisation. We want to help companies move quickly into this new era of working, supporting them in becoming smarter, faster and more resilient, but not at the cost of their humanity.”
Not surprisingly, the results of the study suggest the need for businesses to invest in some new telecom infrastructure in order to achieve the status of FRB. Vodafone researches highlighted that “71% of FRBs already made at least one new technology investment in direct response to the pandemic.” Those researchers also anticipate that working remotely is going to be much more commonplace moving forward, noting that “44% of FRBs surveyed expect that greater flexibility in where people work will persist after the pandemic is over.”
One of the more noteworthy aspects of this study is the way that FRBs are fostering employee welfare and engaging with their community. The study shows that employee mental health has become a priority across the board, but when compared to the 77% of FRBs, only “44% of all businesses now prioritize employee wellness and mental health, up 10 percentage points since before Covid-19.” The study also notes that “90% of FRBs reported supporting their employees further during the pandemic.”
In response to the shift in societal attitudes, FRBs are taking on a larger focus on ethics and the community at large. Vodafone Business reports that 94% of FRBs “reported taking some form of action to support those outside their business” during COVID-19 as compared to 81% of organizations.
When exploring why “46% of all businesses (compared to 58% of FRBs) wanted to support their country or local community” researchers found that the top priorities were “differentiating the business (41%, compared to 46% of FRBs) and customer retention (55%, compared to 62% of FRBs).”
What Does it all Mean?
While this is a very qualitative and speculative study, it does bring to light some important business practices that need to be considered by all as we look toward the future. While the core of the study’s recommendations boil down to stressing the necessity of flexibility, the importance of employee mental health in this equation can not be overlooked.
Vodafone Business has shown in this study that in order to be a business ready for the future, you need to not only re-address logistics and infrastructure, but take care of the mental and emotional well-being of your employees and community at large.