February is almost over. The new year’s excitement has given way to a slight anxiety about what may lay ahead. However, amid the characteristic unpredictability of our times, one thing is sure: we can all do better, as people and in business.
Most importantly, since betterment has various shapes, we reach out to insiders to understand the most relevant business strategies of 2022 to help companies and professionals enhance their performance for a new year of meaningful growth.
We talk to business insiders to understand the 5 top trends to improve your business strategies.
Keep strolling so we can help you make the best-informed decisions for your company.
Change is not the enemy; stillness is
Much has been written about the comfort of stillness. Risk aversion is embedded in our condition as humans, for we perceive predictability as a safe-guard. Although this evolutionary feature protects us from hazards, its impacts prevent businesses and professionals from evolving in the workplace.
For Cynthia Hester, director of Global Customer Programs at Google, the biggest challenge of 2022 is to accept the inevitability of change as part of the business strategies. A slight shift in perspective can turn unknowns into opportunities.
“Many businesses are expecting that once things settle down with the pandemic, we will all return to some level of normalcy. First, I think it will take a lot longer than we may expect. Second, we have all made shifts in our lifestyles, and I am not sure companies embraced it.”
Hester observes that businesses must rethink the current working model to have long-term growth. In order to retain talent, they must address the novelty needs of their employees. “Emotionally, we have all changed [during the pandemic]. People are so burnt out and tired. When we went into lockdown, the biggest shift was the number of hours people were working. It skyrocketed. Suddenly it became the norm, back-to-back calls, for nine hours a day,” she affirms.
The “doing businesses as usual” is no longer acceptable in this dynamic new world, and it may be hurting careers and businesses, for it gives little to no room for reinvention. If companies and professionals seek to improve, welcoming change is a necessity.
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It is time for companies to examine leadership roles critically. Are leaders providing the expected support and resources to their workers? Can they effectively navigate the future and develop a new generation of leaders? Or are they just holding on to their titles, letting workers problem-solve by themselves without the room to innovate? Unfortunately, modern work settings have rendered traditional business strategies obsolete when it comes to leadership.
A Gallup survey revealed that leadership accounts for “at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores across business units.” Putting it simply, managers have the power to strengthen or compromise their employees’ motivation at work. There is no doubt among specialists: disengaged workers will quit. It is just a matter of time.
Hester, who has more than twenty years of experience in the high technology arena, conveys that leaders must acknowledge mistakes, embrace failure, and adapt to new demands. “There are managers out there not so eager about change, unable to recognize that maybe their framework is not the right one. But, when leaders are self-aware and embrace change, that is when the magic happens, for they have the power and influence to affect things,” she adds.
Gallup’s Workplace Insights confirms that it will take more than a 20% pay raise to convince most professionals to leave a workplace in which their managers engage them. On the other hand, disengaged workers are quick to switch companies without alluring financial incentives. The best business strategy for long-term success is a leader who inspires and supports the team.
Embrace human-centered design
Human-centered design (HCD) is a framework well known by designers and project managers, which can benefit businesses and professionals in other areas. It is a strategy of problem-solving where the customer’s perspective is at the core of the journey, whether to shape ideas or products. Why does it matter? Because when the customer’s perspective is at the forefront of the creative process, companies can provide practical solutions to actual needs.
For too long, professionals have been accustomed to sitting in rooms full of likewise book-smart people, trying to solve problems internally. Professor at Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California Berkeley, Hector Cardenas, reveals that “the most interesting trend is when businesses go out to talk to their customers, stakeholders and so forth. They crowdsource ideas rather than trying to make their products or services better just by focusing internally. So more and more, you have initiatives that are creating public value by engaging the very same people who are going to be impacted by corporate and government decisions.”
Cardenas, also president of the Ergo Group, believes that the conventional methods of doing business inwardly won’t get us far. Instead, for him, diversity of thought and experiences have to be encouraged on all levels of businesses operations to generate solutions. “When we have a healthy confrontation [of ideas], that’s when the new comes about,” he explains.
Take, for instance, ketchup bottles. Consumers were struggling with them. They were too messy, hard to maneuver with one hand, and often customers couldn’t get enough ketchup from the bottle.
The human-centered design approach was more prominent and easier to handle: inverted bottles that use the natural power of gravity to assure the correct product dose each time. This is one of many tangible examples of human-centered design applied to customer experience optimization.
Nevertheless, companies should bring the same approach to improve internal issues. For example, businesses expect employee engagement and productivity without even asking if their operation is worker-centered. It may sound like something new, but when also implemented internally, a human-centered initiative improves processes, experiences, and, ultimately, end-products.
According to Deloitte Insights, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group applied worker-centered strategies to create an easy-to-use app so employees could manage benefits, vacation schedule, time, and attendance at a click. “What does a great employee experience look like from beginning to end?” is the go-to question companies can start asking themselves to create a better work environment. Questions lead to new solutions that contribute to employee productivity, engagement, and satisfaction.
Talent is hard to find; learn how to retain them
People are leaving the workforce, period. According to the Job Openings, Layoffs, and Turnover Survey (JOLTS) from the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4.2 million workers left their jobs in October alone. Although it is impossible to discern the subjective motivation that led each American to resign, we can wisely read the underlying message: companies need to rethink their business strategy to retain talent. A complete revision of wages, flexibility, and benefits will have to occur if companies are determined to keep their employees.
According to professor Cardenas, “companies need to understand that people are not expendable. People are resigning in mass because they don’t feel that they are part of anything that values them beyond the paycheck”. He explains that the relationship between employers and employees has a transactional nature requiring a revision to fit today’s necessities.
“Companies have to rethink their relationship with their workforce and try to reestablish these sort of long-term bonds. Employees want a sense of purpose, belonging, and meaning. I am going to be thinking very deeply about how to motivate and reward my people; how do I get them to achieve their true potential.”
Before the turn of the year, Bloomberg revealed Apple’s preemptive strike to retain top talent. The company offered stock bonuses ranging from $50.000 to $180.0000 to avoid an exodus to rival tech companies, especially Meta, former Facebook. But is money the only force capable of keeping employees engaged? Maybe not.
Create meaning as part of the business strategy
Generations ago, we were taught to work hard, for the work was a noble thing, in and of itself. There wasn’t much information to challenge this concept at the time. Meaning was visibly connected to the output of labor. So we did; we kept a strong work ethic. However, in today’s world, many companies exist solely for profit, generating revenue but lacking soul. Workers don’t see a reason to invest 8+ hours of their day, five or more days per week, away from what truly matters in life: their sense of purpose.
A common denominator among employees is that they all seek to be part of something greater. So rather than operating around aged missions and visions, companies must ask uncomfortable questions: why does this organization exist? How are we contributing to society? As a result, people are more conscious of their business’s footprint; they want to be part of a solution and the subsequent transformation that leads the world into something better. Professor Hector Cardenas gives us a piece of advice for companies seeking to improve their business strategy:
“We have to rethink everything from scratch. We can’t stay put. You have to offer value to people, and value changes all the time. You can go industry by industry, each of them has space to make itself better, creating better ideals at a social level, not just for return to the investors.”
Most importantly, there isn’t a quick fix or one-size-fits-all approach that will take care of the problem. Businesses will have to put in the work of reinventing themselves, and that requires excellent levels of attention directed towards internal stakeholders. Many companies indeed lack purpose, but others just have to learn how to communicate their purpose better. From the companies’ vision to end-product, employees may be lost in corporate translation, struggling to comprehend the meaning behind their job titles. Sometimes the obvious must be said aloud: share the real impact of what they are doing. To achieve engagement, combine productivity with purpose our your strategies.
Hester is a senior marketing professional with more than twenty years in the global high technology arena. As senior-level manager, she has led and managed cross-functional teams, developed and implemented global strategic plans.
Professor at Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California Berkeley and the president of the Ergo Group, Cardenas led projects for government agencies as well as for the World Bank Group, the Interamerican Development Bank, USAID, UNDP, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.