PwC: agile operations will be crucial for success (COVID-19)

By Janet Brice
Redesigning the employee experience will pave the way for a profitable future during a second wave of the pandemic, says a survey from PwC...

 Agility to work alongside the COVID-19 pandemic is crucial for future success according to a global survey of top Chief Finance Officers (CFOs). As business leaders shift focus from survival to recovery a report from Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) reveals redesigning the employee experience (EX) will be paramount.

According to the PwC survey, 63% of CFOs are looking to generate revenue by changing or refreshing their product and services as they navigate the new normal. More than half (52%) report they plan to make remote working a permanent option with plans to improve the experience for employees.

PwC’s COVID-19 CFO Pulse – Insights from global finance leaders on the crisis and response concludes: “Ultimately, they accepted that they’ll need to find a way to exist alongside, and thrive in spite of, the ongoing threat of COVID-19 in the months and possibly years to come. While bracing for a second wave of infection and working to enhance revenue streams, finance leaders will continue to prioritise agility as they navigate this new world.”

The report, which quizzed 989 CFOs from 23 countries, also highlights the following points:

  • CFOs are most concerned about the effects of a global economic downturn (60%), a new wave of infection (58%) and financial impact on their company (47%)
  • Most CFOs expect an effect on their bottom line with 53% expecting a decrease in revenue and/or profits of up to 25% 
  • A total of 75% of CFOs who say the increased flexibility developed during the crisis is a factor that will make their organisation stronger over the long term
  • A total of 74% are confident with their shutdown protocols during a second wave

The global crisis has accelerated dramatic changes in the workplace. This now means redesigning and investing in the EX to ensure remote workers are well supported, feel safe and actively take part in collaboration and creativity. A focus on well-being should offer time off, mental health support and meeting people’s individual needs.  

A good EX leads to a good customer experience, which then feeds back to employees fuelling a sense of purpose and satisfaction, creating a virtuous circle. 

Three steps to developing the EX of the future:

  1. Focus on safety and well-being

According to PwC’s survey, more than seven in 10 business leaders are strongly confident they can provide a safe working environment for their staff.

For remote workers this will mean two crucial points; the ability to work harmoniously from home and secondly, to ensure they are given the tools and support needed. Customer-facing employees, factory or field workers should operate within the new normal of safety measures. 

CFOs are encouraged to adopt design thinking, a holistic process based on open listening and dialogue which aims to pursue change WITH employees not FOR them. This collaborative process would see employers going into the field. Ethnographic tools from observation to interviews will help define ways to improve future working practices.

Employers are also urged to take a humane approach during this difficult time as many people are now juggling domestic and work stress under one roof. 

  1. Connect with remote workers

The pandemic is temporary, but the changes are likely to be permanent. Sudden status as remote workers may lead employees to question the whole notion of belonging to an organisation. 

Therefore, it’s important to promote on a strong and positive culture, one that demonstrates connection to and care for employees. Tap into natural leaders who are good at connecting people and who can teach key cultural behaviours.

Aim to be transparent with employees to build and reinforce a more trusting relationship and a deeper bond. Don’t forget ‘gig workers’ as contractors serve a vital role in times of economic uncertainty.

  1. Identify positive experiences

Investigate how EX influences the customer experience. Apply design thinking principles by getting feedback from employees and customers to gauge how well they’re functioning under the pandemic-induced strain and what impact employees are having on customers.  

Positive behaviours can then be spread throughout an organisation and negative ones eliminated. Key performance indicators can be introduced to track the adoption of those behaviours and allow a more agile response to future challenges. 

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For more information on business topics in Europe, Middle East and Africa please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief EMEA.

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