Leadership and Adaptation – Lessons from Digital, Transformation, and Change Professionals

The global outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) is creating significant challenges for leaders at all levels and organisations of all sizes

Hamilton Forth is running a series of virtual networking events, inviting clients to get together online and discuss the challenges currently presented by the COVID-19 crisis, and sharing ideas and best practice as how best to tackle them.  Our most recent virtual event featured digital, transformation, and change professions from a variety of sectors including Further Education, FMCG, Manufacturing, and Healthcare.

Whilst each of these sectors has been impacted and responded in different ways, what is clear is that technology has become the linchpin across sectors, and that the pandemic has accelerated the pace of change as never before.

In the first of a three part blog series following the event, we share their experiences of leadership and adaptation since the crisis hit.

Adaptation in the face of Adversity

There was consensus across the majority of sectors that the pandemic and resulting lockdown has accelerated the pace of digital change within their businesses.

The crisis has pushed those who were reluctant to use technology out of their comfort zones, but now they are embracing it.  Digital change projects that were scheduled to take place over weeks or months have ended up being completed in days.

However, it has also highlighted poor digital infrastructure for some organisations, which must be addressed if they are to continue to thrive under lockdown.

Adaptation in the FMCG sector has also included changing working patterns, to run skeleton shifts in order to allow social distancing.


Supporting Staff and Colleagues

For all organisations, supporting staff, and in some cases students, has been a priority.  Clear and concise communication internally and externally has been key to motivating and engaging with workforces, and an important way of staying true to organisational values.

Some organisations participating in our call have used the Government’s furlough scheme, in some cases with mixed responses from colleagues.  Some feel lucky to have the security of furlough without the pressures of working during lockdown, whilst others see being furloughed as an indication that they are not valued members of the organisation.  It is unclear as yet what the impact of the increased furlough programme will be.

Next Steps

The next steps in adapting to this ‘new normal’ differ across all sectors.  Further Education is dealing with assessment of students whilst closing multiple sites and moving from face to face lectures to online delivery only.  Much of its funding is reliant on overseas students which poses a problem in the near future.

FMCG has been hugely impacted by the closure of bars and restaurants around the world.  The likelihood of these outlets being among the last to open as lockdown eases indicates a slow return to normal.  However, those organisations in the sector with a global presence, particularly in Asia, are able to draw on first-hand experience of the lifting of lockdown and the changes and adaptation that may be required.

Manufacturing has seen a significant loss in sales, with sales workforces often being furloughed in their entirety.  However, the impact of the ‘digital uptake’ should mean that the businesses leave lockdown in a better position to deal with future crises or disruption.

Healthcare has seen huge demand and transformation.  There is a danger that returning to ‘normal’ undoes some of the positives that have come out of the crisis, in relation to digital transformation.

The message from all sectors is that having gone through this hugely disruptive process, that we should do our best to hold on to the positives, and look to move forward in a way that ensures that our organisations emerge stronger and more primed for adaptation in the future.

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