NEW YORK: A return to normal will never come. And business leaders have to realize that, said Padilla’s Mike Garrison and Emily Valentine at PRWeek’s virtual PRDecoded conference on Tuesday.
Executives should stop thinking about the new normal, said Valentine, director of insights and strategy at the agency, because “we have arrived and it is time to adapt.”
Valentine and Garrison shared insights that the firm and its Joe Smith brand consultancy gathered from business leaders through surveys and in-depth interviews, effectively mapping the stages of what they called the “pandemic journey.”
One key finding was that leaders don’t really know how or if their businesses have changed during the pandemic. Most initially said no, but when the agency asked them to define what business transformation looks like and what their business was focused on, they changed their answer to note they were “in the midst of transformation,” explained Valentine.
“It begged the question: is true business transformation something you are able to perceive when you are in the midst of it?” she said. “Or is it like the classic Impressionist painting experience where you are up close and it is just this blobby mess until you can get a little distance and upon reflection realize what it really was.”
The best way for companies to thrive is to take new behaviors and skills that people have been forced to learn and permanently embed them into working practices and cultures, Valentine said.
Padilla has identified three areas of new behaviors and skills that businesses must embed into their approach.
First, companies should embrace entrepreneurialism. From a customer experience standpoint, that means a continuous commitment to the rapid assessment of behavioral changes and then quickly building solutions that can be honed and improved. From a workplace experience standpoint, that means working to create environments where employees have the tools, methods and space mentally and physically to work as empowered entrepreneurs, said Valentine.
Second, companies must reward adaptiveness, noted Garrison, VP of insights and strategy at Padilla.
“As customer behaviors and needs change, so do organizational needs,” he said. “So rising to meet those ongoing customer experience challenges demands new ideas, infrastructure and skill sets.”
Leaders also need to hear more and talk less.
“They need to really listen to customers and address their shifting needs [through] social listening, web-analytics-based listening or regular Zoom focus groups,” said Valentine. “Workplace experience means listening to and trusting your employees to organize and innovate.”
The study found that, at the end of the day, business is powered by the interdependence of people. It is not just about leaders; it is about a group working together.
“When it comes to keeping customers and attracting and motivating employees, being humble, vulnerable and human has never been more important,” said Valentine.
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