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4 questions every leader should ask themselves in 2021

17 Feb 2021

David Brown, CEO of Hays US, highlights four key things leaders should consider as we enter another year of working and doing business remotely.

More than any other in recent history, 2020 was a year of leadership lessons. In just a matter of months, we learned how to adapt our organisations to a rapidly changing market. We’ve learned how to work and collaborate in new ways, and how to ensure our people are doing the same, all from a distance.

It also created the space to allow us to challenge our perception of ‘normal’, and to look at our organisation with a fresh pair of eyes. So, here are four questions every leader should ask themselves in 2021.

1. Does my vision of success still hold up?

More than ever, a clear vision of what success looks like for you is what’s going to keep you on track and drive your business forward. It’s also going to help you decide where you can cut costs and in which areas you need to invest.

So, do you have a clear vision for what this looks like? I don’t mean short-term targets or numbers, or this quarter’s quota. Financial results aside, what are the overarching goals for your business or team? What does success look like for your organisation and how will you know when you’ve achieved it?

In many ways these are not new questions but ones that we’ve been addressing for years due to the ever-increasing move towards a more virtual, global and continuous marketplace across just about every industry, whether that be online shopping, cloud storage or self-service websites.

2020 has accelerated this move tenfold. Now, more than ever, it’s time to question everything; from your organisation’s purpose to your customers’ expectations and their experience of your business. Does your old vision still fit in this new world, or does it need re-evaluating?

2. Do I have the right people and the right skills in place?

Recognising a change in the market is one thing, identifying what needs to be done is another. I believe a new war for talent is about to begin as companies start to plan for a post-Covid reality.

Which skills in your organisation are lacking? Do you need to reskill or upskill your existing team? If you need to train your existing team, where can you get that training and support?

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Do you need to hire people with the right skills? If you do, where can you find them and how are you going to attract them?

It’s important to keep in mind that many people’s attitudes to work have been fundamentally changed. Increasingly, working for a purpose-led organisation, flexible working options, learning and development opportunities and mental health support are becoming more important. What are you going to do differently in the future to attract the right people with the right skills?

Do you need to be even more flexible with your standard working hours? Is now the time to offer perks and benefits outside the norm, such as yoga classes or financial education? Is now the time to move away from paying people for the time they work, and instead for their output?

The next question you need to ask yourself here is whether or not your existing employer brand and associated employee value proposition needs to change for you to adequately compete in this new war for talent.

3. Is long-term remote working feasible for my employees?

These points have been talked about in every boardroom, at every (virtual) watercooler and on every social media platform over the past few months. In my mind, there isn’t a blanket approach that will work for all organisations; it’s nuanced. But what is certain is that where we work has changed forever.

The office is certainly not dead. It’s likely that we are looking at open-plan offices taking on a more fluid shape – one that allows for a de-densified office space.

So, what about your business? Will you ever go back to the office? How could a hybrid working environment work for you? Are satellite offices an option? Or perhaps opening localised hubs closer to where employees live? All of these decisions will have a huge impact on the productivity and engagement of your current and future workforces, so they shouldn’t be taken lightly.

As with all change, opportunities will always present themselves. Now may well be the ideal time to consider a fundamental shift in your company culture, as you look to build curiosity, creativity, trust and a growth mindset into your people and their workspaces.

4. What technologies do I need to invest in?

As companies went virtual overnight, we adapted to survive and thrive by enabling remote workforces. Now, as we look to the rest of 2021 and beyond, we should be asking ourselves how technology can support the inevitable changes on the horizon and, ultimately, ensure our organisations thrive.

For example, does my website or commerce platform stand up in what may now be a national or global market? Is my data secure now that it’s being shared across home networks, cities and even continents?

How will you protect your data, your customers’ data and instil confidence that your service is one people can trust to be safe?

Technology will play a vital role as we move forward and those organisations that have the ability to be creative and use it in new ways that will increase revenue, decrease cost and enrich their employees’ work experiences will be the real winners.

By David Brown

David Brown is CEO of Hays US. A version of this article previously appeared on the Hays Viewpoint blog.

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