As the pandemic surges, now is when we need to prepare for the future

In every crisis is an opportunity.

by Jean Stephens
Last Updated: 08 Apr 2020
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We are currently living through the most significant disruption to the global economy and society since the Second World War, a situation very few us thought we would experience in 2020. While our top priority is the good health of our loved ones, friends and colleagues – we business leaders also have the difficult task of considering what this crisis will mean for the future of our organisations.

Once the coronavirus pandemic passes, businesses must be prepared to move quickly to respond to stock market surges and the recovery of growth and economic activity. Whilst it is easy to be consumed by the immediate impact these uncertain times have on us all, we must take care to also remember the long game and make sure the right people are in place to discover and capitalise on the opportunities that lie ahead. 

Success very much depends on our ability to think differently, be agile and change the way we work in order to fit our new environment. Remote working is now the norm for many people and the kitchen table has become a centre for business activity - an experience that many cosmopolitan start-ups will be comfortable with, but larger organisations will still be becoming accustomed to.

With 810 offices, operating all over the world, at RSM we too are adopting a more agile and innovative approach so that we can continue to support our clients with minimal disruption. In times like these, necessity is the mother of invention and existing systems can be put to new uses. 

For example, my colleagues in RSM Spain recently partnered with blockchain services company Banqu, to develop an immutable ledger of information about RSM Spain’s client’s supply chains - an increasingly important capability, in these challenging situations, as supply chains come under significant strain. Elsewhere, our people and clients are finding that cloud storage solutions are critical hives for communication as we increasingly work remotely. 

As well as our commitment to innovation and digital technology, our long-term talent strategy has made us more resilient for a crisis like this. What used to be a relatively niche career path, predominantly for business-driven mathematicians, now requires a mix of numeracy, emotional intelligence and technological adaptability. That greater diversity in approaches and skill sets has made it far easier for us to adapt to client needs, particularly over the last month. 

Therefore, in preparing for an uncertain future, businesses must look beyond traditional qualifications and embrace professionals from diverse backgrounds - from engineers to coders, lawyers to HR professionals. As we continue to build and future proof our teams, we must proactively look for a variety of different skill sets to tackle challenges, and this often means harnessing ideas and innovative solutions from those with non-traditional backgrounds. In some cases, supply chains may never be the same again and this will require leaders with new skills to manage the dramatic logistical transformations.

The nurturing and development of an organisation’s people will never cease to be important – but now more than ever, identifying and empowering the next generation of our business leaders is crucial. For many businesses and the advisers who serve them, this pandemic could be a catalyst for those new leaders to emerge and influence the way teams are managed – from introducing remote working options, to digitising business models. 

We cannot be sure how long the current crisis will continue for, but the strong leadership, new technologies, and innovations that emerge over this period not only has the potential to benefit us all for many years to come, it also means that the way we do business could be changed forever – and we must be prepared.

Jean Stephens is CEO of RSM International

Image credit: RSM


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