Two years ago, we set out to discover which businesses are best prepared for the future, and what those businesses are doing differently to the rest.
We call them ‘Fit for the Future’ (FFTF) and after identifying the business world’s emerging challenges and analysing how companies of all sizes were prepared to tackle them, we noticed that these businesses had not only survived, but thrived during the pandemic.
Furthermore, working with the Department of Management at the London School of Economics this year, we have discovered a link between companies being ‘fit for the future’ and business performance – both in terms of finance and environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG).
So as we take a look at how these organisations are meeting and exceeding both employee and customer demands, as well as how they are navigating digital transformation and the world of hybrid working, we explain how any business, no matter the size, can become ‘fit for the future’.
Confident and well-prepared for emerging challenges, FFTF business are recognised by six common characteristics.
They have a positive attitude to change, are open to new technology, actively plan for their technological futures and have a detailed strategy. They are also up to date with emerging trends and are adaptable.
Thanks to these traits, these businesses were able to manage unexpected challenges better than the rest.
In short, FFTF businesses are better set to manage crises. Their attitude to change means that they are ready to innovate and experiment to stay ahead, and technology is helping them do it.
Our report found that 89% of FFTF businesses have a digital transformation roadmap in place, compared to just 60% of businesses overall. This preparation has put ‘fit for the future’ businesses in a better place to accelerate digitally during the pandemic and 71% have done just that, compared to 55% of businesses overall.
It also means they are keeping up with changing customer demands as they’re significantly more likely to embed order-to-door digital processes – creating a seamless customer experience.
With 75% of businesses saying their customers expect to be able to interact with brands anytime, anywhere via digital services, and 44% of businesses saying orders have increased through mobile sites and apps, those enterprises that have yet to start their digital journeys and work it into their customer experience are at risk of being left behind.
Customers are also putting more pressure on brands to be sustainable. With over two thirds (69%) of businesses saying that their customers want them to have a clear ethical stance on social issues. Yet, the ability of businesses to meet social responsibility goals has diminished since 2019 as many went into survival mode.
However, FFTF businesses remained in tune with customer expectations in 2021 and, therefore, stayed committed to sustainability with 38% of FFTF businesses saying being sustainable is ‘absolutely necessary’ for the organisation to operate, compared to just 21% of all other businesses.
This trend looks set to continue too, with over half (51%) of ‘fit for the future’ businesses set to increase their spend on ESG and corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the next year.
And it’s not just customer expectations that have increased during the pandemic. Employees have also adapted to the new ways of working and are enjoying the savings seen in both their spend and their time.
As a result, 50% are expecting more flexibility in terms of where they work, with the freedom and autonomy that best suits them, and more flexibility in terms of the hours they work.
Expectations which are even higher when you look at Gen Z; therefore, supporting flexible and remote working should be a priority for all businesses seeking success in the future, particularly when appealing to fresh talent.
This doesn’t come without a price though. Organisations are all too aware of the potential impact hybrid working can have on company culture.
To counteract this, organisations will need to work closely with employees to develop better collaborative tools and inclusivity strategies to support employees wherever and whenever they are working.
Perhaps the thing that struck me most, and I confess I’m a little biased, was that 86% of FFTF organisations say they are taking action to deal with an automated world and they are simultaneously using automated technology to boost employee productivity.
As technology continues to become an important strategic asset, it’s clear that soon it will be critical for business operations. As such, enterprises need to start adapting to the digital world now, but it’s important to transform at the right pace, focussing on what will make the most impact first.
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