Five principles for navigating the post-pandemic era

As we look back over 2021, I think most leaders would agree that the year has largely been about reacting and responding. The pandemic has reset the leadership agenda and truly tested what it means to be agile. And as we look ahead to 2022, we will arrive at the next stage of the post-pandemic recovery – where we’re proactively redefining and reimagining the way we live our lives.

This new era will build on the disruption we’ve witnessed over the past year, across every major ecosystem. From healthcare and education, to transport and logistics, an abundance of opportunity awaits for those brave enough to seize it.

Of course, all of this change is going to require taking what we’ve learned from the pandemic, and applying it to the post-pandemic era — an era that will undoubtedly be defined by our capacity to reimagine the way we work, utilise technology, and lead.

With that in mind, here are five guiding principles that I believe will help leaders navigate the next 12 twelve months and beyond.

1. Accelerating the shift to digital

More than anything, the pandemic has demonstrated the impact technology has on our ability to adapt to periods of uncertainty and change. The arrival of COVID-19, and the inherent restrictions it brought with it, fundamentally affected how we work, live, learn and play.

One of my key learnings from the pandemic is to embrace this accelerated shift to digital. The quicker people are able to integrate technology across their organisation, the easier their business will adapt to new trends.

For example, as we enter the 5G era, there are so many exciting applications that leverage real-time analytics, including smart factories, smart cars, smart cities, IoT, and augmented and virtual reality.

We need to ask ourselves:

  • How are we using technology to drive new customer and employee experiences?
  • How can businesses transform and build on their core offering in order to add more value for their customers and take costs out?
  • How can we leverage the latest innovations to solve problems we don’t yet have answers to?

If you can answer those questions, you’ll start to piece together where tech can add real value.

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2. Identify the problem, own the solution

We are living through a period of incredible transformation, with every aspect of our lives currently going through some sort of disruption. But here’s the great news – technology is making it easier and easier to solve problems in ways we never would have previously imagined.

Take healthcare and the recent shift to telemedicine as an example. If patients don’t want to, they never have to sit in a doctor’s office waiting to be seen again. The pandemic has fundamentally changed our perception of what it means to access medical care, and afforded us an opportunity to streamline many health services along the way.

Today, thanks to 5G, we’re also seeing impressive innovation in the medical field like enhanced diagnostics that can help with a diagnosis in fractions of a second. Will we ever go back? No, and that’s really exciting.

But these transformational changes don’t just pertain to technology – it also means the way we engage our employees to identify problems and own the solution has changed. We have to shift our emphasis away from the products we sell, onto the challenges our customers face. Start with the problems they are facing, and work backwards to a solution.

3. Enabling the future of work

The pandemic has permanently changed what it means to be “at work”. Work is no longer a place you go, but what you do. Hybrid working, and the ability to work from anywhere, is here to stay.

A huge part of this shift has been facilitated by our capacity to invent new ways of working fit for the digital age. Video conferencing, the cloud, instant messaging: it’s all part of the same narrative – how technology can facilitate new behaviours and patterns that can benefit the workforce.

Network-as-a-Service (NaaS), for example, is a secure, cost-effective subscription-based model that lets businesses of all sizes consume network infrastructure on-demand and as needed. Think of it like a thermostat, where you can increase or decrease temperature to suit your needs. With a solution like NaaS, businesses can ensure their employees have the same security and network connectivity at a coffee shop or at home, as they would in the office.

This fundamentally changes what it means to be safe, secure and online – and employees can work from any location.

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4. Adopt life-long learning as core to your workforce evolution

Antiquated systems and legacy processes will only hold us back. It’s a fact of life that our ability to navigate new challenges is informed by our willingness to prepare and educate ourselves with new skills and technologies. Did you know that 80% of 10 year olds today will live to be 100?

With humans leading increasingly lengthy lives, this type of ‘’lifelong learning’’ will become increasingly important to our workforces, as we seek to leverage new opportunities – of course, technology will be a key driver in allowing us to leverage these opportunities.

Whether it’s augmented reality (AR) classes that transport kids to the Colosseum in Rome, or a new app that helps you conduct home repairs in real-time, we are moving towards becoming a society of constant learners. We need to think the same way in business. Remember, it’s always easier to board the train before it leaves the station!

5. Believe you can, and declare what you want

My final principle is a rallying cry, especially for women. I’ve spent a large portion of my career advocating for women in tech and telecommunications, and now the conversation is more critical than ever. Over the past 12 months, there have been an unprecedented number of job losses, with women disproportionately affected. Income trends in six countries (China, Italy, Japan, South Korea, the UK and the US) found that women are 24% more likely to permanently lose their jobs versus men, while women can also expect their income to fall by 50% more than men do. Now more than ever, we have to recognise these disparities, and take concrete action to ensure that – in this new world – inequality is stamped out.

This extends to the way leaders lead. I often say “people don’t care what you know, until they know that you care” – and it’s absolutely true. The pandemic has highlighted a new style of leadership – the compassionate, caring and curious leader. When you consider the power that simple acts of kindness have had over the past twelve months, you start to appreciate how much impact you can have when you show up and help others achieve their goals. Women in particular excel at these leadership traits, and it’s time for us to embrace our strengths.

As we look to the future, I implore business leaders to seize the opportunity that lies ahead of us. If the past year has taught me anything, it is that our time on this earth is too precious to stand idly by.

Written by Tami Erwin, executive vice-president & group CEO of Verizon Business

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