By Skillnet Ireland Chief Technologist Mark Jordan
COVID-19 has caused a significant health and economic emergency in recent months. As week two of the first phase of the Government roadmap for reopening society and business draws to a close, uncertainty remains around the re-emergence of society and business from lockdown. However, things are slowly starting to take shape and we can finally start to see a pathway ahead.
Recovering from a multi-month societal lockdown caused by a pandemic is a significant challenge and we are all having to adapt. It is clear that both businesses and workers will need to change and innovate in our post-COVID environment. In order to recover from this challenge, companies require both ambition and support – and developing and upskilling workers is likely to be central for companies who want to compete in our changed world.
With challenges as great as these, there is also opportunity.
If we focus our recovery efforts to re-develop a sustainable economy, then amid the disruption of this coronavirus, we can build something more meaningful for the future.
Where some businesses were once change averse, many are now change friendly and we are seeing increased interest in the development of longer-term strategic objectives and a real appetite from business to adapt to and innovate within the new environment.
As part of our work since COVID-19 struck, we have identified four key areas that will prepare businesses of all sizes and in all sectors for the realities they are now facing. These are:
- Covid-19 Protocols
Covid-19 protocols will present a logistical challenge in the new workplace – redesigning processes and adopting technology can help things run more smoothly in terms of planning and implementing new health and safety guidelines.
- Business Models
Leadership teams will re-examine pre-pandemic business structures and incorporate lessons learned from our recent experiences when developing new strategies – protecting digital infrastructure in the short term will mean enterprises are better prepared for any future shocks.
- Workforce Management
Workforce management will be overhauled as the physical workplace as we know it is changed. Physical distancing will mean an increase in remote working, which increases the need for the workforce to be more agile, flexible and skilled as processes adapt. Businesses which recover will undoubtedly be leaner and workers will require upskilling to ensure their skills are transferable and less sector specific.
- Digital Adoption
Now more than ever, there will be a genuine move towards greater digital adoption as more and more companies appreciate the security and business continuity afforded by the cloud, ecommerce, automation and cyber security. Technology allows companies greater control of their business, with either end-to-end solutions or ‘plug in’ tactics where required.
At Skillnet Ireland, we leverage enterprise-led development to help companies grow, compete and succeed in rapidly changing markets. Skillnet Ireland and its 70 Skillnet Networks are providing supports to businesses in addressing these challenges across the economy.
There are many examples of this in action, such as the Transform Your Business programme, which was launched by our Construction Professional Skillnet in April. This three-month online initiative has allowed owner managers of SMEs in the construction industry to use this challenging time to plan their next business steps, develop fresh strategies and techniques and develop their leadership skills.
Another is the Designing Growth – a Growth Innovation Framework programme from our Design Skillnet, which will provide a bespoke growth innovation framework for SME’s in both the manufacturing and service-based sectors. This framework will develop the skills and talent for business to innovate through the rebuilding phase of the recovery.
In partnership with SFA, Skillnet Ireland recently launched the new MentorsWork programme providing expert mentoring to business owners and managers to addresses specific needs of the business, particularly as a result of Covid-19. Skillnet Ireland is also supporting Chambers Ireland Reboot Your Business initiative for SMEs.
The truth is that because of the disruption inflicted by this crisis, many companies in Ireland will require a level of determination, support and the mobilisation of capital on a scale never seen before, in order to effectively recover-to-growth.
Supporting over 17,000 businesses and 56,000 trainees annually, Skillnet Ireland is the ideal partner to help Irish businesses develop a highly skilled and agile workforce.