Many leaders are paying more attention to strengthening their company culture, ensuring a balance between productivity and wellbeing, and treating employees with empathy while holding them accountable for achieving business objectives.
With the pandemic accelerating key business trends, the range of issues leaders recently interviewed have needed to manage has steadily broadened to include advancing digital transformation road maps, upskilling employees to thrive in a data driven future, and seeking innovative new business models for creating value.
Leaders are being pushed decisions in all these areas, even with little previous experience – and to make them fast, a whitepaper by Lim-Loges & Masters has noted.
Interviewees cited in the whitepaper – Winning in the New Workplace: Insights from Asian CEO – included CEOs and experts from global companies across sectors as diverse as apparel, agribusiness, automotive, beauty, food and beverage, healthcare, nutrition and more.
Among the various key business trends, seizing new growth opportunities has become necessary within these past two years.
To adapt to lockdowns and social distancing, most leaders’ immediate response was to push ahead with digitalisation to help teams embrace more flexible ‘work anywhere’ approaches and connect virtually with customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders.
BMW Group, as an example, rapidly recalibrated its sales channels to enable strong online vehicle sales.
“When the first lockdown hit Malaysia in March 2020 and our dealerships closed, we pulled together a taskforce of marketing, sales and IT team members and managed to implement an online shop in a record 34 days – a process that would normally have taken at least six months,” said Harald Hoelzl, Managing Director and CEO, BMW Group. “Our online platform gives people the flexibility to apply and get financing pre-approval in real time. Customers love the convenience and ease of that approach and the shop continues to be highly successful.”
Similarly, in Vietnam, the pandemic accelerated a shift to e-commerce for international healthcare company URGO Group. This has spurred development of new products and services in turn.
“With healthcare practitioners, our customers were increasingly ‘going digital’ and seeking to purchase more online, we’ve had to rapidly improve our capabilities to follow the customers where they are,” said URGO Group's General Manager Paul Basson.
Many leaders have also realised the need to reconfigure their operations.
As companies work to seize new growth opportunities during a period of economic volatility, leaders have had to make significant operational changes to accommodate. There was a sudden need for to equip employees with the skills and tools to work remotely, for example, and operate with less oversight. However, this has not always been a straightforward process in a region as diverse as Asia, where significant gaps in infrastructure exist.
“Like many of our counterparts whose regional HQs are based in Singapore, we cannot take it for granted that the operating conditions for our businesses in the wider region are as conducive as they are here,” said Aaron Boey, Group CEO traditional Chinese medicine company Eu Yan Sang. “You can’t assume that where everyone is living is wired up with fibre-optic broadband, for instance, or that people have high-speed data access. We’ve just needed to do the best we can to find novel and innovative solutions to minimise operational disruptions.”
Companies have also needed to adopt new organisational forms, such as agile and virtual teams, to ensure their people could more easily respond to new opportunities. Syngenta, a global provider of agricultural science and technology recently realised that the current environment was changing the way its internal stakeholders needed to engage with each other to deliver a great customer experience.
In response, Syngenta’s Asia Pacific seeds business quickly set up small cross-functional virtual teams drawn from the customer-facing parts of the business – including sales, marketing, product management and supply chain management. Empowering people in agile ways of working and equipping them to make decisions independently has proved to be a highly efficient way for the organisation to figure out how much product a grower might need and how to get it to them fast, working with its channel partners.
This pandemic has also led many leaders to focus on strengthening organisational culture.
Per the whitepaper, optimising operations has brought challenges, not least the cost of investing in new technologies during a time of great uncertainty. There has also been a need to rapidly shift to virtual workforce training and development approaches, and guarding against diminished employee productivity and wellbeing where remote work becomes the norm.
In response, many leaders are paying more attention to strengthening their organisational culture. This can help to ensure a balance between productivity and wellbeing, treating employees with empathy while holding them accountable for achieving business objectives.
Laurent Wilsdorf, CEO, Limagrain Asia Pacific affirmed: “From the start, the crisis has obliged leaders to delegate and reinforce the involvement of the entire team.
“That means trust has become very important – at every level. For example, I haven’t seen my boss in person for 15 months. I haven’t seen my board members for almost two years now, and I am managing people in six countries that I’ve never met, except via virtual technology. I think deepening that trust and earning it by continuing to do the right thing for our people will remain a critical leadership requirement in the next normal.”
Overall, the insights highlighted the importance of:
- Honing abilities to embrace change;
- Shifting to a collaborative focus, and
- Infusing the company culture with new purpose.
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