Habits can be both wonderful and terrible things. Many years ago, I worked at the same company for over a decade. My commute was the same each day. I didn’t need to pay a lot of attention to end up at the correct building. However, when I changed jobs, my new commute started the same way. Thursday of that first week, I missed my exit and had to turn around because I defaulted to my old habit. My habit was helpful until something changed and it didn’t fit anymore.
We also use habits in our businesses. We develop strategies for attracting customers, employees and for day-to-day operations that work. I firmly believe in the idea of don’t fix it if it isn’t broken. The key is becoming aware when it starts to be broken so you are fixing your strategies as soon as they stop producing the desired results. Then you can shift before there is a crisis.
Environmental changes are usually gradual. The new hires today aren’t quite the same as the ones five years ago. The suppliers that were perfect before are slightly out of step with your business now. This means that we don’t need to take drastic action to stay ahead of changes. It also makes it easy to keep doing what we’ve always done without realizing that we need to make adjustments. Measurement of your results is key to noticing when a strategy isn’t delivering the expected results.
While environmental changes are usually gradual, the impact of the pandemic resulted in significant changes that happened relatively quickly. This means that many businesses are facing difficulty if they aren’t adapting to the new “normal.”
Considering the changes since the pandemic, here are some trends to pay attention to:
The old model was having people show up at your business at a specific time and expecting them to stay for specific hours, whether or not there was enough work. They stayed even when they worked efficiently and got their work done quickly (not a great motivator to work efficiently). Many places had a culture that leaving at the end of the work day wasn’t OK – the people who got promoted were the ones who spent the most time at the business.
The pandemic proved that a lot of work didn’t have to be done at the business. Technology makes it possible to do a lot of things remotely without losing efficiency. Not everyone has to be geographically located near your business. This opened the door for a new “normal” that may be helpful for your business.
If you have a store front, you have to have someone who will be there to serve customers. That doesn’t mean everyone has to work that way. It is a good opportunity to ask yourself if the way you worked prior to the pandemic is the only option. Ask yourself what you’d need to put into place to be willing to have some people work remotely at least some of the time.
I met with a client right after people began returning to work. He had been a work hard, work long hours kind of guy. As we caught up, he told me how much it meant to him that he was able to connect with his kids in a way he didn’t have time for before. Playing catch with his son, board games as a family and getting to really know his children was profoundly impactful. He also told me that it was too precious of a gift to go back to putting work first.
Other clients have told me the revelations they had as a result of the disruption of “normal.” This includes what it feels like to get enough sleep, to enjoy leisure activities and to utilize time in a different way.
Prior to the pandemic, most of the people I met with spent their energy primarily at work. Post pandemic, a lot of people have changed their priorities. They want to work at a place where their personal priorities are accommodated when it doesn’t negatively impact the needs of the business. They are interested in working for employers who are willing to explore strategies that make more of these types of priorities possible.
The extreme version of this is the called “quiet quitting.” These are people who recognize that the employer isn’t willing to stop requiring long hours and choose to leave at “go home time” and not to stress over unreasonable deadlines. A much better strategy is open communication where each perspective is discussed and reasonable accommodations are made for both the individual and the business.
While employees are asking for more flexibility, many are responding well to the opportunity to earn money differently. Many business owners are discovering that paying for performance benefits them as much as it benefits their employees.
A particular client of mine spent a lot of effort dealing with issues like taking too many breaks, not getting the work done in the time figured for the job, having to return to the job because the work wasn’t completely done, etc. Finally, he decided to change from paying hourly to paying a set amount for getting a specific amount of work done. Get done early, make more money. Have to go back to fix something – no extra pay. His efficient employees police the number of breaks someone takes because they want to work with people who are executing well. Everyone sees the benefit of getting in and working together to get things done on time.
Another client of mine recognized that when someone worked remotely, someone else in the office had to pick up a certain amount of supporting work. Perfectly OK to work remotely, as long as the office had someone in it to handle in person things. But the person working remotely received 20% less pay which was given to the person in the office doing the support work in addition to their own work.
Maybe you need to examine the way you pay for work to see if there is a better strategy for you. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box or to get your employees involved in thinking through new ideas. Both you and your employees will benefit if you find a plan that works better.
During the pandemic, order in advance and have it brought to your car was something that most businesses at least dabbled in.
Deliver to your door options like Amazon grew in popularity. Services like DoorDash and GrubHub surged in popularity.
I tried grocery pick up for the first time and now can’t remember the last time I went inside the grocery store.
A local vet offered drop off as an option versus having an appointment where you had to stay with your pet. A large percentage of their business continues to enjoy this service.
A local flooring company started offering in home shopping experiences for new flooring during the pandemic. Many people like to go in the showroom but they will still do in home shopping, if requested.
Are there convenience options that you can continue or implement that will better meet the needs of some of your clients?
It is easy to get into a habitual rut of “This is how we do things here.” That isn’t a bad thing but it does require that you periodically look at your habits and evaluate if they are still serving you. Now is a great time to walk through your business – physically or mentally – and evaluate what is working and what could be improved.