July 9, 2020Print | PDF
A Wilfrid Laurier University panel of business experts shared insights and strategies on how businesses have adapted from the impact of COVID-19 and what business leaders should consider for the post-pandemic workplace.
The webinar, titled “What works now won’t work next: Adapting to a post-COVID-19 landscape” was moderated by Hamid Noori, executive director of the Executive Master’s in Technology Management (EMTM) program at Laurier’s Lazaridis School of Business and Economics.
“It is important to bring current topics and insights from industry leaders into the classroom to help ensure our executive-level learners are bringing contemporary knowledge into their workplace right away,” said Noori. “As part of our boutique degree for technology management leaders, learners have access to top business talent and to current research to ensure they advance their businesses while also advancing their own careers.”
Panellists in the webinar discussed innovation, strategy, leadership, and the future of work in the context of the pandemic. Here’s a high-level summary of key points in the webinar. Watch the one-hour webinar to hear more about these topics and to meet two professors in the Lazaridis EMTM program.
Simon Taggar, who teaches Designing and Leading the Innovative Organization in the Lazaridis EMTM program, professor of organizational behaviour and human resources management at the Lazaridis School, talked about leadership and employee perceptions of the workplace during the pandemic.
In a recent survey on employee thoughts surrounding COVID-19 in the United States, Taggar cited that 20 per cent of employees said their leaders were not well prepared to manage remote teams. Similarly, only 20 per cent of employees surveyed felt their teams were not effectively collaborating while working from home.
Additionally, Taggar said 59 per cent of employees surveyed feel they were more productive and more efficient working from home. Further, 40 per cent of remote workers said they would consider relocating to a lower cost-of-living destination.
While some organizations are announcing decisions to evaluate pay rate based on the cost-of-living of where employees live, others are taking advantage of the opportunity to recruit talent from around the world.
“Organizations are also saying that they are going to be able to hire a broader pool of applicants as they’ll no longer be restricted by geography,” said Taggar.
Taggar underscored the importance of the fundamentals of leadership. While leadership principles and fundamentals remain the same, he said, it is the way in which leadership needs to adapt during a time of crisis that needs to change.
“The question isn’t really ‘can you afford to adopt a new way of work’, it is whether you can afford not to,” said Taggar.
Jeremy Auger, co-founder and chief strategy officer at online learning and teaching company D2L, said COVID-19 has pulled the world ahead by several years over the span of a few months, especially in education.
Auger referenced D2L’s recent whitepaper titled “The future of skills in the fourth industrial revolution” and spoke about changes to the employment landscape of the gig economy. In the whitepaper, Auger said they’ve observed the increasing speed of technical and professional skills becoming obsolete with more demand for durable skills, such as problem-solving and collaboration.
Auger spoke about the changes COVID-19 continues to bring to education and to the workforce in what he coined a “Learning-Integrated Life”.
According to the D2L whitepaper, a Learning-Integrated Life consists of individuals “always in a learning mindset and intensive and episodic opportunities for learning are woven through the fabric of our lives, preparing us for successful careers and rich life experiences.
In conclusion, Auger spoke about the positive impacts of COVID-19 more generally in the workforce. “I look at this crisis as an opportunity for some real transformation. The amount of brainpower that is squarely focused on how we build this capacity and this resilience and the systems needed to support this ‘new normal’, that we knew was already needed, is higher than it has ever been,” Auger said. “This gives me a real sense of hope that the art of the possible has really advanced in ways that may have otherwise taken many, many years to accomplish.”
Steve McCaughey, BBA ‘84, managing partner of technology and transformation at Deloitte Canada, spoke about the rapid pace of innovation and how workplaces are seeing more burnout associated with increased productivity during COVID-19.
“The economic and social fallout has become a timesheet that projects us into the future,” McCaughey said. “Things that could have taken three or four years pre-COVID-19 are now happening in the span of weeks.” He echoed Auger about the rapid speed of innovation that businesses are seeing as a result of the pandemic.
“We are seeing much higher productivity at home,” said McCaughey. “However, people are burning out.”
In fact, he cited a recent study that indicates parents’ health during COVID-19 has deteriorated by 57 per cent for working mothers and 32 per cent for working fathers. In the same study, 94 per cent of workers surveyed in the U.S. and U.K. reported feeling stress at work with 33 per cent experiencing “unreasonably high” stress. Further, 50 per cent of workers reported sleep loss as a result of remote work during the pandemic.
To help to address the burnout, McCaughey referenced a study in Japan by Microsoft in which a four-day work week resulted in a 40 per cent increase in productivity.
“We’ve surrendered our days to people who hijack our calendars,” he said “What we need to do is claw back time to think, to strategize, and to actually apply our minds to our work.” He talked about platforms and technologies to help to improve the productivity and work patterns.
Karin Schnarr, policy professor in the Lazaridis School teaches Strategic Management and Technology course in the Lazaridis EMTM program.
She provided examples of strategies businesses are employing through the pandemic. From shuttering to short- or long-term pivots to opportunities for growth, Schnarr said most companies are looking to do one of two things: navigate the pandemic or see this as an opportunity for change.
“Society is becoming more complicated, which means strategy becomes more complicated,” said Schnarr. “Often times in strategy, we look to what we’ve done in the past. We don’t have precedent for this. There’s nothing to indicate that what we are doing is the right answer.”
Schnarr referenced the temporary shift in business strategy for Labatt as an example of a company that filled a public need by making hand sanitizer when there was a shortage. She also referenced the decision by McDonalds to temporarily limit its menu while customers were restricted to drive-through dining.
“Sometimes, strategy is pure luck,” she said as she referenced Hormel Foods Corporation’s canned, cooked pork, Spam, which is seeing the highest rise in sales since the depression.
In summary, each panelist offered important insights into leadership, strategy, innovations and workplace health during the pandemic.
“Current topics affecting business leaders are an important component to the Lazaridis EMTM program, said the webinar’s moderator, Noori. “If this is something you’re interested in discussing with us on a more regular basis in order to advance your own career in the technology or tech-enabled business world, please consider booking a meeting to talk more about our EMTM program.”
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