Covid-19 five years from now
The virus will still plague us and its impact will reverberate far beyond health concerns in 2027.
There’s no doubt that technology has played a huge role to enable New Zealand’s response to and recovery from covid-19.
In terms of health, technology has allowed New Zealand to improve healthcare capacity at speed through the enablement of a seamless tracking, tracing and testing cycle, mass communication, and a vaccine roll-out. As far as livelihoods go, technology has preserved many jobs, whether it’s digitising products and services, enabling a work-from-home culture or safeguarding and redeploying labour. Technology has made a difference.
However, the covid-19 pandemic is far from just a bump in the road — it has compounded longstanding challenges but also unleashed opportunities to create an entirely different landscape. While the pandemic will pass, many changes we see today, whether intensified from existing trends or a direct result of covid-19, will remain.
History has shown us that disruption is a driver that forces businesses, governments and communities to focus on what’s most essential. Recent events have proven that disruption can come from anywhere – from changes in technology, industries, governments and societies, and now global pandemics.
Many organisations are increasing their investment into digital transformation and accelerating their journeys to the future – companies that invest now into new and emerging technologies will be the ones to move ahead.
While it might sound counterintuitive, lessons from the past two recessions suggest companies that balanced growth and investment outperformed their competition in the aftermath.
The new normal will be far more tech-driven and present different challenges, but many believe life will be better in a new normal world where workplaces, healthcare and social activity will improve. A lot can be achieved by focusing on innovation, flexibility and embracing change, enabling organisations within New Zealand to emerge stronger and more resilient.
“Organisations need to maintain the confidence and momentum brought on by the pandemic by shifting their focus to becoming more digitalised and expediting digital transformations.”
Amid the challenges and uncertainty, innovation has taken many shapes and forms including fashion designers producing masks for frontline healthcare workers, auto manufacturers switching assembly lines from cars to ventilators, and small distilleries producing hand sanitising products for consumers.
Organisations that pivot and achieve results enabled by people, processes and technologies demonstrate innovation in action. It is often portrayed as technological advancement, but it’s actually a capability that needs to be enabled.
They need to maintain the confidence and momentum brought on by the pandemic by shifting their focus to becoming more digitalised and expediting digital transformations.
They need to reimagine everything from their people to data, technology, architectures and ecosystems - changing focus to the customer and their evolving needs to guide them through this process. As the world begins to reopen and we return to a new version of normal, organisational needs will be different along with the ways to address them.
Technology will need to work for us and facilitate new ways of working that rely less on physical interaction and reduce costs. Post-pandemic, going “back to work” will not be the same and many organisations and sectors are moving into a new future, one where work can be done from anywhere.
This step-change in remote adoption is now arguably substantial enough to reconsider current business models.
There’s evidence that remote work can support long-term needs and many believe productivity was sustained or even improved during the pandemic.
Remote working also opens up the market for difficult-to-find talent and expands the competition for talent among organisations. It’s a shift that many organisations helped set in motion to keep operating during the height of the pandemic. But even as organisations around the world embraced this change to keep moving, many didn’t have time to appreciate the more significant ramifications of the shift.
New Zealand has relatively strong employment and economic growth prospects but also has a historical reliance on international labour markets to address short-term skills shortages.
Additionally, recent media reports have indicated the New Zealand jobs market is at maximum sustainable employment. Effective strategies to support a “new ways of working” reality is critical for meeting the new demand.
Successful organisations will be those that invest in rethinking their workforce model – balancing workforce benefits and outcomes. A few years from now, the most effective organisations will be physically distributed, creatively connected, empowered by technology and able to innovate from anywhere.
“Organisations that made early investments in digital transformation are already reaping its benefits as customer attitudes and workplace norms change.”
For many, the pandemic accelerated the pace of change. It has been a tipping point for technology adoption, digital disruption and precipitated the largest and fastest human behavioural change in history. Its impact has raised change to a new level and more will be required as the economic and human situation continues to evolve.
The pandemic can also be the catalyst for effective and positive change if leaders set up guardrails for innovation and help their people to focus energy in the right direction. Giving employees and teams the freedom to explore possibilities, motivate them and offer praise when they fail fast will help to unleash a better and more resilient organisation for the future.
The importance of learning, tactically, in making specific changes to businesses (which technologies to use, and how), and organisationally (leveraging agility and managing change at pace) will be critical going forward. At this moment, organisations should embrace and accelerate change to better position themselves for the challenges and opportunities ahead.
In summary, the rapid migration to pandemic-driven digital technologies will continue into the recovery, globally. Organisations that made early investments in digital transformation are already reaping its benefits as customer attitudes and workplace norms change.
Despite the challenges the pandemic has presented us with, organisations should not lose sight of the value of innovation when considering how the organisation spends its time and resources for greater flexibility, change and resiliency for a better future ahead.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of KPMG, a New Zealand partnership. The information contained herein is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavour to provide accurate and timely information, there can be no guarantee that such information is accurate as of the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future. No one should act upon such information without appropriate professional advice after a thorough examination of the particular situation.