We’re barreling towards the long-awaited end of 2020 and there are reasons to be optimistic. No, the pandemic isn’t going to go away as December 31st gives way to January 1st, but we’ve become accustomed to working within the confines of lockdowns and limitations. Even if the vaccines being developed don’t show up for quite some time, we can make progress.
This is true for all individuals, of course, but it’s most significantly true for business owners. This has been a brutal year for companies of all kinds. Shutdowns, furloughs, bankruptcies, firings… Very few people or organizations have emerged unscathed — but 2021 will bring chances for innovation and reinvention. Having weathered the blows, people will forge ahead.
It won’t be easy, though, as COVID-19 is far from the only barrier to progress. Now that so many people have been knocked down a few pegs, we’re sure to see remarkable levels of ambition and competition. Everyone will be keen to find an edge and outperform their rivals, knowing that there just isn’t enough room for every business to exceed its performance targets.
So let’s say you’re a business owner with a clear goal of achieving significant growth during 2021. What should you do to boost your chances? Well, your strategy must contain two essential components: training and time management. Allow me to explain why.
Long-serving employee are invaluable assets
The longer an employee stays with your business, the more value they return overall. They know their duties better, understand how the company functions, have finely-honed skills, and can support newer colleagues with the challenges they face. You definitely don’t want to attempt a business expansion with a full team of rookies — let’s say that much.
Now, this isn’t the best time for workers, so plenty of people are going to stay with their employers for the sake of consistency and safety. That said, talented people can always find opportunities, and you don’t want your top talents leaving you just as you’re trying to forge ahead in a new business landscape. Part of the solution is reaffirming your commitment to their careers by offering them relevant training paths (choosing business courses) and showing them that you care about their happiness by helping them with the thorny issue of self-care.
Operational efficiency is vital given the economy
Countries around the world have fallen into recession, so economic prospects are far from great, and things are going to get worse before they get better. This certainly doesn’t make it impossible for a given business to thrive, but it does make it essential to operate efficiently. Keep costs down, optimize processes, and maximize ROI across the board.
Task management is a key part of the equation, of course. To do it well, you need to pursue two things in particular: automation to reduce manual effort and streamline processes (task management software like GetBusy can keep employees notified of their responsibilities), and training to show everyone how to make the most of the tools available to them (ideally leaning on learning management systems such as TalentLMS).
Remote working has brought new skills to the fore
Whatever else happens in the new year, one thing is clear: remote working isn’t being dislodged as the new standard. We’ve all learned that most office jobs can be handled perfectly well at a distance, so employers can’t get away with claiming that it’s somehow vital to commute. The transition hasn’t been easy, though. Working from home requires a different approach.
At a minimum, remote working needs strong communication skills, decent technical knowledge, and the ability to self-manage (with direct managerial oversight not being practical, and managers having trust issues per HBR) — and there are many people who still fall short in those areas. They might get better by themselves over time, but the matter is too important to rely on that. Invest in training sessions to ensure that they can work effectively from home.
Greater autonomy requires greater precision
When someone works in an office, they can be relatively casual about how they spend their time: after all, it’s going to be readily apparent to their coworkers. This isn’t the case with remote working. We noted that direct oversight isn’t practical, and this means that managers need to know exactly how their team members are spending their time. What tasks are they completing? How long are they taking? How is their productivity faring?
Time-tracking tools (HourStack, for instance) have been rising in popularity for quite some time, and they quickly became mission-critical when lockdowns began. There’s a fundamental give and take at play. Workers can be allowed to choose how and when they complete their tasks, but only if they track everything clearly. Only with the right metrics at hand can a remote manager make informed decisions about what specific employees should be doing.
If you plan carefully and proceed smartly, you can grow your business in 2021, but remember to invest adequate time and resources in training and time management. These are key ingredients, after all, and failing to take action will hamper your chances.