Social responsibility, sustainability and purpose remain essential as consumers demand clearer commitments, with broadening employer diversity and increasing workplace flexibility key to address growing skill gaps.
Today’s leading businesses are adaptable, people- and purpose-focused and can be identified by six unifying characteristics, including adaptability, an openness to technology and clear transformation goals, according to a study from Vodafone Business.
The Vodafone Business Future ready report 2020 identified the attributes of the most resilient future-ready businesses (FRBs) and their responses to common business challenges before, during and beyond the Covid-19 crisis. In making its assessment, Vodafone Business surveyed business leaders in November 2019 and May 2020, undertaking both qualitative and quantitative primary research, drawing and extrapolating themes and business needs.
Research in November 2019 focused on the key challenges for 2020 and saw 31 qualitative interviews with business decision-makers, investors and journalists in the UK, Germany, Spain, Italy and South Africa. Quantitative research at that time saw 1,813 businesses of all sizes surveyed via a 15-minute online survey across 10 markets – Portugal, Spain, the UK, South Africa, the US, China, India, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.
In May 2020, there was quantitative survey work of 800 businesses of all sizes via a 15-minute online survey across four markets – the UK, Germany, Spain and Italy.
The survey identified five key challenges that span almost all industries, countries and business sizes:
- Businesses need to rebuild and reinforce their resilience in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic;
- Businesses are having to adapt quickly to changing social attitudes and customer behaviours;
- Sustainability is now becoming standard;
- Data and the digital economy are fast creating new business challenges and opportunities;
- Businesses must change the way they recruit and nurture talent.
Vodafone Business found that FRBs – which made up a fifth (20%) of the companies surveyed – show very different approaches to these challenges, compared with other businesses. It added that even though the Covid-19 crisis has been one of the biggest business disrupters since the 1930s, businesses displaying future-ready characteristics are more confident they will continue to succeed. Indeed, nearly a third (30%) of FRBs expect an increase in profits during Covid-19 and 57% expect their profits to increase over the next five years, compared with 45% across all businesses.
In addition to being concerned about employee productivity, FRBs are increasingly considering the well-being of their workers. As many as 44% of all businesses now prioritise employee wellness and mental health, up 10 percentage points since before Covid-19, but for FRBs this rises to 77%. In addition, 90% of FRBs reported supporting their employees further during the pandemic.
Interestingly, as societal attitudes and consumer expectations have changed, businesses have moved to focus on ethical behaviours or to find a purpose beyond their core offering. During the Covid-19 outbreak, 81% of organisations reported taking some form of action to support those outside their business, compared with 94% of FRBs. In addition, 58% of FRBs, compared with 46% of all businesses, wanted to support their country or local community.
Vodafone Business found the Covid-19 pandemic had proven that work could be done differently and from anywhere. It stressed that businesses need to adapt to this new way of working to survive. Nearly three-quarters (71%) of FRBs had already made at least one new technology investment in direct response to the pandemic, while 44% of FRBs expect greater flexibility in where people work to persist after the pandemic is over.
Commenting on the trends revealed in the Future ready report 2020, Vinod Kumar, CEO of Vodafone Business, said: “Covid-19 has forced rapid change for everybody. However, some businesses are better prepared to deal with the issues that have arisen, and we want to help all organisations understand what they can do to match these future-ready companies.
“Industries that hadn’t embraced technology are seeking to move swiftly into digitisation. We want to help companies move quickly into this new era of working, supporting them in becoming smarter, faster and more resilient, but not at the cost of their humanity.”