- Throughout the pandemic, many businesses survived due to rapid adaptations they were forced to make.
- Maintaining headcount during COVID-19 does not guarantee a company is future-proof, while layoffs today do not necessarily indicate future decline.
- Here are the differences between pandemic-resilient and future-resilient companies, and how to prepare for a stronger future.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses in all industries have been forced to adapt. These adaptations are — for better or worse — the sole reason many businesses have survived the pandemic.
The adaptations that businesses made during the pandemic, however, may entail some crucial drawbacks in the long-term. This is because it isn’t always clear that pandemic-resilience will amount to future-of-work resilience.
In what cases is it one or the other? And in which cases can a business be considered both pandemic-resistant and future-of-work primed?
Pandemic Resilient versus Future Resilient: What is the difference?
Pandemic resiliency has taken many forms over the past two years. A good general definition of pandemic resiliency for a business, however, is whatever tools are used to keep a business optimally functioning during times where restrictions are in place due to a pandemic.
In large part, businesses that require back-office work became pandemic resilient by implementing remote work modalities. For food services, like restaurants, pandemic-resilience has included the adoption of outdoor seating arrangements, curb-side pickup, and technologically-enhanced delivery services. Much of these methods have also been used in retail and grocery industries.
Entertainment industries, likewise, needed to digitize modes of presentation. While this is beginning to change, a good example of this was the ability to rent movies at home which would have otherwise been out in theatres.
For workers in any industry, the loss of jobs has been exponential. An indeterminately large number of people responded to this with their own methods of pandemic resiliency, adopting independent work modalities such as freelancing and forming online businesses.
In each case, there has been a profound shift towards creative forms of work — and thus, a great boost to creative industries, such as graphic design, music, and writing.
What about future-resiliency? In considering what the future of work entails, factors to consider include “increased digitalization, automation, and remote hiring,” along with hybrid work modalities and outsourcing.
To prepare for each of these factors — which each themselves entail layers of complexity, much of which won’t be truly seen for decades — companies need to strengthen educational resources and partnerships to ensure that their workforce keeps up with the demands of the times.
Becoming future-resilient will largely entail on-the-job training and furthering-education programs. It is exceedingly likely that many jobs entailing repetitive tasks will become automated or digitized, thus requiring the existing workforce population to improve upon its own skill set in order to keep up with the times.
On the part of companies, therefore, future-resilience will entail the facilitation of such educational resources and programs. Some companies are already quite prepared in this respect. For instance, Capital CoLAB is a company that has credentialing programs and other education and job training services, which is projected to create over 130,000 jobs over the next five years.
This is all to say that future-resilience in the work world must entail that companies “recognize the long-term return on investment in talent, skills, and people, resulting in enhanced opportunity and social prosperity. Addressing these issues involves creating partnerships between workers and employers, as well as educators who can provide the tools to prepare people and companies for the ever-shifting needs of the new economy.”
Many companies are Pandemic Resilient, but not Future Resilient
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, while millions did in fact lose their jobs, most companies did well in pandemic-proofing their businesses. However, this does not mean that most companies are future resilient.
On the one hand, this is evidenced by the fact that, when polled, 42 percent of business owners say that the COVID-19 pandemic has weakened their businesses’ competitive position, whereas only 28 percent report that it improved their competitive edge.
But what differentiates the 42 percent from the 28 percent?
Objectively, what makes the difference here is that the 42 percent are both pandemic resilient and future resilient, whereas the 28 percent is only pandemic resilient. The latter “relied primarily on proprietary technology or a strong brand to thrive amid widespread economic shocks.”
Of the companies that reported a decline in competitiveness, one marked datapoint to consider is that 46 percent of them reported a weakening of their skilled-workforce. And by “weakening” this essentially means reductions in skilled workers working for said companies.
From industry to industry, there is a vast discrepancy in pandemic-resistance and future-resistance — or both! Thus, while it might seem like companies who operated successfully during the pandemic will continue to operate successfully into the future, this isn’t necessarily true.
For instance, “the utilities industry saw the smallest decline in employment during COVID-19 yet is forecast to see the largest fall in employment over the next decade. Similarly, leisure and hospitality have been hardest hit but expect strong employment growth by 2029.”
Another example of this is education and health services. Despite the fact that neither health-workers nor educators experienced extreme losses in employment, these were arguably some of the worst industries to have had to work in during the COVID-19 pandemic.
New work modalities, such as remote learning, and the overwhelming of hospitals with patients, has resulted in the demoralization of many workers in these industries. Despite this, education and health services have the highest projected growth in employment among all industries over the next eight years.
This is largely due to governmental assistance and subsidies, but it is also because these industries require high-skill workers that have college educations.
This isn’t to say that the utilities industry doesn’t require workers of a similar caliber. Rather, it is that the utilities industry will be undergoing massive changes over the next few decades that will use AI to reduce service costs and transfer our energy sources over to methods that require much less human maintenance. It is unclear how workers in this industry — who are, on average, older — will keep up with these changes.
“The future of work is complex. Maintaining headcount during COVID-19 does not guarantee these industries are future-proof, while layoffs today do not necessarily indicate a broader decline.” Ensuring that education and training are implemented as the world of work changes will be necessary in order for companies to maintain future-resilience. COVID-19 and its severity are current problems, and resting on the laurels of being resistant to present crises, even when these crises have passed, seldom results in positive outcomes.