Focus on adaptability, visibility and standardization.
With Brexit teetering on the edge of disrupting every facet of British policy and administration, businesses around the world with ties to the UK are bracing for impact – or at least a potential impact.
According to an in-depth study by Professor Jonathan Portes of King’s College London, "Almost any plausible outcome will result in an increase in regulatory burdens on business ... [this] will not be an easy task.”
Easy or not, potential regulatory burdens such as those stemming from Brexit are, and continue to be, a key ongoing issue for organizations around the world. But they aren’t the only nightmare scenario multinational companies may face – changing business policies, local labor laws, maintaining unionized workforces and managing remote workforces can all easily upset the balance. In 2019, with a digital landscape of cloud-computing, IoT, and remote workforces, global companies shouldn’t be left hedging their bets or relying on good luck when it comes to managing change within their multi-location organization. Facing uncertainty head on – and staying on top of it – is the mark of a successful organization, but the real focus should be, of course: How?
Three qualities are key for effectively managing change: adaptability, visibility and standardization.
In the face of uncertainty, nothing better serves an organization than the ability to adapt – to the shifting needs of the market, to new technology and processes, to new regulations – and all at a moment’s notice. Being adaptable is the ability to actually implement a change. For example, a global business must cope with unique regional requirements like local labor laws, unionized workers or collective bargaining agreements, but implementing manual processes aren’t exactly efficient, and customization isn’t exactly cheap. How do you decide? Consider how long it takes your organization to make a decision. Once a decision is made, how long does it actually take to implement and what would it cost?
Adaptability is both as intangible as keeping an open mind, and as concrete as investing in a solution that will help manage that change. The entire company as a whole must be able to shift gears, and that means more than just the people. The technologies and systems in use must also demonstrate real agility and elasticity to keep up. Local labor laws, unionized workers, or collective bargaining agreements do change from time to time – if your business processes around time and attendance, gross pay, time off, or scheduling can’t keep pace, neither can the employees. Global businesses will need to reevaluate and evolve their processes in response to any possible changes the future may hold, and collaborate with an equally flexible solution. An effective solution can help simplify making changes, instead of creating a huge to-do. This way, companies can face new challenges and changes with confidence and adaptability.
If adaptability is the ability to change, visibility helps a company understand how. They may ask, what does this change mean? How do you plan for it? Forging ahead without a proper framework is especially high-risk. Back to our collective bargaining agreements, for instance: because they can change at any time, without any visibility, there is no real understanding of what this kind of change could cost, or how it might impact the organization. Having visibility into all related businesses processes and systems is a necessity when answering these questions. Maintaining visibility allows HR leaders, global heads and other stakeholders to understand exactly how cost, compliance, productivity and processes are functioning in an organization.
Modern technologies are available that provide real-time insights into all employee time and attendance, productivity, workforce costs, compliance to labor regulations and more. When company-wide systems allow employees access to these relevant insights, whether through generated dashboards, charts or simply an open culture, it can minimize or even eliminate the negative impacts of volatility, whether it be global or closer to home.
How can an organization ensure any of the above without a standardized system guiding its overall practices? Not without an operational nightmare. Say your organization has chosen manual processes to tackle the specific requirements of a complex collective bargaining agreement. On the surface, it may seem like a quick fix. But realistically, these manual workflows are a long-term investment – it can take years to consistently apply these across an organization. At best, you’ve sacrificed expediency, and at worst, you’re never fully able to unify everything, exposing your business to compliance violations. If every company relied on a unified system across multiple locations, employee types and vendors, perhaps changing local laws and collective bargaining agreements wouldn’t be such a cause for alarm. This is because standardization helps to maintain consistency in application, despite the unexpected yet inevitable change down the road.
When each department in an organization is treated as its own separate entity, relying on disparate systems and workflows, maintaining order under any kind of change, unexpected or not, is near impossible. In actuality, everything is intertwined, and organizations can be more than the sum of their parts when these departments operate side by side. Working as a cohesive unit, businesses can face change and uncertainty head-on by rolling with any punches the future may throw at them.
Expecting the unexpected has become something of an art for businesses in these uncertain times – but it is far from an unattainable skill. Companies can use unanticipated changes as an opportunity to take action today, focusing on assessing and improving their adaptability, visibility, and standardization – and come out prepared to weather any storms ahead, Brexit-sized or regional, and everything in between.