Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Covid-19: Are you Prepared for the Future of Work and Business?

Unless you have a top pharmaceutical company that can develop cures for global illnesses, you might have a problem currently and in the new future with Covid-19, the novel coronavirus and similar diseases like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) that have arisen in recent years. While the degree of spread and seriousness varies with each, it seems safe to think that these kinds of the diseases are likely to become more widespread and common. The trend suggests that Covid-19 is just one in a series of diseases that are likely to prevent the world from running effectively, the way we used to know it.

As a result, many jobs are at risk. Civil servants are at risk because broke governments around the world are going to learn that they can run without an overbloated bureaucracy. Just look at what Lagos state government is able to achieve with about 70% of its staff at home not working in Nigeria. Companies will be swifter and more ruthless in implementing changes to the way they are structured and work because for them the bottom line is critical. Businesses that cannot adapt to being relevant when movement of large segments of the population is restricted are likely to die-off.

Imagine an entrepreneur that has invested in a big office and large staff to impress potential customers, the public and investors. And then there's this lockdown caused by the Covid-19 global pandemic. Huge investment and a huge loss of revenue mean that such a business might be in trouble. Its survival is called to question unless the management can quickly find ways to cut cost and try to increase revenue. Juxtapose this to a business that has few staff and has a strong presence online. It encourages minimum direct interaction with customers in its business model. Even if it is not making much money now, its costs are also low, it can adapt faster to the new order of things and even leverage on its flexible structure to raise sales and revenue. This ensures that it has a better chance of surviving.

It doesn't matter whether you are an employee or an entrepreneur, the nature of work and business is rapidly changing and it is those that have relevant skills and models that will thrive in this new economy.

So, what skills and strategies are going to be critical in this new world order of work and business?

Let me suggest a few:

Important Skills and Services Required in the Post-Covid19 World
1.    Digital Skills & Services
2.    Simplified Quality Healthcare
3.    Logistics
4.    Telecommuting and Online Shopping
5.    Food Business
6.    Cyber Security
7.    Online Learning and Education Boom

Let’s look at them in detail:

1. Digital Skills & Services

Any skill or service that supports the delivery of information, education, entertainment and exchange of value online is likely to experience a boom. Zoom the online platform that makes online meetings and collaboration possible has seen an increase in use. Different organizations from the Lagos state government and private schools are making use of it to host virtual classes and meetings. Web designers, programmers, graphic designers, digital marketers, bloggers, digital content producers are all expected to experience a boom. While the majority of the population might not fall ill, we need to still communicate with family and friends as well as be informed, educated and entertained during the pandemic while many that need money are also trying to earn it online.

2. Simplified Quality Healthcare

The idea of the hospital and how it can be run is beginning to change. We are seeing stadiums, halls, and convention centers being turned to temporary but functional hospitals. Retired hospital staff are being recalled to support the healthcare system. This makes it clear that in the future, older healthcare professionals can expect to be retained on flexible contracts to provide standardized and affordable healthcare for underserved communities in developed countries or large populations in the developed world.

3. Logistics is Critical

Delivering goods and tangible products from either points of production or storage to where they are needed is a new critical area for future economies. While many sectors of the American economy have been affected negatively by the Covid-19 induced shutdown of many parts of the United States, trucking companies and truckers are seeing increased demand for their services to keep essential supplies available to the general population. Even in Nigeria, the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST) is repositioning itself as a key provider of logistics services in this period where Lagos, Ogun and Abuja, 3 critical parts of Nigeria and other places like Rivers and Kaduna states are under lockdown.

4. Telecommuting and Online Shopping to Become Widely Accepted

Many organizations that hitherto scoffed at the idea of staff working from home are beginning to realize that it is something worth considering and adapting to. Some had encouraged staff to work from home before a formal lockdown was announced by the federal and state governments in some parts of Nigeria. Also, some Nigerians who didn't believe in buying stuff or paying for services online are getting forced to subscribe to pay-tv or buy for I subscription online. This trend is likely to continue Covid-19.

5. Food Business is Critical

Agriculture and its entire value chain including food processing and preparation is critical. Governments especially those in developing countries like Nigeria have had to find ways to ensure that citizens have access to food during lockdowns. Investors and businesses are likely to be more interested in food processing and storage to meet huge demand during emergencies and pandemics like this in the future.

6. Cyber Security: Online Fraud and Criminal Activity

The more people do stuff online, the more criminals will try to swindle, steal from and extort them. Cyber security and forensics is definitely going to be more important in this era. Those with knowledge and skills in this area are likely to have a huge demand for their services.
Companies providing security solutions are also likely to do well. Despite Zoom's rise and popularity during this Covid-19 pandemic, it got backlash after Elon Musk questioned its security. This and other concerns will always be around. Hence, the demand for cyber security experts and companies is expected to increase as more people move their key business operations online.

7. Online Learning and Education Boom
The world is changing rapidly and only those that have the relevant skills will be competitive. Many have started learning new skills online because this current global lockdown has shown them how vulnerable they are with their current skill set. So, if you can teach people the new critical skills they need, you can expect a huge spike in demand, growth and profitability.

The days of looking down on online coaching and training are gone.

The world has changed in the last 2 months and is still changing. The faster we begin to accept and adjust to this new reality, the better we are likely to do in it. Do not feel overwhelmed, just adapt, learn and relearn to excel in these new, different and difficult times.


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