In the years preceding the 2020s international health crisis, technological advancements were already beginning to change the way businesses operated. Remote working was, while less widely established, still a growing concept. Cloud-based technologies and data security were at the forefront of many discussions, prompting new approaches to operations and legislation. These changes were already in motion, with their popularity slowed largely by the caution and, in some cases, the reluctance of business leaders who did not want to invest in their potential. Then, as COVID became a harsh reality, business’ hands were forced.

Now, as we transition into a post-pandemic society, one that has demonstrated many of the benefits involved with technological advancements in business, leaders are now reassessing their decisions. In some cases, they are choosing to fully embrace new operations, onboarding remote teams and subscribing to collaborative cloud-based software. Others are remaining cautious, willingly conceding part of their office-space schedule to teleworking practices but primarily hoping to retain a shared-space enterprise.

Above all, however, businesses are prioritising people. This consideration has certainly been prompted in part by the health crisis, with early statistics already demonstrating rising levels of mental health disorders. However, it is also in response to the increasing digitisation and, by proxy, the remoteness of professional employment. As Altin Biba describes, in conversation with payroll services experts, People Group Services, “You can look at it from different dimensions but the people were the first ones that were impacted.”

“One of the things that many businesses, I hope, would agree, is that COVID has driven an unprecedented change of pace,” Biba says. When faced with the challenges of digitisation, especially those that affect personnel, he adds that “There has to be a time that you commit to real change, real change that you know is going to add impact.”

Transitions to online video conferences, asynchronous tasks, and instant messaging require employees to relearn their roles. This is a significant undertaking and one that has the potential to change both the strengths of individuals and the interpersonal relationships that have benefited the employee team prior. If businesses do not prioritise their staff during such a transition, it will be made more difficult and, overall, far more costly.

Customer needs also change and, Biba remarks, “it is also important that we remain agile to that.” Services and businesses are now reopening but are being faced with a different landscape of demand, not only internally but externally too. When looking forward, it is adaptability to the new needs of customers that will ensure ongoing success.

Conversely, digitisation can often inhibit communication between people, which is why businesses must remain cautious when making decisions based upon digital feedback. Questionnaires, for example, remain a popular method for gaining customer feedback and yet can, and often are, problematic in their results. Internal feedback too, such as via email and video call, can also be inconclusive with various contexts and circumstances being missed or ignored.

This must be kept in mind for businesses looking to move onward and upward. Digitisation has numerous positive effects upon business, as the previous decades have demonstrated, but without due consideration given to the people behind the technology, success is likely to be limited or altogether lost.

By Richard