This pandemic has rewritten the future of business and from the looks of things, this sector will never be the same again.
There have been vast changes from the adoption of new technologies to the redefining of business strategies to keep companies operational. If you are still in doubt about these changes, here are four ways of how the world of business looks like now:
1. Virtual meetings
Though bad, the pandemic has served as an equalizer. How has it succeeded in doing this? Before, large companies had an advantage over small companies because they have more staff, particularly salespeople who meet with customers in person. With the health authorities discouraging close contact, both business dimensions (big or small) have been forced to leverage virtual sales meetings to market their products. Virtual meetings have now become the new normal and are bound to here to stay for a while. The advantage of virtual meetings is that they are economical hence they will keep your sales budget at a lower threshold. While sales still require a certain level of expertise, smaller firms can now also afford to make use of virtual platforms to make their marketing pitch to their audience. Given how technology is growing, virtual meetings continue to evolve, sales approaches may just change for good.
2. Working remotely rise
While previously people still worked remotely, at the moment, there is a rise in pandemic-induced remote workers and this number will continue to go up. However, it is going to be in the form of hybrid models where the staff is going to split their time between billing hours in the office and at home. Working remotely will have an impact on urban economies in that as more people work remotely, there is going to be less demand for restaurants, shops, bars, or other services that cater to the needs of commuting workers. Even then employees and companies will save a lot more on personal expenses and office space respectively. There is also going to be a reversal of patterns as more skilled and educated professionals will move to rural settings as opposed to before. Such a shift will be possible because of the availability of clear communication channels among people. At the moment, staff can share large files in zip formats that enable everyone to receive the same file folder. Sharing single files containing multiple documents will enable the compression of large files into small documents.
3. Improved customer management
The pandemic has forced people to reinvest ways of interacting with customers. While other sectors in business such as strategy, differentiation, delegation, communication, training, and execution will remain the same, customer relationship management has been changed forever. Businesses are now more dependent and reliant on their digital presence. At the moment, if you lack presence on any of the available social media accounts, you are losing big bucks. Social media also reinvented itself such that it can link users with your website and blogs. It can also help your site rank high on search engines enabling customers to find you with ease. The usage of social media will continue to go up given that some business has been born from these platforms. You will need an effective customer relationship management plan in case you didn’t have one previously to handle your newly identified customers.
4. Business radicalization
COVID 19 provides a chance for rapid business changes to occur. In 2008 when the world experienced a financial crash, it was predicted to the end of capitalism. Over a decade later, most of the capitalistic financial institutions are still in place. So, while there are elements that cannot be changed in business, after the pandemic, most organizations will need to embrace radicalism in ways that were not inconceivable two decades ago. This means that schools of business have a vital role to play in incorporating the new business strategies learned during this pandemic in their curricula. Apart from teaching strategy, finance, and marketing, business schools will have to incorporate radical measures such as cultural, ethical, and societal issues in their curricula.
Given that the pandemic is still here with us, it will continue to shape the business world in ways that have never been seen before. If you are in business, the ideal thing to do is keep an open lest you will be forced to shut your business operations!
The role of healthy communication in the workplace
To foster a healthy work environment, employers should take communication more seriously.
Profit is the purpose of every business organization. The best way to sustain profit is to strengthen the “Employer-Employee” relationship and the “Buyer-Seller” relationship. The profit of every business organization depends on these two. The success and failure of every business organization also depends on these two.
Communication is one of the major concerns in an organization and it is very necessary in our workspace and among people around us. Constant communication helps to build a strong connection in the relationship between an employer and an employee. It is crucial to the growth and success of your business and it allows everyone to provide input and feel that their ideas are valued.
Everyone can communicate as long as it is with words. In an organization, both the employer and the employees should develop good communication skills.
Your employees are part of the vision of your company and their opinions and innovations should be considered. This will go a long way in building a positive workplace culture.
Communication can be in oral or written form; and while written communication is the preferred form of communication in organisations, oral communication should neither be limited or downplayed. As an employer, your employees should be able to communicate freely with you. Communication reminds your employees about the goals of your company and helps you to delegate responsibilities effectively.
According to research, 57% of employees report not being given clear directions. A survey of 400 companies with 100,000 employees cited an average loss of $62.4 million per annum because of inadequate communication between the employer and the employees.
It is the responsibility of an employer to communicate the organisation’s vision, mission, goals and objectives to employees. Goals must also S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely). Where communication is absent or ineffectively handled, employees can become unproductive, unresourceful, demotivated, and disorganised. There may also be high employee turnover which ultimately affects the profitability of the business. Without effective communication, an organisation will most likely be unable to retain its star performers or motivate average-performing employees into becoming highflyers.
Communication in organisations should not be left only to the Human Resources department, but feedback should also be encouraged from employees. Where there is a gap in communication, employees are left with no choice but to fill these gaps with rumours, (wrong) assumptions, gossip and the spread of misinformation. This creates an unhealthy work environment that is detrimental to the business.
To foster a healthy work environment, employers should take communication more seriously. They should not only learn the art of effective communication but should also encourage and be receptive to feedback from their employees.
Why NNPC’s Borno power plant may not materialise
The glaring security challenge cannot be overlooked in considering a major power plant project in Borno State.
Only a few days ago, the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari, led a delegation to Borno State to meet with the Governor of the State, Babagana Zulum.
In the conversation with Zulum, Kyari promised the establishment of a gas-fired power plant in Borno State within a maximum of 4 months to solve the recent blackouts that resulted from insurgents cutting off Borno from the national grid since January this year.
In Kyari’s words, “We have talked to each other and we think it’s very possible to establish a dedicated power plant in Maiduguri which will serve current needs of power supply not only in Maiduguri but to other parts of the neighbouring cities.”
Yet, there is a significant possibility that the power plant promised by Kyari may not materialize for many reasons, the first of which is security. In the meeting with Kyari, Governor Zulum had noted: “The ongoing insurgency has cut off the entire Borno from the national grid in the last three months. We put all our efforts and restored it back… but unfortunately, after 48 hours, the same group of insurgents went back and destroyed the main tower again.”
This glaring security challenge cannot be overlooked in considering a major power plant project in Borno State, particularly noting that the State and its surrounding communities have been the hot zone of insurgent and terrorist attacks by Boko Haram insurgents since 2009. Borno, Yobe and Adamawa have particularly been states where the insurgents have set up shop and carried out various activities, including kidnap, extermination of entire communities, burning of markets and religious buildings and the attack on the United Nations compound, in each case claiming tens or hundreds of innocent lives.
One report reveals that at least 37, 500 people have been killed by the insurgent group since May 2011, a modest number, some say. Also, till date, some of the secondary school girls kidnapped in the April 2014 Chibok incident are yet to be returned to their families. It is then bewildering how Kyari intends to see to the construction and operationalizing of this gas power plant.
Additionally, while the Minister of Petroleum for State, Chief Timipre Sylva, announced last year about the discovery of oil and gas deposits in the North, we have not seen any exploration and production kick-off. It then begs the question of where the gas for the Borno power plant intends to be sourced. The only gas pipeline that runs through the North – the AKK- is still in its first phase of construction out of three phases and has been earmarked at the earliest, to be completed in 2023 – not counting the typical delays the project will experience along the way.
Should the AKK by some stroke of luck materialize much earlier than the target date, the pipeline route is a considerable distance from Borno. It runs the route of Ajaokuta-Abuja-Katsina-Kano, its endpoint, a striking 481km from Borno State. Thus, there would have to be construction of a tie-in pipeline almost as long as the AKK from Kano to Borno State to get gas to Borno.
Optimists may reference the oil and gas discovery in the North and how production may start soon, thus obliterating the need for a 481km pipeline. This optimism however is not well-founded, as insecurity has been shown to be a major risk to oil and gas projects everywhere in the world. One of the major reasons the Trans-Saharan Gas Pipeline proposed to run from Nigeria to Algeria was abandoned was due to security challenges posed by Nigeria’s Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the Tuareg guerilla movement in Niger and other insurgent groups along the proposed route of the pipeline.
These increased the risks across board, including for completion and operations through the lifecycle of the project. As such, failing to fix the security threats in northeast Nigeria makes any proposed gas plant project a pipe dream. Transporting gas via LNG trucks is not a better option, given that the drivers and their cargoes would be in danger of being kidnapped, shot at or bombed. The risks for both personnel and investors are high.
In any event, promising a power plant in 4 months for the people of Borno is unconscionable, since a typical gas power plant will take between 1 to 6 years to construct in relatively peaceful regions. What the government needs to do instead of making promises it cannot keep is to work arduously to fix the security challenges in Northern Nigeria and at the same time consider using decentralised solar power to provide power supply to homes, government institutions, schools and businesses while plans to produce gas in the region or transport gas to it are underway.
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