A post-pandemic question I hear frequently from all industries during the pandemic is, How do we communicate to our employees and customers going forward, and what do we tell them?
Communication was a huge obstacle for the education industry at the start of the pandemic. How do we discuss what to do with our staff and students, and is there a one-size-fits-all response to this?
First, start with what you do know. Educators around the world have been focused on informing their staff on what they didn’t know just yet, which became a type of frustrating white noise to teachers and professors as they scrambled to convert even the most tactile courses to an online format overnight.
Something I teach frequently in my Anticipatory Organization Model is to identify trends and differentiate between what I call Hard Trends, or future certainties that will happen, and Soft Trends, or future “maybes” that can be influenced and leveraged to your organization’s benefit.
Every organization in every industry can point to elements that are ripe for disruption thanks to accelerating technological advancements, yet those same principles can be applied during a pandemic to solve the most pertinent problems every industry faces: communication and transparency.
Many schools are now at a crossroads. Some are hybrid, some remain fully remote, several are open five days a week, and all are met with contention from parents, students, and educators in one way or another based on their decisions due to poor communication.
Schools should identify the Hard Trends they face in all this, such as the reality that online education is growing every day regardless of COVID-19, communicate these trends to all involved, and thereafter identify the Soft Trends to create a plan that endorses what they communicate.
For example, colleges that need students on campus can do so, but perhaps they have their classes remain remote, dining services provide curbside pickup, and student contact in facilities outside of living quarters is minimized.
As with schools, many in-person businesses struggled to figure out how to stay open, and when they settled on a plan, they missed the mark on communicating it to their customers to regain trust broken by the coronavirus.
The more information you can give your customers, the more trust you reinstate in them; however, communicating certainties is just talk without taking bold steps toward leveraging and implementing those certainties.
At the start of COVID-19, a few convenience stores were looking for advice on how to lay off their employees due to the drop in customers’ needs for gas, assuming they would have to either close down completely or drop to a skeleton crew, and unsure of how to convey this to their employees.
I pointed out that they already identified a Hard Trend; there are not going to be more people coming in for gas, but instead of closing down, I encouraged them to reposition themselves as necessity stores by adjusting their inventory. They can be certain that when panic buying occurs, people will come to them, hoping they have necessities.
In terms of laying individuals off, I encouraged them to instead hire people, as when identifying what else they could be certain about outside of their industry, one idea came from the reality that there are many unemployed Uber and Lyft drivers as a result of restaurants and bars closing, so why not hire them to deliver necessity items to customers who feel safer at home?
Perhaps transforming a convenience store into a necessity store with a delivery app is too bold, but that is exactly what we need right now! Instead of desperately clinging to the status quo, which is currently not sustainable, your traditional customers have become new customers looking for a backup plan when their grocery stores are out of necessities, while you have “pandemic proofed” your business by leveraging the delivery app idea.
But most importantly, you illustrate to your employees and customer base that you care, giving them a newfound sense of trust in you that they will never forget once the pandemic is over.
The same concepts of leveraging Hard Trends and Soft Trends and putting them into physical action can be done in the education industry. Schools are already starting to communicate what they are certain about, but they must act on these trends now to regain the trust of their educators, parents, and students.
Do not let this virus be the end of your business; learn how to become an Anticipatory Leader today, and start turning this time of complete disruption and change into transformative opportunity and advantage!
Daniel Burrus is considered one of the world’s leading futurists on global trends and innovation. The New York Times has referred to him as one of the top three business gurus in the highest demand as a speaker. He is a strategic advisor to executives from Fortune 500 companies, helping them to accelerate innovation and results by develop game-changing strategies based on his proven methodologies for capitalizing on technology innovations and their future impact. His client list includes companies such as Microsoft, GE, American Express, Google, Deloitte, Procter & Gamble, Honda, and IBM. He is the author of seven books, including The New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller Flash Foresight, and his latest book The Anticipatory Organization. He is a featured writer with millions of monthly readers on the topics of innovation, change and the future and has appeared in Harvard Business Review, Wired, CNBC, and Huffington Post to name a few. He has been the featured subject of several PBS television specials and has appeared on programs such as CNN, Fox Business, and Bloomberg, and is quoted in a variety of publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Fortune, and Forbes. He has founded six businesses, four of which were national leaders in the United States in the first year. He is the CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients profit from technological, social and business forces that are converging to create enormous, untapped opportunities. In 1983 he became the first and only futurist to accurately identify the twenty technologies that would become the driving force of business and economic change for decades to come. He also linked exponential computing advances to economic value creation. His specialties are technology-driven trends, strategic innovation, strategic advising and planning, business keynote presentations.