Business owners should focus on their employees this year and 2021 will lay the foundation for a stronger, healthier business.

 

South Africa (22 January 2021) – It’s an understatement to say that no one expected 2020 to turn out the way it did. This time last year, my team and I were planning an industrial theatre production and in-person culture training. The launch and growth of the Hatch Institute looked very different a few months into the year. Like everyone else, we needed to find a new way of operating, and more importantly, we had to work with our clients to do the same.

In many ways, 2021 reminds me of that old quote, “Here comes the new king, just like the old king.” In other words, nothing really changes, or at least, nothing is changing yet, despite vaccines slowly being rolled out overseas.

And yet, I remain filled with hope, which is only fuelled by the work we’re doing with businesses around the country.

Yes, individuals, communities and businesses have faced hardships. But in every crisis lies an opportunity, and that’s what gives me hope. I’ve been building teams and businesses for over four decades and we’ve never had a better opportunity to change things from the ground up.

The best part is that everyone benefits. Employees will see real transformation in their business cultures and their operating environments, which in turn will ensure a sense of belonging and a commitment to taking better care of customers. This leads directly to revenue growth and improved profits.

The secret to boosting profits isn’t to cut back on expenses (particularly people). It’s to stop looking at people as cost burdens and instead to see them as assets: the bedrock of a successful business.

The opportunity in the crisis

The big question business owners and executive teams are facing right now is simple: What will the new world look like as we move through 2021? The danger is that we slip into the old way of doing business. Just a reminder, the old ways weren’t working too well. During 2020, South Africa descended into a state of despair and fear so quickly, it’s clear that these emotions were bubbling just below the surface anyway. Covid-19 just brought them out, and now we all need to face them.

I am a big believer that racial polarisation is the root of all (or at least most) of South Africa’s ills. Of course, racial polarisation didn’t cause Covid-19 or the subsequent lockdowns or economic crisis. But it has resulted in very different experiences of the pandemic, which in turn has highlighted the large disparities within our workplaces and communities.

We could have continued with blinkers on. And, if we wanted to, we could ignore everything that has been revealed to us over the past several months.

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