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COVID-19 has delivered a paradigm shift in terms of workforce productivity, with employers and employees alike hailing the benefits of remote working and digital transformation. Mac Karlekar has been helping businesses transform digitally for many years and welcomes some of the changes the pandemic has brought. Here, we speak to Mac about the core ingredients of workforce productivity – adopting digital, changing mindset and building an innovation culture.

Cast your mind back to March 2020 when office workers were furiously rushing to pack up their desks in preparation for an indefinite period of working from home.

You could not have imagined then that, almost 18 months later, we would be only just beginning to return to the office.

The coronavirus pandemic has been a great social experiment for the UK workforce, one where bosses have had to trust their employees to get the job done without supervision, while employees have had to trust that they would be able to perform their duties without the support a company office provides.

By and large, working from home has been a success, particularly in terms of workforce productivity.

Where businesses would have previously expected their productivity to suffer if they were deprived of the office infrastructure, often the reverse has been true.

Many home workers have reported being able to get more done, more quickly because they are not being distracted and don’t have to spend hours of their day commuting to and from the office.

Digital transformation

For Mac Karlekar, Digital Transformation Adviser and Founder of Formula2GX, it is digital technologies and changes to organisational culture that have allowed productivity to flourish in the COVID-19 era.

He says: “There were a number of things that happened during COVID-19 that are interesting.

“One was digitalisation, which got pushed much more proactively and accepted very easily.

“It was recognised that technology allows people to see each other faster and more frequently, share and collaborate, and plan their day in a much more structured way.”

Digital adoption has surely been one of the biggest trends to have emerged from the pandemic.

Businesses operating in sectors that were previously agnostic towards digital tools have digitalised en masse, transforming their day-to-day business operations and how they communicate with their staff and customers.

Often these companies have found the initial cost of introducing digital infrastructure has been neutralized by the efficiency and productivity gains it has brought.

“You can visualize things better with digital technology,” adds Mac.

Mindset change

In addition to the digital adoption trend has been the wholesale mindset shift whereby many companies have disrupted their business models to continue to reach their customers.

From restaurants to retailers, hairdressers to hotels, coronavirus restrictions have meant long periods of being unable to trade for business owners and their staff. They in turn have had to adopt fresh mindsets, get creative and find new routes to market.

The result has been a proliferation of new commercial offerings, from restaurants moving into “at home” takeaway services to independent retailers moving into the ecommerce space.   

Mac says: “A lot of organisations have disrupted their business models to find out more.

“For small and medium-sized businesses, having that attitude of going beyond your core business to create new products and services has been commercially good for them and also added more value to their end customers.”

Innovation culture

Building an innovation culture is key to being able to disrupt and diversify a business model in this way.

Mac says: “Innovation is at the core of change within any enterprise.”

Building such a culture is not easy though, whether you are an owner manager of a small business or an executive of a corporation.

Mac has some key pieces of advice for instituting innovation in any organisation.

One is to give every member of the team an opportunity to speak and share their ideas, from the new recruits to the senior managers.

He says: “Innovation comes about when you bring your team together to take ownership of it.

“Bringing new people in to disrupt old ways of thinking while also understanding what has happened in the business and building on it. That’s where an organisation can flourish.

“Giving everybody the opportunity to input is what I feel creates the cohesion for innovation.”

 Fostering collaboration between the different units in a business also facilitates innovation by allowing people to learn from each other, align their activities and capture each other’s energy.

“An innovation culture with collaboration at its core will help a company grow,” adds Mac.

Alignment

Another piece of the innovation puzzle is workforce alignment – getting your team to understand and assimilate with the overall business strategy and vision.

Mac explains: “Alignment comes in when you are able to make a statement of value to your external customers, defining what the company stands for and what value it is going to generate that all your employees are on board with.

“Ultimately,” he concludes, “it’s important to be able to paint a vision when you’re building an innovation culture.”

Key takeaways:

Richard Dawson
Article by Richard Dawson
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