2021: Disruption and Opportunity

2021 has been a year marked by disruption, frustration and hope as the world has attempted to progress beyond the Covid-19 Pandemic. Organisations across the globe have been forced to confront a range of trends and issues which have been accelerated by the pandemic; seismic shifts employee expectations and behaviours, a consumer market willing to experiment and demanding radically improved experiences, and rapid digital and physical innovation which have threatened incumbents and provided opportunities for new and untraditional players. Each of these trends has, in parallel, provided immense opportunities for organisations to drive growth into 2022 by capitalising on the benefits of hybrid work, launching new products or refreshing current offerings to deliver an exceptional consumer experience, and embedding organisation-wide innovation.
 
There is a reason that the average life span of S&P 500 organisations has dropped from 30-35 years in the 1970’s to just 15-20 years in the 2020’s. Creative destruction is as strong as ever – those who adapt, reap the reward, and those who don’t go the way of Kodak. In 2022, organisations that can take advantage of three key trends we have identified will gain superior employee attraction and retention, new and loyal customers, and strong market positioning through innovation.

 

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Getting Hybrid Work Right in 2022 Is Essential

The first trend, which has dominated much of the conversation this year, has been the shift to hybrid work. Following the dash to ‘work from home’ in 2020, which was rushed and unplanned, 2021 has been a year of experimentation with many organisations charting their own unique hybrid work experiences and adopting a range of models. However, in the context of the ‘great resignation’, an increasing trend in Australia, hybrid work plans must be refined so that they not only maximise productivity but also enhance employee experience, thereby increasing long term retention and growth. Seeking to adopt a cookie-cutter approach to hybrid work models is counter-productive. Rather, each organisation, and each team within an organisation has a unique spectrum of needs, pressures and expectations to consider when determining the optimal format. Successful organisations will need to take a human-centred approach to their hybrid work plans in 2022, spending time understanding and empathising with their employees to create exceptional experiences. If 2020 was the year of unplanned and haphazard shifts to hybrid work, and 2021 was the year of experimentation, 2022 needs to be the year where organisations get it right.

 

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Customer Expectations have lifted

 
The second trend is that the bar has been lifted regarding consumer expectations, accompanied by an increased willingness from consumers to experiment with new products and services. In the retail context, we have seen that almost 60% of consumers feel their expectations are higher compared to a year ago, with many other industries reporting similar trends. Particularly in the digital space, the pandemic era reliance on high quality online services has conditioned consumers to expect positive experiences online which serve to replace and enhance physical experiences, not merely as nice-to-have additions. Many organisations appear unaware of this paradigm shift in consumer expectations, whilst others, which have rapidly adapted, have positioned themselves as market leaders. Take for example Amazon, which focuses intensely on its customer experience. Unlike many other services, Amazon customers, upon making an order, receive a specific date of delivery which is consistently delivered upon and is a highly reliable estimate. Amazon targets their customer’s needs and wants of certainty and convenience, and as a result is the go-to service for most Australians when they need something in a rapid and reliable fashion. All organisations need to take an Amazon-style approach of recognising and beating raised customer expectations if they wish to outgrow their competition.

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Rapid Innovation Needs to be the norm

Organisations can only match the raised bar set by consumers by engaging in the third key trend we have noticed in 2021; that rapid digital and physical innovation have become the norm. As everyday consumers continue to become more willing to experiment with new products and services, industries have been disrupted and incumbents sidelined. The rise of the unconventional ‘Buy Now Pay Later’ Afterpay products, popularity of the JB-HiFi store-to-door initiative which enables same day delivery of small-medium items and even the meteoric growth of the eccentric and online-only ‘Oodie’ brand, show that consumers are willing to experiment with fresh, exciting and customer focused brands which can outcompete traditional brands. When consumers experiment with the new, and are pleasantly surprised to receive high quality experiences, the old will not survive. Only by having a strategy which emphasises and embeds organisation-wide innovation will companies be able to continue to provide fresh experiences which delight and trump the competition.
 
As we look forward to 2022, the key to galvanising growth and leapfrogging the competition will be engaging with these trends head on to drive proactive organisational change. Organisations with effective hybrid work policies, a conscious and deliberate effort to deliver on raised customer expectations and a focus on rapid digital and physical innovation will prevail, while those who fail to adapt will find themselves left behind.
 

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