The pandemic is not over. The numbers still go up. Businesses are still at struggling. This leads to a million-dollar question of what we should do. Adaptation is one key to staying on top of things, but it is not an exact science. What to adapt? What is at stake? Questions are mounting as companies are struggling to keep their ledger from gushing red. What is the solution to this?
The New O2O
Global workforce has seen a great number of layoffs in the past couple of months. Boeing cut off its staff by 10 percent. Coca-Cola offered voluntary-separation packages. Even Ford offered buyouts to retirement-eligible workers. Those statements have clearly defined the grave danger that global business is at right now.
The situation is still developing but what is obvious, if not close to absolute, is that Covid-19 has caused companies to consider fastening their budget belt and consequently sending home their employees. A sad news but if it is any better, it is happening everywhere. It means that the threat is not exclusive and that a few good measures have been taken by either the government or the individuals whose jobs are on the line.
One of the most notable and logical measures taken by the impacted parties is to transition from offline environment to online environment. For example, in the human resource department, recruitment is no longer conducted in a closed-room. It is now almost fully dependent on Wi-Fi or mobile connection. In the F&B sector, the market has now shifted to a more online-heavy pattern, given that consumers now prefer their food delivered in an attempt to enforce physical distancing amid this global pandemic.
The key is speed. The key is willingness to adapt.
This pretty much has the same vibe with O2O process that we know in the world of commerce. However, rather than drawing online consumers to purchase products from offline market, the trend that we are experiencing right now is drawing offline products and processes to online environment as a means to bridge the distancing protocol and preventing the business from collapsing.
Questions of Change
The key to good business will always be the ability to constantly adapt to changes. Kodak failed to keep up with tides of change and now it stands as a lesson on why agility is important in (sustaining) business. Nokia shared similar fate when it comes to being late in jumping into the water. So did Blackberry Motion, Blockbuster, and (even) MySpace.
Hence, the question we should be asking ourselves now is not whether we need to adapt (or not). Adaptation is conclusive enough, given the fact that a number of countries are on the brink of recession as a result of business slowdown and colossal layoffs. We need to adapt. Pronto. Now we need to ask what adaptation we must embody and encourage.
Is the shifting the playing field from offline to online really the best solution? What is at risk? Will it produce the same outcomes? Can it be sustained? How?
The (Only) Solution
In June 2020, only a few months after Covid-19 surprised the globe, PwC US released a report that says 54 percent of CFOs in the States plan to make remote work a permanent option for roles that allow it. Indeed, the number might only be a few above halfway line and plenty argue that it should not be taken seriously. But given the scale of the respondents where the survey was taken, it does represent hundreds of thousands of people. Imagine if the context covers the entirety of planet earth.
How much of an effort will it be to turn those people work-from-home ready? How long will it need to shift the offline routines into online? Is it (really) the only solution?
The answer to the last question would be a decisive yes. WHO recent update shows that there are over 30 million reported cases and around 1 million deaths due to Covid-19 worldwide. The high numbers suggest that working from public environment, albeit within office cubicle, is not to the best of interest – both for the employees and the company. Relocating work environment to a less prone area is, by far, the best solution.
Fortunately, this is something that business people realize too. Specifically, in the context of Learning and Development, changes have been made to cater for self-preservation and business sustainability. Fosway reported that 94 percent of L&D professionals had to change their L&D strategy in response to the pandemic. Furthermore, the change, as described in the report, highlighted an increase of demand for digital learning by 71 percent. Surely it passes as a line to convince that a (reverse) O2O process or rapid digitization needs to be endorsed. Or forced.
It took 87 years from the invention of analog camera by George Eastman to the introduction of the first working digital camera system in 1975. Even then, the new product was still at the size of a breadbox and it took nearly half a minute to capture a single image. It was a step back compared to the shutter prowess that analog camera boasted at the time.
Not everything can succeed the first time around.
But after a couple of years of trials and errors, digital camera system managed to topple the old system.
The same analogy applied to the transition from offline to online. Big data requires system. System requires operating personnel or AI. Operating personnel or AI requires training. Training requires specialists. It is a long sequence of which business operations must undergo in order to ensure the survival of a company. In it, there is always risks.
Reverse O2O carries multiple risks that can be elemental and trivial. In and post the pandemic, offline to online transition, especially in the L&D sector, will likely face two key issues namely (1) resources and control, (2) sustainability.
- Online L&D will require tons of supporting infrastructure. L&D specialists need to ensure that their content can be adapted to online audience and that the supporting infrastructure such as internet will not be an issue. The latter one presents a whole new challenge as there are multiple intangible factors that can interrupt L&D processes. Internet can fail. Interpretation can vary. Implementation can deviate.
Hence, facilitating employees with top-notch content and hardware is crucial. Even then, the process might not yield expected results due to lack of hands-on approach.
- The fact that control is lacking in online L&D leads to a realization that this reverse O2O process might not benefit the company in the future. It is only a matter of time until a crack in the rashly-polished online system shows up and the entire process crumbles to dust. Monotonous L&D content can cause the audience to slip away unnoticed. Unchecked learning progress can cause a decline in performance. It is only a matter of time until somebody realizes that vis-à-vis interaction is missed.
It was French philosopher, Jacques Derrida, who first introduced the term deconstruction in the 60s. Not an easy concept, deconstruction attempts to see the binary of things. In the context of today’s global situation, deconstructing O2O can lead to a solution to cancel the impending recession by transitioning offline (business) processes to online.
There are three key takeaways from this reverse O2O. The first is that the transition needs to be implemented quickly and smoothly. The second is that the transition will present unprecedented challenges. The third is that the transition should not be designed temporarily as the new normal might completely revert business environment.
Finally, offline to online transition is not something that can be done in a blink of an eye. It is a process that might take years to refine and perfect. It is a process of continuous learning from trials and errors. Offline to online transition must start. It will hit a few roadblocks, but it is imperative that it keeps going because inevitably, the future is online.
Picture: © Murrstock | adobe.stock