Four Tips for Coping With the “New Normal”

A tight labor market, new tech — today’s business challenges require new strategies

Your customer expectations and demands have shifted dramatically. A tight labor market means certain teams are understaffed. The business landscape is still leveling off, but countless rapid changes have reset the perspective for companies, employees and consumers.

Even with a much-awaited resurgence, many business leaders are struggling to split attention between managing the ever-changing present and planning strategic initiatives for the future. The “old” methods of addressing business challenges are no longer enough. While the phrase “new normal” is common, the truth is we are still working to define what that means in the long term. There is huge demand for scalable support, accessible information and clear options.

Emerging with Clarity

While it’s impossible to return to the world as it was in February 2020, organizations can be realistic about the challenges that they face today. Rather than constantly shifting to accommodate a “new normal,” concentrate your organization’s focus on three core building blocks — people, processes and systems — under the lens of short- and long-term strategic goals. Current gaps can be addressed with thoughtful strategy and investment in effective resources, allowing your organization to seize its potential for growth.

Challenge: A tight labor market
Whether your organization is developing a new role or reviving positions that were cut due to the impacts of the pandemic, the current labor market is highly competitive and managing critical functions while adapting to evolving challenges is no easy feat. Business leaders must also prepare for unplanned employee turnover. While we are all hopeful that the inevitable turnover will be infrequent and occur during a time of stability and smooth sailing, this is rarely the case.

Tip: Look for scalable support for key tasks, even if your team is managing well at the moment.

Implement cross-training programs between and amongst functional teams. Put additional safeguards into place by engaging an outsourced partner who can get to know your organization’s strategy and needs. Transparent communication with your advisor about your organization’s current state and future plans can uncover new opportunities. A proactive partner will ready their staff to augment your critical teams in times of need. This extra support may be in the form of assistance with day-to-day processes, extraordinary projects, or items of technical depth such as compliance, taxation or systems.

Challenge: Modified controls and processes
As the world experienced rapid change, organizations adapted processes, technology and resources to address needs as they arose. How has your organization’s adaptation to the “new normal” impacted your control environment? As you consider this question, you will likely discover modifications and additions that must now be vetted for suitability and security for the long-term.

Tip: Ask your professional services advisor for a business process review.

It’s time to take a full inventory of modified processes, new technology and vendors, and any changes to your current control structure due to evolving business operations. Evaluating the current state of your processes at a high level while connecting the dots between the deploment of your people, processes, and systems can help you understand any immediate areas of concern while identifying areas for future improvement and efficiency.

Challenge: Technology evolution and adoption
Many organizations are implementing cloud-based tools that were not previously considered high priority. Technology has evolved at breakneck pace to keep up with the demand for remote and hybrid work. It can be a huge undertaking to evaluate options and then roll out a new or complementary systems.

Tip: Enlist help to assess your return on current technology investments and evaluate future opportunities.

Consider where your organization is spending the most effort for the least return. Cloud software isn’t just about the technology—it can provide adaptability, accessibility and efficiency that can sharpen your organization’s competitive edge. Working with a software selection partner can take some of the burden off your own team, and even modest investments in cloud computing can have a significant impact.

Challenge: Facilitating data processes in the “new normal”
COVID-19 underscored the importance of having tools that support accurate and timely decision-making in a crisis. Accessible, immediate, and meaningful data analysis is crucial. Organizations that lack current, accessible and automated reporting should consider revamping data capture and aggregation processes.

Tip: Thoroughly assess manual processes and current systems before selecting new technology.

While many organizations have made investments in robust accounting systems, adoption and ongoing training is crucial. Work with your professional services advisor to evaluate technology solutions that streamline manual processes, fit into your existing business operations, and provide accessible, always-current data to help finance leaders understand the state of the business quickly and develop forward-looking strategy.

Addressing business challenges with a holistic approach

No one knows what the future holds, but a strong relationship with a professional services advisor can help proactively address gaps in key functional areas — people, process and systems. This type of support puts necessary strategies and best practices into place so that services can scale to meet your needs, especially when change is happening quickly and strategic goals seem out of reach. Connect with your advisor now and talk through your organization’s current challenges. Such professionals have an extended network available to help, and often work with other clients in similar circumstances.

Perspectives Guest Katherine Torres

Katherine Torres, CIA, is a director in P&N’s Consulting Services Group whose career has been focused on management consulting services. She primarily helps clients manage opportunities and challenges that may result from compounding growth in the marketplace. P&N’s experienced, multidisciplinary teams are well-versed in supporting Gulf South organizations through change and strategic growth.