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During Covid, corporate flexibility wasn’t merely a benefit for the company’s performance. If they were to survive the epidemic, they needed to do so.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 43 percent of smaller businesses relied on flexibility to get through the crisis. Their willingness to swap gears quickly paid off more than anticipated in several circumstances.

Throughout 2020 and early 2021, the media has reported on company teams that redefined their mission and generated more money. And it was all because to their willingness to be flexible.

The United States Chamber of Commerce has also written on the need of flexibility in times of economic uncertainty. In one paper on the attributes most likely to drive firms to post-coronavirus success, for example, resourcefulness played a key role.

What makes flexibility so important for firms experiencing challenges—or just seeking to stay competitive? One of the main reasons is that most stakeholders, particularly buyers and employees, like to see considerable company flexibility.

Why do customers and employees value company flexibility?

Flexible businesses provide a number of significant benefits for both consumers and employees. But first, let’s take a look from the client perspective.

Consumers have grown more picky than ever before. Consumer attitude has even shifted away from well-known businesses. McKinsey researchers have shown that up to 40% of consumers are abandoning brand loyalty in study after study.

As a result, they’re more likely to buy from forward-thinking companies that can address their immediate demands. (In other words, companies that are willing to let go of what they’ve done in the past.)

Employees like corporate flexibility as well, but for personal reasons rather than strictly professional ones. For example, they seek to establish long-term relationships with companies that will help them achieve a better work-life balance. This, predictably, indicates that the employer supports remote or hybrid work wherever feasible.

Workers aren’t only quitting jobs for brighter pastures, according to a report in The New York Times about the Great Resignation. Instead, they’re emigrating to more adaptable and fertile lands. Rather than risking burnout by working for a strict organization, they are looking for organizations that treat them as full persons.

These results on the importance of corporate flexibility aren’t merely anecdotal. From journalists to social scientists, they’re all measuring and evaluating them. It’s evident that company flexibility isn’t just a nice-to-have feature. Instead, it’s a must-have trait for any contemporary firm looking to lead the remainder of the decade.

In practice, what does business flexibility look like?

Flexibility in the workplace isn’t a one-size-fits-all occurrence. It’s also not restricted to a certain industry. Companies are experimenting with flexibility in new ways across all industries.

Take, for example, the education market. Lockdowns ushered education into the second decade of the twenty-first century, which had long been chastised for its archaic thinking. New techniques and pedagogies evolved when students and instructors started studying and teaching from home.

A clear change in mindset toward an appreciation of varied training possibilities occurred as well.

The response to ambitious educational flexibility has been overwhelmingly favorable. According to a research conducted by Instructure’s learning management platform Canvas, 81 percent of instructors believe hybrid teaching will continue.

Institutions started offering flexible learning options to their courses when students were able to return to classrooms and campuses.

Food service is another example of industry-specific adaptability. Many eateries were unable to serve clients in the conventional sense for obvious reasons. While many restaurants failed to make it until 2021, others retooled their aims and offerings.

Chipotle is a fantastic example of action flexibility. Prior to Covid, the national chain had the advantage of being a well-known brand. Nonetheless, as noted by Nation’s Restaurant News, its rivals did not all exhibit exceptionally strong sales growth in the second quarter of 2020.

So, what was Chipotle’s key to flexibility? The fast-food chain made extensive use of digital technology. The firm smashed its rivals without missing a beat by increasing its digital marketing efforts and streamlining online ordering.

5 ways to boost your company’s flexibility

Flexibility is a must-have skill set for successful firms, as shown by examples ranging from education to food services. Flexibility, on the other hand, does not happen in a C-Suite executive-driven vacuum. It also doesn’t happen by coincidence. Putting plans in place is the best way to assure the maximum level of flexibility in any firm.

Here are five approaches for business owners and executives to guarantee that their organizations become and remain adaptable.

1. Get rid of the excuses like “we tried that before”

Why do so many businesses insist on doing things the same way they’ve always done them? To be honest, they believe that if something has worked in the past, it will work again. This line of reasoning, however, does not hold water, particularly in light of recent changes in customer behavior.

The first step toward organizational flexibility is to quit accepting excuses like “That never worked” or “We’ve always done it this way.” Instead, employees and teams should be encouraged to analyze and update procedures and processes.

Will every fresh concept that comes to the fore be worth pursuing? Most likely not. Regardless, each brainstorming session has the potential to result in a beautiful “Aha!” moment. Despite the fact that the narrative is mythical, most people believe that Thomas Edison failed hundreds of times before creating the lightbulb.

Failure and flexibility, on the other hand, go hand in hand. Workers may be working by candlelight or gaslight if Edison had continued attempting the same technique and obtaining the same outcome.

2. Recognize and reward workers who are creative

Some workers will naturally suggest new ideas to improve the company. They are, however, a small minority. Workers are more likely to come up with suggestions to make their organization more flexible if they are urged and maybe compensated.

This is why Embracer Group encourages its staff to be innovative and creative. Embracer Group chose to motivate its video game industry employees to think differently about their market after acquiring Gearbox Entertainment.

Gearbox team members recognize that they have the secret to success in their thoughts and hands, since they face the chance of earning more money if they meet performance objectives via creative thinking.

Randy Pitchford, the creator of Gearbox, argues why thinking outside the box pays dividends in his company’s popular, demanding medium. “Gearbox will have the creative space we need to develop new titles and build on existing ones,” Pitchford said following the Embracer merger.

This amount of freedom and flexibility is unheard of in the video game business, and it’s one of the reasons why the merger seemed natural in the end.”

3. Review fundamental processes on a regular basis

Flexibility isn’t something you achieve once and then forget about. It’s a trip without a clear end point. As a result, organizations must continue to innovate and rethink what it means to be flexible.

Otherwise, what seemed to be quite flexible one year may become the industry standard the following. To put it another way, a procedure or workflow may become to seem stale or routine.

It isn’t required to examine procedures on a regular basis. That would take time away from operating the company. Leaders should, however, review their procedures at least regularly or semi-annually. It’s never a terrible idea to ask, “Should we be more adaptable in some way?”

Again, this does not imply that processes must be altered on a regular basis. Many, on the other hand, will perform admirably season after season. However, it’s better to recognize which ones are withering so they may be rejuvenated as soon as possible.

4. Keep an eye on the flexibility of other businesses

In addition to monitoring a company’s own flexibility, executives should keep an eye on rivals’ and non-competitors’ flexibility. Monitoring may be accomplished in a variety of ways, beginning with some old-fashioned social listening.

Paying attention to what other companies (typically competitors) are doing and saying on social media is known as social listening. Consider Facebook and YouTube, but also keep Twitter and TikTok in mind. Keeping track of what’s going on in other businesses might show big changes they’re making.

Take, for example, the growth of self-checkout. According to NCR, 87 percent of customers desire some kind of self-checkout. However, not all self-checkouts are created equal. Some shops are attempting to make the whole procedure more adaptable.

Removing self-checkout machines and allowing clients to pay only with their mobile devices is one option. The quicker a firm learns via social listening that its top rival has taken this sort of risky initiative (and succeeded), the better.

5. Keep track of consumer feedback

Companies and their employers may believe they are providing flexibility. However, if consumers disagree, your organization should modify or abandon the solution. As a result, businesses must maintain constant touch with their customers.

Customer feedback should be gathered, reviewed, and acknowledged, whether via in-store chats or online questionnaires.

This is another example of the age-old wisdom of understanding your consumer. Allowing purchasers to circumvent human customer support employees by using chatbots, for example, may seem to be a significant advantage.

What if the company’s target demographic is the retiring Baby Boomer generation? Despite their technological prowess, people may prefer to communicate with a live person. They don’t want to have to wait long to be served.

If they couldn’t get what they wanted, 57% of Baby Boomer customers would switch brands.

Thanks to Peter Daisyme at Business 2 Community whose reporting provided the original basis for this story.