The post-pandemic business landscape has evolved. As a result, corporate boards must change, too. However, many boards continue to struggle in areas that are key to company growth in the new era.
As news cycles have shifted their focus and the world attempts to return to some sense of normalcy, four distinct pillars have emerged as key concerns for post-pandemic boards. Those pillars include:
- Diversity in all areas should be a key strategy.
- Staying ahead of the curve should remain a priority.
- Using AI to its full potential is vital.
- Risk management is no longer optional.
By focusing their efforts on the following four things, boards can better navigate this unique time in history and solidify their place in the market for many years to come.
1. Diversity in All Areas Is a Key Strategy.
That corporate boards struggle with diversity isn’t a new concept. Many want candidates who have been CEOs or CFOs. However, because those positions aren’t often held by those with diverse gender and cultural backgrounds, many organizations end up with homogenous boards that offer very little in the way of fresh perspectives.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the best news for corporations. That’s because:
- The current generation greatly values DEI initiatives and expects these efforts from corporations they spend their money with.
- Research shows that businesses with diverse leadership have better market outcomes. Those organizations are 45% more likely to report market share growth and 70% more likely to report capturing a new market in the previous year.
- It’s about more than just cultural diversity. Boards need directors with various areas of subject matter expertise, such as talent management, cybersecurity, and sustainability — all large-scale issues that exploded during and after the pandemic.
The truth is that board diversity is key to fostering the innovation that creates these types of results. When leaders value diversity enough to follow through with it, this attitude spills over into their approach to creative solutions and ideas. In turn, this helps the company better respond to disruption and hesitate less in taking advantage of opportunities coming down the pipeline.
2. Staying Ahead of the Curve Is a Priority.
The pandemic surprised everyone — including corporate leaders. However, it gave many organizations the courage to rise to the challenge with quick pivots and lightning-speed innovation. That tenacity paid off big for many corporations. In fact, some will continue to benefit from it well into the future.
One impeccably executed example of this is the Walt Disney Company.
When the pandemic resulted in reduced foot traffic in their parks, they took advantage of the situation by reallocating resources to their newly launched Disney+ streaming service.
That move resulted in big revenue gains, reaching over 100 million subscribers (the company’s four-year target) in just the first 16 months of the platform’s launch.
The issue for many boards is that now that customers know what is possible, they have come to expect it.
As far back as 2015, 84% of customers were reporting that they preferred to purchase products and services from companies committed to innovation. According to Gartner innovation specialist Jackie Fenn, businesses cannot afford to stay still when the world is moving around them.
Boards need to listen to their customers, engage them as partners, and proactively talk about the technologies they’re investing in. Taking these actions lets customers know that staying ahead of the curve is a priority for the business and that you’ll be in a position to continue solving problems for them well into the future.
3. Using AI to Its Full Potential Is Vital.
The business world seems simultaneously fascinated and terrified by artificial intelligence. On one hand, AI technology is changing even the minute details of everyday work, streamlining everything from screening and interviewing job candidates to writing a blog post to helping customers navigate a website.
On the other hand, concerns about ethics and data privacy abound, as many wonder about:
- Possible dissemination of sensitive data to unauthorized parties.
In a post-pandemic landscape where AI technology has so much potential, it’s important that boards develop concrete policies around it that allow companies to walk the tightrope between security and innovation.
You must be able to articulate how you will ensure your customers’ information and your company’s intellectual property do not end up in the wrong hands.
Failing to do so not only jeopardizes trade secrets and erodes customer trust but also increases your compliance risk exposure and results in hefty fines and penalties.
At the same time, you must lean into customer’s expectations about self-service options, personalized shopping, and other AI-driven solutions that provide the experience they desire. Learning to balance it all will require new ways of thinking about technology, work, and the world, but the extra effort is likely to pay off in the end.
4. Risk Management Is No Longer Optional.
The pandemic introduced the business world to risks it never knew existed. Many had to navigate legal and ethical challenges about what companies were doing to protect customer health. For the first time:
- Businesses had to dive head-first into managing a remote workforce
- Entirely new concerns about how to maintain data security compliance and protect the wider business network from increased vulnerabilities emerged.
These conversations have matured, but they have not gone away. As hybrid work continues to become the norm, they likely won’t. In the post-pandemic world, boards have to find a way to better understand and manage risks. There are more threats to corporations now than there have ever been, and directors must be ready to address them or risk falling victim to them.
New Expectations Require New Strategies
Undoubtedly, the pandemic has changed a lot for businesses all over the world. However, these changes have brought with them massive opportunities for continued growth.
To take advantage of these opportunities, post-pandemic boards must:
- Turn their focus to four key areas.
- Value diversity in all ways — gender, cultural, and professional.
- Commit to staying ahead of the curve, maintaining agility, and embracing developing technology like artificial intelligence.
- Be willing to put more effort into properly managing the emerging risks that come with a new way of doing business.
If corporations are able to successfully conquer these issues, they’ll have a much greater chance of generating future success.
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