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There’s little question the coronavirus had a major effect on businesses, many of which were left shuttered, partially open, or at limited capacity. A new Vodafone Business report (The Future Ready Report) revealed what policies and characteristics defined future-ready businesses, but also what sustained those companies during the crisis and their plans and goals for after the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses to adapt to survive, and future-ready companies were better prepared and better in a crisis: 54% of future-ready businesses (FRBs) had a fully formed plan ( 30% of all businesses had a fully formed plan). FRBs were and are proactive, and 29% of FRBs agreed that the shutdown should be a reason to experiment with new ways of working.

Despite nearly 50% of businesses reporting decreased profits (compared with 2019), 30% of future-ready businesses (FRB) reported a rise in profits. FRBs represent 20% of all companies and are identified by characteristics including adaptability, openness to technology, and clear transformation goals. Only 20% of all businesses qualified as FRBs.

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Compassion may not have been as critical pre-coronavirus, but now, 44% of all businesses prioritize employee wellness and mental health, which is up 10% since before COVID-19. However, for FRBs, the figure leaps to 77%.

  1. Five key challenges that span industries, according to the Vodafone report:
  2. Businesses need to rebuild and reinforce resilience during the pandemic
  3. Businesses are quickly adapting to changing social attitudes and customer behavior
  4. Sustainability is becoming standard
  5. Data and the digital economy are fast creating new business challenges and opportunities
  6. Businesses must change recruitment and the nurturing of talent

The report concludes that social responsibility, sustainability, and purpose are still essential because consumers are demanding clearer commitments: 90% of FRBs reported supporting employees during the pandemic.

Telecommuting and long-term isolating at home has taken a toll on mental health, as illustrated by the change in societal attitudes and consumer expectations. This prompted businesses to switch focus on ethical behaviors or further purpose. During COVID-19, 81% of businesses reported reaching out to support others outside of their organizations, compared with 94% of FRBs. Forty-six percent of all businesses and 58% of FRBs wanted to support local communities and their countries, a shift from pre-COVID-19 crisis. Distinctions were made between the business (48% all businesses, 46% FRBs), and customer retention (55% all businesses, and 62% of FRBs).

The report also found that the key to addressing growing skills gaps are to broaden employer diversity and increase workplace flexibility.

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FRBs are confident that their businesses will survive and succeed, with 57% of FRBs expecting profits to increase over the next five years, compared with 45% of all businesses. Technology will be their strength, reported 79% of respondents

“COVID-19 has forced rapid change for everybody. However, some businesses are better prepared to deal with the issues that have arisen, and we want to help all organisations understand what they can do to match these ‘future ready’ companies,” said Vinod Kumar, CEO, Vodafone Business, in a press release.

FRBs are more concerned with future projects: 71% of FRBs made an average 2.6 new technology investments as a direct response to the coronavirus, and 44% of FRBs surveyed expect greater flexibility in the location of work, and believe telecommuting will persist, after the pandemic. FRBs were more likely to invest in cloud and online storage systems, telephone contact center systems, as well as new smartphones and tablets for employees. FRBs acknowledge that a post-COVID-19 business environment will result in many changes, and 68% believe the changes will be “easy to make.”

“Industries that hadn’t embraced technology are seeking to move swiftly into digitalisation,” Kumar said, also in a release. “We want to help companies move quickly into this new era of working, supporting them in becoming smarter, faster and more resilient, but not at the cost of their humanity.”