Confronted with the global pandemic, environmental, and social-political risks, people in Asia are forced to change the way they live under the disrupted resets. Change management capability is no longer limited to change management practitioners. It is a vital skill for everyone to sustain business and individual health.
Trust in the New Digital Approach
With billions of people forced to stay at home, digital trends accelerated tremendously. This created millions of new online users across Asia. China alone recorded 61 billion USD earnings from live selling on various e-commerce platforms, influencing Southeast Asia to follow suit. Both B2B and B2C businesses that did not have e-commerce platforms prior to the pandemic bore the brunt of digitisation. And, eventually led to closing down of physical stores.
Consumers’ mindset and expectations have completely changed throughout the whole virtual buying experience. Left with a fewer to no option, they became less sceptical and turned to online shopping during the lockdown periods. Businesses tried to recreate the high-touch customer experience and face-to-face approach found in brick and mortar stores. It led to new digital approaches, like live selling, to increase buyers’ desire and trust. This in turn assured buyers that they are getting exactly what they paid for. Real-time feedback and responsive messaging also convinced customers to try these new digital approaches.
Leaders in New Operating Model
Thrown in the deep end, business leaders were required to transform their culture and operating models to be sustainable in the unprecedented crisis. Agility and resilience competencies were reviewed and factored in across the board.
A fitting example could be that of an e-commerce platform’s processes and considerations. Prior to COVID-19, having live selling features could be considered as “nice-to-haves”. Now it has become an integral part. Aside from security features, other functionalities were also fortified like chatbots and payment gateways. This urged technology teams to recalibrate cross functionalities and stability. All while working remotely and with short turnaround time due to the industry’s growing demands.
While for those in sales and marketing, it could mean spending more time to understand deeper how their organisations’ software products and platforms work and how it could benefit them. Most probably, the new operating model meant additional workload. They now have to respond to real-time customer feedback and track online inventory to gather key insights. For the supply chain, it could be about adjusting stocks level to match new demands and ensuring reliable delivery. For the customer service team, it could be about working closely with the legal and finance teams to comply with payment/refund/return processes and protect the organisation from cyber risks and customer conflicts.
Agile Organisational Culture Eases Mental Load
Change has never been easy, particularly in some Asian cultures, where people see their workplace as their second home. Not to mention they tend to prefer collectivism over an individualistic culture. The restricted social life, stress of unemployment, and intensified political chaos increased family conflict. Mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety, also increased suicide cases in some parts of Asia according to numerous reports. When people’s wellbeing is compromised, organisational change is hard to sustain.
It is an extremely challenging and stressful time for everyone. And it is even harder for frontline workers who need to be outdoors, or interact with those who are infected. A high number of foreign workers and expatriates also lost their jobs and/or unable to go back home to see their sick overseas family due to the COVID-19 situation. In offices, as staff organised their homes and adjusted routines to work remotely during the crisis, people managers had to act fast and create a new set of protocols to adapt and manage uncertainty and unpredictability.
When an organisation adopts agile and change management competencies, it could pivot their culture. It also encourages people to shape together an honest and trusting environment that ends siloes and eases mental loads. As change management is also about encouraging experimentation and accepting imperfection as the precedence of success, it fosters shared values among workers.
Managing change competency has become essential for everyone. It gives people the wisdom and sensibility to know when to connect, control, or collaborate. Organisational agility and resilience support the collective effort in creating a new operating and sustainable model in the new, changing, digital world.
As vaccination programs begin for billions of people worldwide in 2021, anticipate more changes brought about by a post-pandemic world. Expect more trends to shape or solidify newfound ways of working and operating business in the new model. After all, with or without pandemic, boosting your change management capability could help your business get ahead of the curve and become more resilient in unprecedented times.
About the Author
Catherine Tam Thillainathan
PROSCI Certified Change Management Trainer and Practitioner
Catherine Tam Thillainathan has close to fifteen years of proven success delivering Organisational Change Management projects by conducting stakeholders and employee engagement, training and communications activities in consulting, IT, banking, logistic, mining, medical supplies and retail industries.
- It covers Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/southeast-asia/article/3109283/across-southeast-asia-pandemic-forces-millions-online
- Many SEA online platforms includes Shopee and Lazada, Vietnam’s Sendo, and Indonesia’s Tokopedia and Bukalapak – https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/economics/article/3095585/coronavirus-e-commerce-southeast-asia-rides-high-pandemic-boom
- US$61 billion worth of live-stream e-commerce transactions in China – https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/economics/article/3095587/how-coronavirus-helped-shopee-and-lazada-bring-chinas-live
- Family Conflict –
- China: https://thediplomat.com/2020/04/chinas-hidden-epidemic-domestic-violence/
- Malyasia: https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/health-environment/article/3113852/malaysian-women-children-bear-brunt-coronavirus
- Philippines: https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/people/article/3113557/coronavirus-asian-women-pay-price-pandemic-covid-19-ravages
- Cambodia: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/cambodia-sees-rise-in-abuse-of-women-during-pandemic/2070513
- Bangladesh: https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/opinion/2020/12/14/bangladesh-coronavirus-women-and-girls-risks
- Suicide – https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/health-environment/article/3046855/suicide-figures-japan-reach-record-low-remain-higher
- Mental Illness crisis – https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/society/article/3026590/hong-kong-anti-government-protests-could-negatively-impact
- Increased unemployment rate across Asia as follow:
- Southeast Asia: https://www.unescap.org/blog/new-poor-post-pandemic-time-cushioning-most-vulnerable-southeast-asia
- Singapore: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/singapore-jobless-unemployment-rate-september-retrenchments-13413258
- South Korea: http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20201016000111
- Hong Kong: https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/hong-kong-economy/article/3106336/coronavirus-hong-kong-jobless-rate-climbs-64-cent
- Philippines: https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/philippines-suffers-worst-job-losses-in-15-years-due-to-covid-19-and-lockdown
- Indonesia: https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/11/23/indonesias-economy-to-grow-in-2021-but-poverty-unemployment-to-remain-high.html