2020 was about business decisions-makers doing what they could according to their knowledge and skills. They tried to make the best decisions and display their best behaviour. They wanted to meet the extraordinary expectations of the pandemic situation. They wanted to do it without anyone being able to measure whether their performance was good or bad. Now, at the beginning of 2021, they are receiving their first report cards.
Surprising or painful
The beginning of every business year is important, and I think we all agree that the beginning of this year is special. Many people were afraid or looking forward to receiving the first real feedback regarding their performance last year. If we lead a company, we need to measure our performance in two fields. The first is the pre-orders for the upcoming year, which are prior indications from business partners regarding how much they count on the company’s work. There are drastic changes in this field compared to the previous years. Regarding orders and contracts, clients show a rougher picture than ever towards the companies. This has a positive effect on some and a negative effect on others. The middle ground, however, is disappearing. The second field where we can assess our performance is our organisation’s status. Substantial changes have begun in this field as well. There have been transformations in the labour market. Employees are on the move. They have started to look for new jobs, especially among highly qualified workers, which surprised many employers. For employers, this is direct feedback from their employees about whether they were satisfied with the way their employer managed the crisis. Decision-makers are receiving blunt feedback regarding whether they managed to come up with real solutions and implement them in their companies after the COVID crisis hit their field. It will also be evident for everyone whether they made good or bad decisions last year. Every manager will get a clear picture about whether they are qualified decision-makers.
Of course, obvious results and report cards can be explained away too. However, the “it’s a global crisis” excuse has become outdated in business since 2008’s Great Recession, and owners do not really accept it from modern managers. After the last crisis, they were ready to pay more to some leaders because they expected them to handle any impending crisis. It seems, however, that many managers still do not perceive this, and they believe that a slow build-up will be acceptable. They are wrong. It does not matter that they have the excuse in advance; these facts hold less weight now than they did in the past. After the Great Recession, publications drew attention to the fact that we should not believe everything connected to crisis, as the market is always “double-faced”. The perfect example of that was the collapse of the “there is a general labour shortage” theory. Companies with dynamic and unique products received a surplus of applications, even in professions hit hardest by labour shortages. Weak, boring companies received far fewer applications, even for positions that are usually easy to fill. It is certain that after the COVID crisis, nobody will be interested in what does not work and why it does not work, because many companies are already announcing their considerable business successes. Twelve years ago, it was considered crass to celebrate one’s success during a crisis, but today’s managers do not feel such shame, especially after getting through such a challenging situation.
There have always been successful and unsuccessful companies, but in non-crisis situations, the difference between them is not as significant as after a crisis. When a pandemic comes, we do not just see that companies develop, but many go bankrupt and disappear. The contrast is much bigger, so the value of success is clearer. In 2021, business life will be bipolar. More bipolar than ever. On the one pole, there will be companies that attract the best employees and clients, while on the other pole will consist of companies that are being left behind. What will this year be like? It depends on which side we stand on. And that will be decided based on what we did last year. As managers, we get report cards quite often, but this one will probably be the most important of our lifetimes.