Words by Paul Cadman, Chair Downtown Birmingham

While we are all enjoying the end of the Easter break, we have been reminded how things are still far from usual: for most of us no commute and all our meetings being conducted on line.

Although estimates vary on how long it will be before things ‘return to normal,’ I am reminded that there is going to be a new normal and here are three of the things I think businesses should be looking at going forward.

1. How robust is your IT infrastructure and isn’t it time you paid for that upgrade to become 5G enabled. We have learned that we don’t need to meet face to face to conduct business, well, so have your competitors.  If you are not looking at the flexibility that technology, particularly high bandwidth technology, brings, you are losing ground. We have learned to trust online, maintain relationships online and learn online. Keep it going but keep it going faster. The dangers of face to face contact, especially related to international business travel, are clear. There is going to be a dramatic shift. Working from home has been your practice period, now go for it, or be left behind by it.

2. In a 24 hour globalised business community, working 9-5 makes no sense. But maybe you won’t change your business practices, the terms and conditions of your employees. There is going to be much more flexibility in how we work together, what hours are needed and questions about what constitutes a team. With talent responding to these new ways of working, we will have to learn how to create new cultures and hiring practices as the world’s talent makes itself available online. We will see HR aligning much better with strategy as old ways of of hiring, retaining and improving productivity are replaced. Now you have the chance of creating your dream team because that’s what the competition are doing. It’s going to revolutionise the recruitment industry. And all that talent that our hiring processes ignored is going to become the catalyst for this HR revolution. Cogntive diversity is king, long live the king.

3. Finally, don’t forget that Brexit is around the corner. It’s likely that exports and imports will cost more and of course the Chancellor will want some of the money he is spending back. So one way or another, taxes will be higher. That means unless business have got to grips with technology and talent post covid-19, that rare opportunity of almost a clean slate, will act like weedkillier on a neglected patio. We are going to have to be better business people and cut out those costs we have tolerated for years to pay for new investments. It’s going to be tough but Birmingham has been doing this for centuries. We lead business revolutions, we don’t follow them. It’s time we showed the world once again what we have to offer.