Seeking Professional Advice Is A No-Brainer - Business Media MAGS

Sunday Times Consulting

Seeking Professional Advice Is A No-Brainer

Business consulting has always been a broad term, but the huge changes to strategies, operations and technologies brought about since early 2020, now make it crucial, writes Rodney Weidemann.

An entrepreneur will not think twice about asking for a legal opinion because it’s the right thing to do. But to ask for business advice might, in their eyes, make them appear less of a businessperson, says Frank Vos of Frank Vos Consulting, explaining why some people are hesitant to hire business consultants.

“No wonder that when they hit the wall, they go out of business. Look at these numbers quoted by Michael E Gerber in his best seller, The E-Myth Revisited: ‘Every year in the US, a million people start a business of some sort. Within one year, at least 40 per cent will be out of business. Within five years, 80 per cent of them will have failed.’

“These clearly demonstrate the importance of professional business advice,” adds Vos.

“For big corporates, the notion is fortunately different. Simply because there is another level of oversight – the shareholders. At the end of the day, they make the decision to call in business consultants when they see the senior management team struggling. It’s as simple as that.”

Grant Brewer, strategy and transformation leader at consulting firm EY Parthenon, says that the company defines “business consulting” as the manner in which it partners with clients to help them better build their businesses and navigate more easily the world around them.

“By adding our knowledge to their knowledge, we can help them find solutions to some of the biggest challenges they face. But, it is important to be a partner that they can trust to help them stay agile to change their business rapidly and comfortably,” he notes.

“In today’s digital world, determining business focus through annual strategy updates is no longer effective. The world is much faster now, so we are constantly helping our clients focus on what they want to achieve – then we work the journey backwards, so we can understand how best to get them there,” explains Brewer.

Constant strategy adaption

Brewer suggests that this means continuously redetermining their strategy as one can no longer be accurate over a long period, due to the speed of change.

“Clients need a strategy that constantly adapts in real-time, one that is flexible and adaptable enough to conform to any surprise changes in the path. They also require continuous innovation that occurs at scale.

“The key to success here is that you must remember to bring the people into it. We always put people at the centre of strategy and transformation because without the people understanding the goal and the technology, and working with you, true change is unlikely,” suggests Brewer.

Vos points out that the pandemic has certainly exposed the need for agility and innovation in strategy formulation and implementation.

“I am not sure how many have noticed, but the word strategy has become a well-established buzzword over the past fifteen months. This is because fresh thinking is inevitably needed when a business faces a unique threat,” he says.

According to Brewer, new technology tools are also critical – a business cannot afford to be unable to work for extended periods.

“The urgent need to work from home in 2020 demonstrated the importance of and triggered the acceleration of thinking in this space.

“Organisations have now realised a traditional off-site backup is simply not enough. Today, they need to have their key information in the cloud, where it is, by definition, backed up. Technologies like the cloud have enabled them to continue working regardless of challenges such as COVID-19, but it highlights why bringing the people along is crucial – they have to be able to understand the new tools,” he states.

Vos adds that something else that has come into the picture has been a completely new focus on organisational strategy.

“A new people/HR approach is required, one with a strong focus on trying to retain and/or build a new type of company culture, even as remote work has been eating away at the company’s most important part: communication in all its forms between staff. This is a new and important focus. After all, online can never approximate the power of thought, bonding and communication that occurs between humans connecting in the same room,” he concludes.

What about the people?

With the rise of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), the role of workforce management and consulting is not only to stay abreast of trends, but also to help companies adapt to the evolving world of work, focusing on people-centred strategies appropriate for their unique needs.

As companies reinvent for growth, says Tamara Parker, CEO for Mercer South Africa, the company draws on its wealth of data from various global and local studies and industry expertise to help answer questions such as:

  • How can we ensure executives drive value-creation?
  • How can we build a compelling talent value proposition
    that attracts and retains top talent?
  • How might analytics inform organisation design and
    pay strategy?

“The recent surge in remote work has had a significant impact on workforce strategies. Research shows that more companies are enhancing their employee wellbeing arrangements, with 70 per cent of companies surveyed implementing psychological counselling to help employees manage anxiety and stress,” notes Parker.

She adds that hybrid flexible working models are emerging as companies seek new ways of working by reducing working hours and implementing work-sharing and part on-site and part remote working arrangements to help employees manage work-life balance challenges.

“Amid the digital disruption, economic crisis and COVID-19 impact, workforce consultants will continue to play a critical role in the future as the world of work continues to evolve. With Mercer’s Resetting the Future of Work Agenda, published in October 2020 indicating that 85 million jobs are set to disappear and 97 million to emerge by 2025, companies will have to find innovative ways to build workforce capability and skills critical for future resilience.”

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