Another Year of Challenge, Learning
Flashing back almost three years ago to those early and very difficult days of the pandemic — yes, it seems like forever ago now — we were writing about how everyone was looking forward to the day when things would return to the way they were, meaning late 2019.
It was probably by the end of that year, and certainly by the middle of 2021, that everyone in business realized that we would not be returning to the way things were. In many cases, it’s because that simply wasn’t possible. But in most cases, it’s because we simply didn’t want to.
Indeed, we had learned new, different, and, in many ways, better and more efficient ways of doing things. This applies to everything from Zoom meetings with clients instead of seeing them in person to having homebuyers fill out mortgage applications online, to having many employees — the ones without direct contact with customers — working remotely.
It’s been a learning process, and it has continued even as the pandemic has waned in many respects, and other challenges have emerged, such as supply-chain issues and the workforce crisis. These issues have prompted companies to become smarter with everything from what and how much to order to what kinds of clients and projects to take on, to how and when to staff an office.
The learning continued in 2022, another very challenging year for businesses, who are due for one that isn’t. This past year brought us sky-high inflation, more shortages of needed products, ‘quiet quitting,’ more retirements among Baby Boomers, more ghosting when it came to job interviews and people showing up for the first day of work, and more frustration when it came to just filling open positions.
All this has led to adjustments and, as we noted earlier, conscious decisions not to go back to the way things were in 2019.
Many restaurants, for example, have been forced to reduce the number of days they are open due to shortages of help. In many cases, they’ve learned that this helps with retention of existing employees, improves morale, lessens burnout … and all without sharp, if any, overall drops in revenue and profits.
Meanwhile, many banquet halls and meeting venues have learned that less can sometimes mean more. Some are closing for the slow months of the year, and all of them are becoming more selective when it comes to which events they take on, choosing those with better margins and more profitability and foregoing those that are less so.
The result is that, while overall revenues are down in some cases, profitability is up. Hotels, plagued by staffing shortages, were simply not able to clean rooms as often during the months after they were allowed to reopen. Now, such policies have, in some establishments, become the new norm, enabling facilities to improve profits even while serving fewer guests.
Meanwhile, businesses across virtually all sectors have found benefits to not having everyone working on-site. Some have been able to reduce their overall space requirements, while nearly every business with remote-work or hybrid-work policies have found it easier to hire and retain employees and increase the talent pool by extending opportunities to those living outside the 413, or even the East Coast.
Yes, 2022 has been another ultra-challenging year for businesses of all sizes and in all sectors of the economy. But it’s also been another year to learn, adapt, and, in many cases, do things better and more profitably.
We haven’t gone ‘back to the way things were.’ And in many respects, that’s a good thing.