New paradigm of business in a VUCA world

The current situation has clearly changed the way on how organisations structure and deliver work. There is disruption in every facet of the business – logistics, demand and supply, consumer preferences, sales models and the availability of human capital. The pace at which the world adapted to this model, i.e. less than two months, goes to show that agility is non-negotiable in a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) world. Now, a home or a bedroom is a workplace.

Leaders need to consider socio-economic factors, statutory requirements and state/federal laws to navigate and combat the disruption. Leadership is heavily scrutinised now and making those timely personal and genuine messages will go a long way in establishing credibility. As the human and economic toll grows, it is the principles and ethos of an organisation that will lead them out of the trenches and help them plot a faster recovery curve.

The question on many minds, which industry will recover, after the outbreak, and how quickly? The quick transformation and automation of an organisation will minimise disruption. The answer lies in their ability to blend pre-COVID-19, during COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 business models seamlessly. Organisations that are operationally flexible will be able to limit the extent of disruptions caused by extraneous variables.

It is the people who makes the organisation come to life. Given disruption of workforce movements and physical presence in the workplace, there will be critical impact on all processes, upstream and downstream, that have a reliance on human capital. Organisations that have strong people practices and innovative staffing solutions will enable their workforce to deliver critical or essential services remotely. Employees will most definitely feel anxious about the permanency of their jobs, given the disruptions. Leaders must address these issues upfront candidly to enable employees safeguard their financial wellbeing. Some organisations such as Singapore Airlines have proactively taken measures e.g. the crew at Singapore airlines have been redeployed as ‘care ambassadors’ to serve at low-risk hospital wards. Organisations have also created several wellbeing programmes for employees to cope with the stress of social distancing and associated social disengagement.

Technology at the core
Technology is no longer the enabler but the life blood of organisations to cope with the current business disruption. Many organisations now rely heavily on technology to conduct their meetings via online platforms and video calls, in the comfort and safety of their homes. Times like this is when the Chief Information Officers (CIOs) put their teams and investment to the test. Never has the dependency on technology infrastructure been so critical to run seamlessly, with almost 90% concurrent remote logins, IT teams have to work overtime to ensure continuity of service. To replace face-to-face meetings, there is a need for collaboration and knowledge sharing platforms, easily accessible to all, across geographies. This makes it even easier if there is a single integrated enterprise platform, to ensure consolidation, access and accuracy of information.

With most of the work today being performed online and via multitude of third party tools, the risk associated with data breaches and leakages has become even more clear and present. Cyber protection has gone into hyper drive in the last couple of months to protect both company, employee and client information.

The optimistic view of this pandemic is the reduction in carbon footprint as most people stay at home. The lower emission of fuel as both land, air and sea vehicles are grounded has given us clearer skies and cleaner oceans as the planet resets. A real food for thought at this moment as humans is to really ask ourselves if half the activities we do which has been killing our planet is really essential.  In addition, as organisations re-organise for only essential staff to be in the office and for those who can work from home to give up their work desks, whilst real estate will see a sharp decrease in rental yield, companies can use this reduction to increase their profit margins. The COVID-19 pandemic is a first of its kind, and the only thing we can hope for is for mankind, economies and organisations to learn from the grave mistakes, habits, and oversights which took a pandemic of this magnitude to give it a wake-up call and remind us that we are global citizens, regardless of nationality, race, ethnicity or socio-economic status.

Angelyn Varkey is Marketing Director, Asia at AON ( and based in Singapore