Surviving the Slump: How to Stay Relevant

Studio 14

It’s not unusual for businesses to fall into bad habits when it comes to learning new skills and staying relevant in a fast-moving and competitive market. In digitised industries particularly, adaptability is becoming one of the most desirable features of any successful business venture. The ability to adapt is a broad notion, which relates to both the way a company presents itself through its brand and values, and the way in which it operates internally – its business practice.

We’ll be looking at some of the key features we believe are necessary to stay relevant and how maximising new ways of learning can get your business out of a rut.

Become a Learning Organisation

A learning organisation can simply be defined as a company that first and foremost prioritises the learning capabilities of its employees. According to an article featured in Harvard Business Review, incentives such as hitting targets and basic training offered by managers to employees are no longer satisfactory for provoking learning in a business environment. Due to the speed at which consumer preference now changes, HBR suggests that the notion of businesses becoming learning organisations would dramatically improve productivity through the use of creative thinking and self-reflection. Another goal of a learning organisation is that they nurture an environment where employees feel that they can speak freely without fear of criticism from their superiors and colleagues. Fostering a culture of dialogue and systematic debriefing to understand each task in depth after completion encourages companies to think about their stratagem retrospectively – which is vital for identifying weak areas and space for progress.

One way in which companies can improve learning amongst its employees is through reverse mentoring. Reverse mentoring involves a younger (millennial) member of staff pairing up with a senior executive to engage in a two-way learning experience – the senior staff gain valuable digital skills such as social media knowledge and the millennials gain some valuable career guidance. Reverse mentoring was reported a success by HBR at Burson-Marsteller, a PR and communications firm with offices in 85 countries

Communication and Correspondence

Social media has transformed the way companies and their consumers communicate. Twitter, for example, is a medium of immediate and direct interaction that has garnered both positive and negative reactions. Social media has completely revolutionised how companies now stay relevant – a complex marketing campaign may be entirely outdone by a viral video or a witty tweet. The ability for a company to appropriately and skillfully present itself online is another example of why adaptability is a vital feature of company success. Research by Forbes suggests that millennials, the biggest consumer group, enjoyed brand campaigns orchestrated through social media but also greatly valued authenticity and transparency when it came to brand marketing and company representation online.

Good communication practice is not just limited to consumers but can also be important for the relationship between a company and its staff. Communications and training manager Ruth Weal explored the importance of good interaction between company and employee. Weal explained that consistent communication amongst staff results in, ‘Engaged employees [that] are highly motivated, providing a valuable, productive and cost-effective service.’ An environment where employees and their superiors can communicate back and forth with one another promotes a two-way feedback system, further encouraging the workplace to be a learning organisation in which questions and suggestions are welcome.

Acting on Customer Feedback

Whilst social media has given consumers a platform to give feedback to brands whether it be through a tweet or an open letter, it is the company’s prerogative whether or not to take action. Organisations that also pay close attention to feedback their competitors are receiving and act on it will evolve as a result. After the unveiling of Snapchat in 2011, Instagram introduced a video feature, after positive feedback towards Snapchat suggested that some of Instagram’s audience were migrating. The introduction of video uploads gave Instagram an edge over Snapchat and once again increased its popularity. However, the decision to add or remove features must always be approached with caution as well as the ability to understand the long-term consequences, cost-effectiveness and the positive impact of such changes. Engaging with customer feedback will improve the authenticity of your company’s ethos as a consumer-focused environment.

Changing your Business Model

A big problem that has decimated so many previously successful companies over the last few decades has been their refusal to change their business model. We live in an era where change has never been occurring quicker and it’s vital for companies to be aware that even the slightest fluctuation in market trends may well lead them to alter their model entirely. Listening to predictions about what might be the next big thing can be risky but may also be a saving grace. Perhaps the best example of this would be Blockbuster and Netflix, two companies originally centred around the renting of DVDs but only one evolved and adapted its business model to suit the changing market. After the popularisation of online content and fall in DVD sales, Netflix is now believed to be worth over 32.9 billion dollars whereas Blockbuster has just 19 stores currently open in the US. The rise and fall of these two companies present the importance of adapting your business model – it is vital to keep up with all market trends, not just the ones related to your business, as you may need to adapt swiftly and change the way you sell your product.

More recently we saw the fall of BHS – a department store which had dominated the UK retail industry since 1928 and was sold for just £1 in 2015. The majority of the scandal surrounding BHS seems to have focused on previous owner Philip Green collecting over £580m in dividends despite the business being left with a £571m pension deficit. However, the retailer had been suffering losses for a quite a few years before Green’s departure due to its inability to listen to consumers and modernise. High-street shoppers on BBC Radio had said they found that BHS had become ‘old-fashioned and out of date.’ Other analysists have blamed the interior of the stores for being oversized, dull and not at all up to date with ecommerce. Verdict Retail blame BHS’s unclear business strategy and lack of brand identity for its ultimate downfall.

Openness to new ideas and ways of working are the main components to staying relevant in a fast-moving market. Become a learning organisation.

Tell us what you or your organisation are doing to stay relevant!