Businesses planning for a very different financial year

For many businesses, planning for the 2020/21 financial year is going to be an experience unlike any other.

Your Work
4 min read
With hopes the country has moved past the worst of COVID-19, Australian businesses have started on the road to recovery. But nobody knows exactly where that road leads yet. As they continue to navigate through the impacts of a pandemic, many businesses are learning what it takes to innovate in the face of uncertainty.

Applying this experience to the upcoming financial year will be just as important as we enter a recovery phase and establish a ‘new normal’. Here are three key questions to address, and some potential solutions, as you prepare for FY21.

How will you stay agile?

Pivoting quickly has been, and continues to be, the key to adapting to the constraints of operating in a pandemic. Financial advisors moved in-person meetings to video conferencing. Libraries delivered books to members’ doorsteps. Hatted restaurants branched out into takeaway. Spirit companies started making hand sanitiser.

Noosa Heads Distillery quickly shifted to producing sanitiser in a span of two weeks and opened a community grocery store. Operations Director Tim Crabtree said having the power to pivot remains vital.

“I want to always make sure we’re dynamic enough to rise and fall with the tide and adapt to challenges. “It’s thinking about how you can have the rug pulled out from under you. Next time we can be even more resilient and fast-acting in the way we deal with a crisis.”

The effects of COVID-19 will impact your business, and the rest of the country, for years to come. Because nobody knows what the ‘new normal’ will look like, traditional financial year planning simply might not be feasible. In a continually changing environment, today’s plans could be irrelevant tomorrow.

In an interview with the Australian Financial Review, McKinsey & Company’s Ben Stretch said, “Actually that classic approach, which is the culmination of months of work around the organisation, is not helpful right now. Things are changing too fast.”

Now is the time to take what you have learned during the COVID-19 pandemic and apply it to the longer-term horizon. Of the changes you made, what worked? How could these ideas build more resilience into your business and help you adapt to future disruption?

How will you prepare for the return of customers and staff?

In a survey of 1,006 Australians conducted on behalf of the NBN Co, 67% of respondents say they’ll work from home more going forward. Meanwhile, other businesses are welcoming back staff and customers. Either way, it’s important to think about what this means for your business.

If working from home is moving from short-term solution to long-term strategy, make sure your employees are appropriately equipped to do their job. Think about what your team has accomplished in the last three months. Do you need to recalibrate expectations for production and service? In a global study of 3,500 workers, 20% said they struggle with loneliness when working from home. Frequent touch points – from check-in calls and video chats to support with tasks and digital social events like team trivia – may need to be part of your post-COVID plans.

You may also need to find creative new solutions to ensure your premises are safe for returning employees. Health concerns might make public transportation impractical, especially at peak hour. Could you offer alternative transportation subsidies, or stagger shift times?

Social distancing will remain a priority for months to come. Hot desking might have to end – can you move desks, chairs, and tables to provide more space? Customer service areas may need to be reconfigured – consider the need for plexiglass barriers – and add masks, hand sanitiser, and other PPE products to your procurement lists.

How will you build your team of the future?

COVID-19 forced many business owners to reduce employee hours and stand staff down. With the start of recovery comes a chance to think differently about the makeup of your workforce for FY21 and beyond – building new capabilities, rethinking roles, and how you assess and recruit talent.

Things to consider include:

  • A mix of on-premises and from-home workers. Health concerns and overheads might make a blended workforce more suitable.
  • Finding new or upskilling current staff. Recent changes to how you operate might require a workforce full of new skill sets.
  • The right number of permanent staff. Fewer full-time staff and more part-time or contracted employees could offer you more flexibility to scale with workload changes.

Planning for FY21 will require an innovative mindset – letting go of old assumptions and habits and thinking creatively about new opportunities. Focusing on these areas and reassessing throughout the year will help you develop a more agile business better prepared for the road to recovery.