Returning to a growth mindset: Stories of change from SME leaders

by Jenny Gruening

For smaller businesses, digital transformation has long promised the opportunity for growth. Whether it’s increased work process automation, streamlining of expensive technology infrastructure, or using new data and online approaches to reach a larger audience, digital transformation can help small businesses achieve more with less.

But whatever companies had intended before 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic required a sudden refocus from future expansion or efficiencies, to keeping the business afloat. And for businesses without huge IT teams at their disposal, this pressure was felt all the more keenly, as we discovered when we interviewed Smart Voices working at SMEs across Europe. So how did they cope? What lessons did they learn – and most importantly, what comes next?

You can read the full report right now to see what our Smart Voices said about the future of digital transformation and work: European business leaders on what’s next for digital transformation

From getting it done to the future of remote working

During the first half of 2020, smaller businesses were plunged into a world where remote working shifted from being of occasional benefit to a matter of survival. The new thinking and rapid change involved often broke down long-standing resistance to doing things differently.

A management Voice in engineering said:
“Before COVID-19 I was not sure at all that this way of working would operate well, but the fact is ... it has proven to be a sustainable way of working…” 

Most have learnt what can be done under pressure, and have bedded in fairly well to the new ways of working Now, smaller businesses must take stock, consider the new situation, and think about how they can go past ‘survival mode’, and back into growth.

Collaboration will be key

Smartsheet’s 2020 research showed that 51% of businesses now rank improving the workplace collaboration and productivity experience as their #1 workplace transformation priority. For smaller businesses, the ability to pull together, do more with less, and collaborate effectively will be even more crucial. So, the task now is to build on the communications advances already made – and go further to embrace real collaboration and increase productivity levels.

How to help employees thrive

Making collaboration less time-consuming and more effective helps employees to stay engaged and connected, both inside and outside the office. This can support productivity during both routine remote work and challenging or changing situations. 

Our research during the first half of 2020 revealed that 59% of managers were struggling to maintain team morale, with 52% having trouble keeping teams focused on goals. 56% missed face-to-face contact, 21% lacked visibility into others’ work, and 20% were concerned about too much time spent on collaboration tools.

Having the right tools, with solutions specifically designed for real-time collaboration, work management, and reporting, can make a big difference. While they might feel unfamiliar at first, it’s possible to find ones that are more intuitive, making them easier for novices to get started.

Getting collaboration right

If smaller businesses are worried about how well employees will adapt to new software, it can help to consider how purchasing choices are made. Instead of imposing decisions from the top down, or letting individuals take their pick, engaging with the workforce to find the best solution for everyone can build buy-in and address worries from the start.

As a technology Voice in media said:
“We are a relatively young company… so changes usually come from     either a business need or issues we have every day and we discuss it together. So, it's not top-down or bottom-up, it's more like working together and finding a solution.”

The right choices can lead to workflow efficiencies that save time and resources – which could make a real difference.

Looking to the future of change

For more thoughts on the future of work from Smart Voices working in transformation and other business areas, download our full report: European business leaders on what’s next for digital transformation