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Unit4’s 2022 Business Future Index: Crisis Sees 51% Embrace Accelerated Change to Outperform Business Targets

Global data identifies action plan for business transformation around people, policy and tools

Unit4, a leader in enterprise cloud applications for mid-market services organizations, announces the findings of its second annual Business Future Index.

It surveyed 3,450 respondents across 12 global markets to understand how business performance over the past 12 months has been affected by the pandemic and reveals the extent to which changes to people strategies, company policies and technology adoption have accelerated. It also identifies business priorities for the coming year and examines the top challenges facing organizations as the world enters a difficult economic period. The findings show a direct correlation between the benefits of embracing accelerated change and improved business performance, as well as highlighting distinct areas where action must be taken if organizations are to remain competitive.

Key Findings

  • Covid-19 pandemic impact: Over nine in 10 organizations report great acceleration across their business as a reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. This acceleration includes digital transformation efforts (52%), flexible working practices (51%) and the adoption of software and tools to aid employee productivity and experience (45%).

  • Accelerated change boost: Those who embraced change have seen clear benefits including better workplace digitalization (80%), improved wellbeing (74%), stronger team collaboration (73%) and enhanced customer/end-user experience (72%).

  • Become more resilient: Many organizations have seen increased workforce resilience over the past year, with 49% able to recruit from a wider geographic area. Those who report major adoption of workflow automation and/or real-time reporting have felt this positive staffing benefit even more (54% and 52% respectively).

  • Pivot or fall behind: For organizations which haven’t focused on rapid growth since the pandemic, only 28% report themselves as outperforming 2021 targets, compared to the global average (51%) who did embrace such changes.

  • Future business priorities: Attracting and retaining talent (62%), building out new products and services (59%) and digital transformation (59%) were cited as the top priorities for the next 12 months.

  • Challenges ahead: To deliver on these priorities, there is an accelerated need to enhance talent strategies (51%), respond to competitive pressures (49%) and change the way organizations operate and are structured (45%).

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Action plan for change: people, policy, tools

The Index shows there is no room for complacency when it comes to embracing change and even organizations that performed well in 2021 cannot afford to ease up on the pace of transformation. Similar to the 2021 Index – which identified the need to focus more on people, alongside profit and productivity – the 2022 findings highlight challenges around people, policy and tools as organizations prepare to address their business priorities for the next 12 months.

Within each area, the Index highlights priorities where organizations can target their action plans for accelerated change:

  • People: flexible working strategies require further improvements to avoid employees leaving for employers with more attractive working conditions. Leaders also need to work harder to show they understand their teams. For instance, 80% of leaders believe employee wellbeing has improved in 2021, compared to only 68% of employees.

  • Policy: Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) and diversity are called out in the Index as areas requiring further action, as poor ESG credentials are seen as a factor affecting the ability to attract talent. This is compounded by another challenge – the ability to attract talent from a mix of generations – which is a key reason for increasing the focus on diversity.

  • Tools: To respond to competitive pressures and adapt organizational structures, there is still a lot of room to adopt technologies such as cloud, data management and real-time reporting tools, workflow automation and AI/Machine Learning.

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“As with every crisis, the pandemic showed that organizations which were prepared to be more innovative and progressive in their people and technology strategies, as well as company policies, came out ahead in terms of business performance,” said Mike Ettling, CEO, Unit4. “Looking forward to 2023, businesses around the world will face a myriad of pressures such as geopolitical issues, inflation and rising energy prices, as well as the continued competition for talent. The ability to adapt to such challenges is key, with no room for hesitation or inertia, as it can have a lasting impact on future performance.”

Based on the evidence contained in this year’s Index, organizations that achieve the balance between fiscal responsibility in uncertain economic times with the demand for innovation are more likely to achieve stronger business performance. The Business Future Index 2022 provides a framework to justify the business case for supporting accelerated change and points to a specific action plan where investment can be targeted to deliver tangible benefits.

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