The great global comeback: how business norms are changing for the better

Nicole Sahin of Globalization Partners explains how, post-pandemic, successful organisations will be those that support a flexible approach to work location.

Without doubt, 2020 has been a year of global introspection. In dealing with the public health crisis presented by COVID-19, citizens and governments alike have collectively set aside the norms of society and business in an effort to manage and cope with this challenging crisis.

Despite the current circumstances and ongoing uncertainty, optimists among us see potential everywhere. Organisations worldwide are taking the positives from the last six months to reboot business strategy and make long overdue commitments to workplace improvement.

We have an unprecedented opportunity to learn from experiences that the corporate world has never before been faced with. We can prosper from the subtle and revolutionary ways in which so many have quickly adapted.

While many hope for a return to pre-pandemic norms, beneficial permanent change is also part of our shared future. This means different things to different people, from career and lifestyle decisions, working culture or a shared determination, to building more caring societies. In 2020, the world has, arguably, learnt more about itself in recent months than it has across many years before COVID-19.

There are also real signs of recovery. While most executives still say the economy has worsened in the past six months, the latest responses suggest that moods are shifting—and in a more positive direction. For example, McKinsey’s September Economic Conditions Snapshot found that in emerging economies, 44% of respondents said global conditions have improved in recent months, delivering some much needed confidence and momentum to the post-pandemic outlook.

A globalised recovery

This runs contrary to predictions that COVID-19 would signal an international retreat from globalisation. The ‘new normal’, it was argued, would see our worldwide dependence on each other replaced by regionally-focused trade and financial relationships.

Yet, this bears little relationship to the needs of today’s hyper-connected business world. Granted, some changes are likely to endure: many people will travel less and stay closer to home, particularly in the short term. Consumers may well buy locally more frequently (such as shopping with local suppliers, for example). But this is not indicative of a general economic pivot, domestically or beyond.

Globalised brands, such as Apple for example, show no sign of retreating from international to a domestic manufacturing infrastructure. Indeed, the most recent speculation has focused on whether the company will build more of its products in India, hardly a sign of de-globalisation.

And looking at the perennial global search for talent, tech companies will continue to hire engineers, developers, and experts absolutely anywhere they can find them.

The ubiquitous move to home working shows more signs of adding to the momentum behind business globalisation than suppressing it. In a recent survey by Globalization Partners, for instance, 83% of respondents said they are looking into a remote, global workforce model as a solution to the changes brought about by COVID-19.

These trends were already emerging within pre-pandemic economies. In early 2020, many people were competing for roles with others who lived within a sensible commute of their employer. But more flexible organisations had already begun broadening their recruitment strategy to hire in lower-cost regions if the talent did not need to live or work near headquarters.

Back then, most companies retained a general policy that meant everyone needed to live or work at headquarters or at other major locations. They did not even consider the option of hiring talent that might work from home much, or all, of the time.

This not only contributed to extremely high business costs, particularly in capital cities like London, but also perpetuated a culture of long commutes and overcrowded transport systems. Post-COVID, companies will consider more carefully if everyone is needed at the physical office (branch or HQ), and if not, embrace the opportunity to hire home-based talent as part of a hybrid approach.

A healthy future for working culture

It seems likely that a hybrid working environment will be the direction of travel for many businesses who have now experienced the possibilities offered by remote working. Employees who need to meet in person may still be recruited around a centralised location, for instance, and companies will still use “hub offices” so team members can meet for training or return to the office environment when it is safe to do so.

But a general move to a hybrid model could be transformational and cement the cultural, financial, and social improvements that many have experienced in recent months.

For example, as remote work becomes the long-term norm, this will influence the growth in international hiring, as companies decide to take advantage of the opportunity to source much needed and hard to find talent from around the globe.

This also underlines the importance of a healthy post-pandemic leadership mindset. In dealing with the pandemic, the best organisations wrapped their arms around employees, treating team members with empathy and respect. This is not only the right thing to do on a human level, but it also pays huge business dividends.

Managing so much change can be difficult and stressful, even without the backdrop we have all witnessed this year. Emerging from this crisis, however, businesses and their teams around the world have been given the opportunity to improve their effectiveness and overall wellbeing, and to play a role in helping everyone to move forward.


Nicole Sahin is CEO and Founder at Globalization Partners. Nicole’s mission is to eliminate barriers to doing business internationally and building global teams. As founder and CEO of Globalization Partners, she is recognised for having created an innovative solution that enables companies to hire great talent anywhere in the world, without the complexity of setting up costly international branch offices or subsidiaries.

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© Business Reporter 2020