As We See It: The Year Ahead
With a busy January already behind us, we want to waste no more time here at The HighCare Factor by kicking off 2021 with this year’s first blog post – ‘As We See It: The Year Ahead’.
Authoring this blog was a joint effort between three of our leaders: Gwendy Krijger, Global Head of Marketing, Jan-Henrik Andersson, Chief Commercial Officer, and Peter Voskühler, SVP Transformation, from our Supply Chain business at HAVI. Their narrative draws on extensive conversations with other experts across our business about their hopes and predictions for the months ahead.
One thing is clear: if 2020 was the year that got us talking about how to reset, rethink and rebuild, then 2021 is going to be the year when we start to see real change as the next normal becomes our reality.
First, however, it’s important for us to acknowledge the pain that the pandemic inflicted on our industry during 2020. The fact that we are still here to talk about building a future speaks volumes about the sector-wide spirit of resilient solidarity that supported us through the turbulence.
Despite the upheavals, the mood here at HAVI is upbeat. The New Year has brought new energy as we focus on progressing beyond the pandemic. We’re all looking forward to, once again, going out for a meal to celebrate special events with friends and loved ones; sharing spontaneous moments with family and colleagues; and generally returning to a personal and professional life free of COVID concerns.
As We See It: “We learned a lot in 2020. It’s time to accelerate these learnings into actions for 2021 and drive real transformation.”
VACCINES ARE HERE – BUT…
There is no doubt that last year we were living and working in what could be described as our ‘best normal’. Each of us, at an individual and business level, was dealing with the impact this pandemic has had on us personally and as an industry. Clearly, vaccines offer us the way out and we are most looking forward to our customers finally being able to return to more normal operations as they tempt their customers back with promotions and old favourites.
But although vaccines are game-changers, they are still only one way out of the pandemic. Returning to anything like a pre-2020 norm will make long-term demands on all of us, both professionally and personally. As Dr Bruce Aylward, a senior advisor to the World Health Organization (WHO), recently commented: “Vaccines are not a silver bullet.” While they are certainly making a difference, he noted, people’s resistance to social distancing, for example, is still driving up infection rates. As well as changing this type of behaviour, governments also need to focus on other challenges, such as emerging variants.
Meanwhile, the mega-task of vaccine distribution is testing supply chains to the limit as newly formed partnerships and ecosystems ensure access and delivery of vaccines to patients around the world. While there is more work to do, this is encouraging news for our industry as we move towards more distributed, transparent and connected supply chains.
EMERGING TRENDS ARE TRANSFORMING OUR INDUSTRY
As we move from best to next, we are seeing a number of industry trends emerging. For example: more cloud (aka dark or ghost) kitchens and home dining; wider distribution of kids’ meals, including in-store; simpler menus; growth in takeaways and drive thru-only restaurants with no customer seating; higher demand for packaging; stronger focus on waste management; cross-brand loyalty programs; and advances in digital technology.
Other notable trends include the rise of home working and the emergence of partnerships and alliances that foster co-creation and empowerment. There is likely to be a more permanent shift towards delivery, drive thru (including two-lane drive thru restaurants), and the use of digital options such as kiosks and click-and-collect.
Finally, food safety – and safety in general – will be even more important with tracking and tracing of products in the supply chain a top priority.
DEMOGRAPHICS ARE SHIFTING SIGNIFICANTLY
Watch out for three demographic shifts that could have a transformative impact on the post-COVID world in general – and our industry in particular: working from home; the decline of cooking in single-person households; and consumer resistance to scale in favor of smaller, trusted suppliers.
Other demographic shifts to keep an eye on include a resurgent travel industry as restrictions are eased or lifted; and a restaurant boom, especially among full service and fine dining venues, as people can once again go out for a meal and celebrate events.
We won’t see a return to pre-COVID office working patterns. This will impact on the foodservice sector and public transportation systems. People will continue to move out of cities and seek more suburban and rural environments.
SUDDENLY, SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT IS FASHIONABLE
As We See It: “So, it took a global pandemic to make supply chain management an attractive career option? Let the next round in the battle for talent commence!”
From toilet paper shortages and home deliveries to global vaccine distribution, the pandemic has thrust supply chains into the public spotlight. This will inspire more young people to study and join the profession.
For employers like HAVI, this trend will increase pressure to attract and retain top people as competition for talent intensifies. Of course, the talent war has been a fixed feature of the business landscape for many years. But the rise of remote working during the pandemic has changed the rules of engagement decisively by proving beyond doubt that people do not need to be physically located near their workplace to perform their roles effectively.
Meanwhile, our talent pool will also expand as experienced professionals find new routes into the supply chain profession through virtual doorways while other skills – such as technology – become even more sector-relevant.
Bottom line: putting people first has never been more important as we create a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace.
As We See It: “The dedication of our people has been our best weapon against COVID and it will be fundamental to resetting, rethinking and rebuilding our business.”
TO BE RESILIENT, FIRST EMPOWER PEOPLE
Leaders recognize that people and performance are two sides of the same coin. From attracting increasingly scarce talent to actively engaging and empowering employees, investing time and effort into managing our precious human resources must come first.
Employers have a crucial responsibility to support people during the recovery. This means developing homeworking physically, technically – and psychologically. If people are in difficulty, they should be able to get help for their mental health.
Across our industry, there will be growing demand for talents who can do more things and different things while switching hats easily and comfortably. There will also be a need to upskill and educate employees to think in terms of end-to-end supply chain management rather than focusing on one link in the chain.
VOLATILITY IS HERE TO STAY
Volatility will continue beyond 2021. To handle the ups and downs ahead, resilience and flexibility are essential. People, processes and technology must stay adaptable and agile. Above all, we need to preserve our mental and physical health to overcome the challenges.
This won’t be easy. There is a consensus among public health experts that every risk and crisis scenario predicted at the start of the pandemic has played out – and there are more in the pipeline. Which means the need to devise rapid solutions to a constant flow of oncoming challenges will be a daily reality for the foreseeable future.
For a number of years, people have been talking about the age of VUCA – volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Now, it looks as if it’s here to stay!
DISTRIBUTED SUPPLY CHAINS ARE BIG NEWS
Last year showed us just how globally interconnected our supply chains are. So, keep an eye on distributed supply chains, which performed best during 2020. Now, a growing number of foodservice businesses and technology players are ramping up their investment in this asset-light, low-risk model, which performs like a vertically integrated supply chain. Challenges remain, but the potential is rich.
WE MUST MOVE FROM ANALOGUE TO DIGITAL – BUT FASTER
Fact: the future of supply chains is digital. Customers looking for suppliers who take a paper and pencil approach simply no longer exist. In fact, not even the most advanced Excel spreadsheet skills are advanced enough. Instead, businesses are looking for supply chain partners capable of linking their physical operations with smart, innovative, user-friendly digital tools and platforms.
Meanwhile, businesses must be alert to the fact that artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and robotic process automation (RPA) are moving into the mainstream – fast.
As We See It: “Yes: it really is possible to build customer satisfaction and a sustainable planet.”
At HAVI we are strongly committed to encouraging our customers and the wider industry to strike a sustainable balance between making a profit while doing the right thing for our planet and its people. We do not believe that these two objectives are mutually exclusive. The fact that a growing number of our stakeholders agree with us is particularly encouraging.
Supply chains with purpose that balance sustainability with the need to turn a profit will become a growing trend. This, in turn, will put pressure on industry players to sharpen their focus on zero-emission supply chains and carbon cutting initiatives while increasing investment in circular economies and more innovative, rigorous waste management solutions.
This pressure is not only coming from within our sector. A growing list of cities, particularly in Europe, are introducing increasingly stringent regulations on the transport and delivery of products. Among other objectives, these regulations are designed to drive carbon emissions down to zero, cut noise pollution, and make delivery times friendlier to people and their surroundings.
We can only implement an effective response to these new regulations if we come together as an industry. This means forging partnership ecosystems with like-minded allies who share the same commitment and approach to implementing innovative, effective – and sustainable – solutions.
DIVERSITY, EQUITY & INCLUSION MOVE CENTRE STAGE – AT LAST
Throughout 2020, we saw a growing awareness around the need to build truly diverse, equitable and inclusive workplaces. Business can no longer afford to ignore this imperative and we are proud that HAVI has made it an enterprise priority. Quite simply, our success in the next normal depends on doing so.
Like HAVI, many businesses have already seen that encouraging collaboration between people from different backgrounds with different strengths helps to unlock more creative solutions and propel real change.
To accelerate the momentum, we expect to see businesses focusing on areas such as equipping people with the skills to act inclusively; accelerating opportunities for career development; and embedding the principles of diversity, equality and inclusivity front and center of their collective thinking.
We suggest that one way to speed this process is to support internal affinity groups that empower people to further their personal development by sharing their life experiences in a supportive, accepting environment.
Whatever it takes, we predict a growing consensus across the business landscape that giving people the freedom to express their authentic voices at work will become increasingly important to achieving the best outcomes.
REMOTE WORKING IS HERE TO STAY
As we have already noted, the rise of homeworking during the pandemic has proved beyond doubt that people do not need to be located near a particular workplace to perform their role effectively. Work has become something people do, not a place they go.
Eliminating such a longstanding limiting factor is great news for employers – like HAVI – that recognize the value of building greater diversity, equity and inclusion into their workforce.
These businesses now have the freedom and tools to cast their recruitment nets around the world to include people whose extraordinary talents, contrasting mindsets and game-changing ideas produce the breakthrough ideas that are critical to innovation and growth. After all, celebrating people’s diversity and individuality empowers them to work even more productively than ever and evolve into more than the sum of their parts.
The rise of homeworking is also good news for employers that understand the benefits of offering their people more flexible working patterns and a more empathetic work-life balance.
SUSTAINABILITY = PLANET + PEOPLE
There is a strong link between investing in our environment and investing in the people and communities who live in it. As well as giving back to our communities, we are also seeing a greater emphasis on the importance of putting employees first. This means offering them empowering and exciting work places with rewarding job opportunities, upskilling support and a can-do culture. This will become increasingly important as the race for the brightest talent speeds up.
HERE’S TO THE NEXT NORMAL
As we move from our best normal to the next normal, there is so much to say about the change that is happening all around us. This blog is just the start of this conversation. We’d like to thank all the HAVI experts from around the world who responded to our call for input in authoring this piece. We look forward to sharing more of their insights and opinions as we look beyond the pandemic to a safe, sustainable, successful future for our industry and all its stakeholders.
Authors: Gwendy Krijger, Jan-Henrik Andersson, Peter Voskühler with input from various experts at HAVI.