Trust in Transformation
The year 2020 has opened a new chapter in history. It has heralded an era of uncertainty and called normality into question. In my family, my wife and my elder son fell ill with COVID-19. I myself was fortunate to be spared from the virus, but our family life was significantly affected. Lockdown and isolation made us realise how nice being close to each other and slowing down can be. Never before have we spent so much family time together, and we often sat around the table as a family at lunch or dinner time. At the same time, we still long for familiar interaction with friends. And, above all, we feel the ache of wanderlust – as my family and I really enjoy travelling to foreign countries, discovering different cultures and special places in nature. This passion was something we were unable to pursue in 2020.
During the outgoing year, I experienced a huge sense of solidarity and mutual support on both a personal and a professional level. This is not something to be taken for granted in an individualistic society. Our teams found new platforms for collaboration, arranged virtual lunches, gave each another mental support and redistributed the work among themselves. I experienced the same myself in my exchanges with other managers and decision-makers. We wanted to ask one another how we were all managing to get through these times, what situations others were working in and how they made decisions. We tried to learn from each other. Ultimately, the one thing we all had in common was a huge, overall feeling of uncertainty.
«The trust factor has strengthened our relationships with customers and employees in the long term.»
The importance of trust has grown enormously over the last year. After all, it’s only by trusting others that we can reveal our vulnerability, communicate openly and honestly, and act with solidarity. The obstacles created by COVID-19 and the crisis it triggered brought the matter of trust to the surface. “How can I be sure that my employees really are working efficiently at home?” a colleague asked me. You can’t be sure. But you trust them to do it. The trust factor has strengthened our relationships with customers and employees in the long term.
This new kind of sustainability is here to stay. I’m certain of it. Of course, we won’t carry on with all the new habits we adopted during the period of lockdown and restrictions. The pendulum will swing back in the other direction again, and we humans will revert to our old ways. After all, unfortunately, people forget alarmingly quickly. Some things will stay the same though. Like the role of humankind itself, which has certainly been redefined with the emergence of new technologies. Digital technologies don’t replace people, but they do relieve them of routine tasks and give them more responsibility in areas where a sharp mind and keen judgement are required.
One of the challenges of the ‘new normal’ is making sure we stay close to our customers and employees. We must find new ways to overcome obstacles like loss of contact or the limits of virtual interaction. Video conference meetings have become more efficient as agendas can be worked through quickly and systematically. What they lack, though, are the brief side meetings, the gestures and expressions of the conference participants, the spontaneous reactions, the group dynamic and everything that goes unspoken. These overtones have on many occasions steered us towards the actual problem. So, to still pick up on them we need to develop new strategies. As this is the only way for us in future to continue recognising the things that matter to our customers and employees. And it’s also the only way that we can develop lasting approaches to solutions, convey a co-creative ‘we’ culture, provide opportunities for development, stand ready as a sparring partner and create real added value.
«The economic and social consequences of COVID-19 have taught society that transformation is not hype, but rather a survival strategy.»
For this, we need two things above all: a resounding ‘yes’ to transformation, and the confidence that stems from this. For companies, it’s essential that we evolve continuously. COVID-19 has massively accelerated this paradigm shift and triggered a real push towards digitisation. Many companies lacked the pressure or the understanding, and the pandemic forced digital transformation upon them. For it showed how important it is to adapt to new situations quickly and purposefully. The economic and social consequences of COVID-19 have taught society that transformation is not hype, but rather a survival strategy. And one that – properly implemented – offers attractive opportunities.
Those who seize these opportunities and tap into new business areas with innovative ideas will emerge out of the crisis a winner and establish a successful, new normality. But those who continue to stick their head in the sand or wait to see what happens will fail. Because sooner or later, it will be too late for transformation. You can underestimate change or sleep through it. Alternatively, you can set it in motion. In my opinion, companies that enjoy long-term success must aim to define what they stand for, anticipate long-term trends, choose a clear path and follow it consistently, with pioneering spirit and the courage to embrace change.
That’s precisely what we have with ‘Trust in Transformation’. This principle is part of our corporate purpose. We want to build trust in our society and solve important problems. Transformation can be used for this purpose as a powerful and highly influential instrument. And it generates added value – provided that people open up to trust. As auditors, it’s naturally our job to establish trust in the accuracy of your financial reporting. With our sustainability consulting, we create trust in the sustainable orientation of corporate activities. By seeing things through the eyes of end customers and focusing on their requirements, we help you to win and retain satisfied and loyal customers. With forward-looking technologies, we increase the reliability of your IT systems by gearing these technologies towards feasibility and practice. We strengthen your trust in the new role of your finance function; because we help you to transform from being an accounts administrator to a business partner and enabler for the business of the future. And finally, through upskilling we create an environment in which employees use their digital skills to generate value and so remain fit for the job market of the future.
Transformation has many aspects and constitutes crucial momentum for success. I would like to encourage you to use this creative power to the benefit of your company. In doing so, you can rely on your own strengths and on competent partners like us.
With this in mind, I hope you draw plenty of inspiration from our other transformation stories and I look forward to our next encounter – whether virtually or in person.
CEO PwC Switzerland
CEO, PwC Switzerland
Tel: +41 58 792 44 72