Peter Marples, Co-Founder, Promote-Ed

Six weeks ago the word furlough entered our vocabulary. For me, I had never heard of it before but it is now embedded into our daily business lives.

Many millions of employees have been successfully furloughed and many businesses are starting to receive payments from HMRC in readiness for the April payroll. 

As we begin to digest and understand furlough, another new term has entered our lives; NEW NORMAL. The origins of this stem from the financial conditions following the financial crisis of 2007-2008 and the aftermath of the 2008–2012 global recession. The term has since been used in a variety of other contexts to imply that something which was previously abnormal has become commonplace.

We are certainly in abnormal times, the PM back at work and intimating that we have captured the peak of the first phase of the pandemic. But we have to be careful, plan and never before, since the World Wars will we need the resolve as a nation and individuals to overcome the aftershocks that are almost likely to follow.

So, what does NEW NORMAL look like in our business lives, our communities and wider Society?

I have always been positive about the future yet our new future will look very different to how we entered the start of the new decade. 

For Business:

  • Businesses will come back leaner and meaner – any excess will be removed, cost will be scrutinised more closely and sadly many staff who are currently on furlough will never return to their former roles. Business owners will have been hit hard by this pandemic, personally and professionally with many years of hard slog having been taken away from them. Rebuilding and relaunching will be key and for some, they will just not have the energies for the fight.
  • Businesses will use this as an opportunity to reflect on the skills required in their workforce of tomorrow – re train or re fresh the workforce will be the two options – and many will take the option of the latter
  • Owners will reflect on the experience, will look at those businesses that have stuck with them and I see the return of more ethical contracting and commissioning for goods and services. 
  • Major scrutiny on our accommodation needs will start almost immediately, coupled with a demand by some for flexible working will result in major changes to the cost drivers for business and impact on other local businesses that ‘feed’ of local business owners. 
  • Teams, Zoom and other platforms are now well established for even the most resistant participant and new opportunities will be established for innovative businesses to find ways of colleagues keeping in touch 

Communities

  • Many people will become redundant as business will not return to normal levels and some businesses will require differing staffing
  • There will be a need for a major RESKILLING programme across the UK for those displaced as part of COVID-19. Many people made redundant will be highly skilled, not those requiring a first L2 qualification so thought needs to be given to what this looks like and indeed who delivers the programmes – short technical skills will be the way forward
  • We will see a building of new social communities and individuals and establishments will rise to play a dominant role. I have said much about the role of the Local College – this is an opportunity for them to cement themselves at the heart of community and business interaction in their localities, including I would suggest a return to ‘evening classes’ for Adults as individuals reflect on their priorities and wish to learn – new commercial revenue opportunities will emerge

Society

  • The impact on society will be profound, not just measured in the short term but much longer term and embedded changes in the way we interact.
  • Families will interact differently in the NEW NORMAL, many people in their 50’s will decide that they have had enough of the daily treadmill of work and commuting and decide to do things differently.
  • Predicting short term consumer spending will be interesting – will individuals upon release from lock down go into a spending frenzy or will people look to reduce spending through necessity or simply because the material things no longer matter. 

All of these factors, and indeed many others including social cohesion will impact on the Education Market place in which many readers work. We must not bury our heads in the sand, ignorant of the impacts that COVID-19 is having on millions of people – where businesses have lost all their income and individuals and families have little or no income or savings to support themselves. 

This is the time to plan our contribution for the next phase. To organise our businesses activities to support NEW NORMAL – there is no definition of new normal, it is for us to shape what it means and how we move forward positively. 

So at promote-ed we will be publishing shortly for Ministers some positive steps that could be taken to address NEW NORMAL in the Skills arena and space.

Peter Marples, Co-Founder, Promote-Ed

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