How to counteract dips in productivity as workflow disruptions become the new norm

The number of employees working from home has skyrocketed from 5 million to 75 million since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, according to a recent report from 451 Research.

“Sixty-two percent [of companies] have already experienced a fall in employee productivity,” said Erica Gunn, VP of product marketing for Workfront, “Thirty-four percent of those surveyed have delayed or halted their strategic hiring and 22% have actually changed their go-to-market plans for products or services.”

Gunn shared 451 Research’s recent data during her “Adapting to Changing Market Forces: How to Iteratively Plan and Prioritize Work” Discover MarTech webinar.

Leading factors for loss in productivity

The existential threat of living through a global pandemic is enough to make focusing on work nearly impossible — layer on top of that the added stress of health concerns, job security and managing your kid’s at-home school routine and it’s no surprise productivity is taking a major dive.

On top of the every-day stressors, Gunn outlines specific work issues that also impact productivity and have caused major disruptions. First, there is the technology gap, with many companies now scrambling to determine what platforms are needed to keep teams collaborating effectively and projects moving forward.

Gunn uses the example of creative teams that may have previously stored their creative assets on servers in the office versus having a cloud-based digital asset management platform.

“That creative team is really challenged right now and probably seeing a pretty strong need to fill that technology gap within their organization,” said Gunn. Another factor impacting productivity? The fact that so many teams have had to throw their strategy out the window completely.

“I’ve seen a lot of advertising on TV for contact-less delivery for retail organizations or restaurants who are doing delivery. My guess is, when they built their campaign strategies back in the beginning of the year, that wasn’t their marketing campaign call to action — it wasn’t their strategy,” said Gunn.

Current conditions have caused teams across the board to make massive shifts in their strategy. This has resulted in an influx of high-priority tasks that have to be implemented as quickly as possible — often without the time or resources to allow operations or marketing teams to fully understand what the exact business strategy is at the moment.

Use this time to embrace your brand

So what do we do when everything has turned upside down? Allocadia CMO Julia Stead and her colleague Sam Melnick, VP of market insights and growth, said now is the time to highlight your brand and what it stands for. They began having conversations with their customers as soon as they saw the changes that were happening.

“We focused on marketing leaders and marketing operations leaders, and the analysts and thought leaders,” said Melnick during his and Stead’s “8 Ways to Adapt Your Marketing Organization to Today’s New Reality” session for Discover MarTech. According to Melnick, an emerging theme from their discussions was that many marketers are taking more actions to embrace their brand right now.

“This is a great opportunity for marketing organizations and marketers as a whole to look at their brand — look at their consumers and customers and guide them to create more loyalty,” said Melnick, “When you’re thinking about your product, how do you get them [customers] to use that new feature or the part of the product that is particularly useful in this time of change?”

He says brands should consider pushing a little less in terms of sales messaging, and instead focus on offering content that helps customers versus trying to sell to them.

“Think about how you can add value at every single touch point that’s going to improve the brand — that’s going to help the customer as we come out of this,” said Melnick.

Immediate steps to adapt to the new reality

“People are hyper-focused right now on collaboration and remote work that’s important, but if it doesn’t feed into work management system, then what you have is a whole bunch of activity without necessarily the output that you’re looking for,” said Gunn.

Granted, Gunn’s company is a workflow collaboration platform, but there is definitely a need for marketers to start tracking their efforts — and tying those efforts to outcomes — especially with so much disruption happening on a nearly daily basis.

“Connecting strategy to delivery is really important. We now have new strategies. New priorities. We need to manage that intake and we need to make sure we’re balancing new work against work in flight to make the right decisions for allocating resources to that strategic work,” said Gunn.

According to Melnick, determining the current status of your spend should be an immediate priority for marketing and martech teams as well.

“You can’t do anything else if you don’t this this,” said Melnick. He recommends documenting what spend is forecasted (investments the brand was looking to make in the coming weeks and months), what is committed (investments where contracts have been signed), and what is already spent.

“We’re hearing a lot of people are having headaches figuring out where they’ve actually spent money, what’s been committed, how they can manage their budget and how they can move around dollars most quickly and effectively,” said Melnick.

Melnick and Stead also recommend marketers commit to testing their campaigns because previous trends are no longer applicable. They also believe that now is a good time to step back and reconsider the projects that had been put on the back burner.

“Whether it’s around operational efficiencies, getting new reporting systems up and running — whatever it is, some folks on the team may have a little bit more bandwidth than they did previously,” said Stead, “This is a really great way to get your house in order and set yourself up for success when things do brighten up and it’s time to really hit the gas pedal.”

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