Part 1: Where Are the People?
Effectively marketing products and services amid chaotic supply-chain disruptions, the “Great Resignation” and remote-working migrations.
Whether or not another COVID viral variant looms this summer, the pandemic’s effects are lingering — from supply-chain disruptions to staffing issues, such as the “Great Resignation” and increasing numbers of remote employees. How are businesses coping with these ongoing issues? In this first blog of a three-part series, we describe some of the business-continuity challenges facing companies in Q3 ’22 and beyond.
Of the supply-chain situation, it is frustrating when companies cannot get specific products or have long lead times, says Lori Anderson, president and CEO of the International Sign Association (ISA). “That is pushing work further out and is preventing a new restaurant from having a sign when it opens or a rebranded retail store from fully capitalizing on the changes,” Anderson points out. “Sign and graphics companies, out of necessity, are exploring other sourcing solutions or finding new technologies or products to fill the gap.”
So far as uncertainty about the impact of another, new virus variant sometime in the future, Anderson notes that the sign industry has been deemed “essential.” “That kept our companies working at a time when communities shut down,” she notes. “Should there be another variant or another public-health emergency, we will be able to continue providing our services where needed because of this designation.”
Thirdly, far fewer people are working in traditional offices, according to the latest studies. Two years ago, pre-COVID, only about 4% of the U.S. workforce (approximately 17 million people) telecommuted half-time or more. At the pandemic’s peak, however, 69% of U.S. employees worked remotely full-time, reports Global Workplace Analytics (GWA). Here are a trio of related statistics on which to gnaw as we ramp up closer to 2023:
Two of three small and mid-sized U.S. employers surveyed have a hybrid work model in place, according to the “2022 ADP Workforce Trends” report. As many as 75% of employers think that remote work (post-COVID) will be the new norm, according to research conducted by Growmotely.
In 2021, nearly 27% of U.S. employees worked remotely from home, according to the Small Business Trends website. Because smaller businesses often run on limited operating budgets, they are two times more likely to hire full-time, remote workers, Owl Labs reports.
More than 80% of employees would be more loyal to their company if they had flexible work options, per FlexJobs, a remote job site.
“We are seeing more companies highlighting flexibility as an employee benefit,” adds ISA’s Anderson.
“How we work as a society has changed, and companies need to be creative if they hope to attract and keep employees.”
A single business potentially can save more than $10,000 per year for every employee who works remotely half the time, according to GWA. Management consultancy McKinsey & Co. reports that one-third of chief operating officers surveyed say they plan to reduce office space in the coming years as current leases expire. So, is the traditional office really going away? Shuttering the shop is not always easy or economically feasible – especially in big cities and major metropolitan areas, where employers often are bound to long-term commercial leases. High-rent leases in New York City, for example, can be cost-prohibitive to break.
Most companies are seeing more hybrid-type working scenarios as opposed to totally remote situations. A FlexJobs survey revealed that one-third of employees want to be in a hybrid arrangement that allows them to work remotely at least for a few days a week/month. Owl Labs, a video-conferencing provider, reports that as many as 85% of U.S. companies already operate under a hybrid model and that 80% of U.S. employees expect to work remotely, when applicable, at least three times a week post-COVID.
Of course, these hybrid environments pose their own sets of challenges, such as computer network security, information technology (IT) support, workflow automation and more unified communications. Innovation can accelerate growth, as ADP point out, adding that “businesses will turn to technology to drive efficiency and expand capabilities amid global growth.”
At the point of sale
Undoubtedly, pandemic-related lockdowns and safety concerns had a negative impact on “brick-and-mortar” shopping. Despite supply-chain problems, rising inflation, labor shortages and the omicron variant, last year’s holiday season broke records for online and other non-store sales, which rose 14% (to $886.7 billion), following a nearly 24% uptick in 2020, according to the National Retail Federation. Nonetheless, point-of-sale signage still has its place, depending on geography and demographics.
Retail definitely is evolving and reinventing itself, but it is not dying. Today, a given store may not need 50,000 square feet of space. Rather than signing one- or two-year leases, there has been a strategic trend toward experimenting with pop-up stores – for periods of weeks at a time – to test products and markets. If they work, concepts often get upgraded, requiring more signage. Either way, the investment in storefront window signage goes on.
There’s an element of job security for point-of-sale (POS) sign printers in major metro settings with large consumer populations. Whether or not retail real-estate sites succeed, developers and landlords need signage for the space: When a store closes, window graphics provide “presence,” so it doesn’t look like a ghost town. Then, when a new store opens, inviting signs are created and produced to drive foot traffic.
The ADP workforce ’22 trends report also cites growing compliance considerations as adding to an already complex regulatory environment: Nearly 20% of U.S. companies with 25 to 99 employees admit they are currently facing challenges with compliance and regulatory issues. Because of all these stress points, “there may be a tendency to hunker down and focus inward,” Anderson warns. “But the companies that will have long-term success will keep the big picture in mind. Now is the time to ramp up employee training, explore new technologies and processes, and invest in innovative solutions,” she urges.