The year that was 2020 tested education and training businesses large and small – including many in tertiary education. What pillars of resilience have we discovered that will help us in the future?
With a global pandemic crunching even well-run businesses around the world in 2020, it brought into stark relief the difference between planning for some imagined crisis, and the trials of naked reality. For many, resilience is no longer a conceptual plaything. It’s absolutely essential.
Fortunately, there’s a few things that we’ve learned can help education businesses become more resilient. Here’s our top three.
The financial foundations
Resilient education businesses are always laser-focused on the sustainability of their finances, to ensure they will not be undone by unexpected volatility.
- Cashflow – Introduce buffer and visibility through cashflow forecasting, scenario testing and boosting cash reserves.
- Costs – Control fixed and variable spending to create headroom while ensuring cuts do not impact potential future growth.
- Credit – Consider the advantages of reducing debt or drawing down on loans while ensuring strong comminication with lenders.
- Cover – Ensure you have adequate insurance cover to protect against the risk of significant disruption.
- Calibration – Consider diversifying into new markets, new business models, or new niche areas of training.
The technology tools
The right technology ecosystem provides education businesses with the infrastructure and tools they need in tough times. It can create efficiency, bring people and processes into cohesion, and enable them to pivot on the go, which all helps them to absorb shocks and enable action.
The pandemic of 2020 was a case in point. With the sudden shutdown of international student travel and the necessity of physical distancing, education businesses who had the necessary technologies in place were able to quickly deploy emergency measures.
For example, the pandemic quickly demonstrated the value of online learning and delivery technologies, student information management via the cloud and the power of tools like contactless course payment or virtual team workflows.
The human advantage
Human beings make all the difference to business resilience. Good strategic planning and execution can create a culture that is willing to embrace testing moments to create new or improved offerings.
Resilient business cultures prioritise bringing the right people through the door (who will contribute to the desired business and cultural outcomes), robust onboarding and integration (to enrol them in the business’ mission, way of operating and teams), stimulating collaboration (communication, sharing knowledge and problem solving together), perpetual innovation (noticing potential improvements, wrestling openly with new ideas, and testing new ways of doing things) and embracing continual learning (in line with the lifelong learning imperative of the future).
As living examples of the values and behaviours an education business is seeking to nurture, leaders also have the unique opportunity (and burden) of showing their teams what resilience looks like in action, and the results that it can achieve. This means knowing themselves first, and through modelling their response to challenge, demonstrating how they respond to the unexpected, take positive opportunities from difficulty , make clear-headed decisions under pressure, and more.
Making resilience real
The education sector was already dealing with the fast pace change that has been reshaping many aspects of its model. Leaders had been asking, “How can I stay on top of change while keeping my organisation moving forward?” and the pandemic has only asked more of them and their businesses.
Fortunately, resilience can in many ways be planned for, nurtured or built in. By creating the foundations for great resilience, leaders and their businesses can be ready to make the most of the unexpected shocks that are sure to come and use them to realise new opportunities for growth.