2020: The Year That Wasn’t

Every year there is a shift in corporate governance standards, in an effort to evolve along with the rapidly changing business landscape and stay aligned with the shifting priorities of all stakeholders.

In 2020 boards management found they could redefine their work life balance but were surprised that work intensified while at home, which led to less balance… yikes!

Working in a distributed virtual world caused anxiety and stress and loneliness and people lost connectivity to their companies, resulting in the highest level of job turnover since people no longer have to fly to interview or relocate for a new job opportunity.

Boards faced crises relating to a financial runway for the company at the beginning of the pandemic and found ways to support management in making the tough decisions to keep real economy consumer facing businesses alive (hospitality, restaurants, etc.), while born digital e-commerce thrived.

2021 will be the year of retraining and reskilling workers as the world moves to a new normal post pandemic. The pandemic has put pressure on companies to lay off workers that can be replaced by automation. In 2021 companies will be committed to rebuilding the workforce by investing in reskilling workers.

Looking back at 2020, there was a huge surge in SPACs (about 165 SPACs – double the amount in 2019) and the IPO market stayed strong as liquidity alternatives became more prevalent (direct listings, SPACs, etc.)

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Looking ahead to 2021 we can expect a surge in major new macro trends in technology such as “no code / low code”, AI, ML, as well as an acceleration in digital transformation, tech enabling every product and service.

In 2020, ESG moved to the forefront as a key agenda topic in every board room when the conversation around diversity and inclusion was at the top of the agenda of board meetings. I predict the discussion on climate will be the next hot topic in the board room for 2021.

In 2021 we will see an increased shift / tech diaspora from Silicon Valley to emerging tech hubs such as Miami, Austin, and others.

Many are now fatigued with increased Zoom meetings. I predict that 2021 will tell the tale of how effective a virtual work environment actually is. I believe we will see a bigger than expected uptick in employees returning to in person work.

Following the social upheaval in 2020, companies should expect more interest from their employees and customers regarding their company culture policies; employees and customers are becoming experts in spotting companies who merely release lofty statements. In 2021 your customer and employee retention rate will be tied to your stance on a wide range of ESG issues.

The challenge of 2020 of attracting, retaining, motivating, and engaging Gen Z and Millennials is the big opportunity in 2021 for corporations. To attract and retain top talent, a key differentiator will be a company’s external messaging and “operationalizing engagement” of their corporate culture. Easy onboarding and personalized training will also be key differentiators.  

I encourage boards to kick off 2021 by evaluating these corporate governance topics and incorporating topics such as ESG, diversity and inclusion, employee morale and wellness, etc. into the next board meeting agenda.

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