Growth Despite Crisis – An ACONEXT Success Story

Growth amidst crisis? It is absolutely possible. ACONEXT, as a mid-sized company, weathered the storm remarkably well. In this retrospective we share the recipe for our success story and how, as a team, we not only endured but thrived despite the challenges of VUCA and COVID-19.

Digitalization, globalization, rapidly accelerating communication, and daily technological innovations: As a society and as businesses, we increasingly face larger and more frequent challenges. Shaping the future is anything but simple. In short, we live in a VUCA world, according to various economic experts, journalists, and influencers.

What does VUCA stand for?

VOLATILITY

UNCERTAINTY

COMPLEXITY

AMBIGUITY

Until 2019, many dismissed the abbreviation, originating from the US military and used to describe the post-Cold War multilateral world, as a trendy buzzword. However, the VUCA concept, developed by leadership experts Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus in 1987, is realistic and solution oriented. VUCA aims to analyze difficult situations, problems, and challenges from multiple perspectives and then strategically address them on several levels.

Tackling VUCA:

VISION

UNDERSTANDING

CLARITY

AGILITY

From March 2020, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic made it clear that we were in a time of very uncertain outcomes. We had to globally adapt to facing challenging scenarios that surpassed anything seen before. Despite the uncertainty, it was our vision to retain our workforce.

As a medium-sized company, ACONEXT also had to face extreme VUCA challenges: Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity became part of our daily business and work routine, especially during the initial lockdown. By the end of March 2020, numerous customer orders were halted or postponed. The economic situation, like for all other companies and industries, was challenging. Despite the uncertainty, our vision was to retain our workforce. It was clear from the beginning that we had to consider this as our paramount objective; without exceptions.

The management continued to operate mainly from our premises to be able to respond to all processes, changes, and government decisions with agility. Initially, we allowed our employees to work 100% remotely from home, if possible. This transition was relatively smooth for all of us, since a hybrid work model had already been part of our work culture at all our locations before the pandemic. Consequently, most colleagues were familiar with working digitally and from home. Additionally, we hardly had to invest more than usual in setting up home offices, as we had already cultivated this practice in the past.

We maintained parity in our approach across all employees, regardless of their employment status. As a result, over 80% of our workforce operated remotely. However, management and leadership continued to operate predominantly from our premises to maintain agility in responding to evolving processes, changes, and governmental directives.

We acted on the understanding that following an economic crisis, a new upswing would inevitably follow, and from the necessity of retaining our expertise in-house to prevent a potential shortage of skilled workforce in the near future.

Meeting our workforce with honesty and understanding at all times resulted in the majority feeling supported and secure. Despite implementing measures such as short-time work, which made the situation challenging for everyone, at ACONEXT, we prioritized transparency to minimize uncertainty for our employees. Clarity was key in this regard.

The entire staff received regular updates and were kept informed by the company’s leadership. Within each team, there was a continuous effort to gather feedback on the well-being of individual team members. By consistently approaching our workforce with honesty and understanding, the majority felt well-supported and secure. Moreover, despite the circumstances, we didn’t observe an increase in health-related absences throughout the entire period. For colleagues facing challenges due to the pandemic, we offered close, personal support.

ACONEXT today:

Our prediction that the overall situation would improve proved correct, as ACONEXT began to see a slight upward trend from May 2020 onwards. From October 2020 until mid-2021, we experienced a very solid recovery phase, and since 2022, we have been back in a stable growth phase.

In the face of challenges, we strived not to perceive the situation as a threat, but rather as a chance for growth. The crisis became a shared chance for our workforce, especially within individual teams, to grow even closer together. Thanks to courage, solidarity, and perseverance, we succeeded in overcoming the pandemic and its effects united. Between March 2020 and January 2024, our team grew from just under 300 to now more than 650 employees. We can proudly claim that, thanks to our focus on the people behind our company, we were able to turn a very difficult situation into a success story.

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