The Future of Professional Practice Post-COVID19


THE PUBLIC SPHERE with Chido Nwakanma  @ChidoNigeria

Groups and individuals worry and wonder as Covid19 ravages the land. I was recently part of a conversation on “The future of professional practice post-Covid19”. The Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria, Lagos Chapter organised the Zoom session on 5 June 2020. I featured alongside Mr Wolemi Esan, Partner at Olaniwun Ajayi LP. Some excerpts.

The coronavirus pandemic is a hydra-headed monster and a war with many faces. It is an unseen enemy; no one knows when it will finally depart! Stay safe and keep surviving Coro.
Zoom and all the new platforms enabling social distancing yet collaboration on projects for professionals stand on a foundation of technology. Technology has mostly been a positive force. Yet. I have written three essays that pointed to the downsides of technology. The articles appeared in BusinessDay newspaper in the last two years.

In “Technology ate our breakfast and is coming for our lunch” (28 December 2018), I observed: “Technology has eaten the breakfast of the worker in many places. It is changing the nature of work and the role of humans. Many certain jobs of the past are disappearing before our very eyes. It cuts across many industries and occupations.” Following Covid19, artificial intelligence and the aggravated job losses in the banking sector, I asked that individual professionals and the society should act in the essay Technology now wants our dinner and will change our diet.

In discussing the future of professional practice, it is proper to go back to the foundations. What makes a profession? What does it mean to be licensed? A profession arises when any trade or occupation transforms itself through “the development of formal qualifications based upon education, apprenticeship, and examinations, the emergence of regulatory bodies with powers to admit and discipline members, and some degree of monopoly rights.”-Nitin Popat (2016), Introduction to Accounting.

The route to professional status for most occupations involves full-time work; a recognised training scheme; an association of people in the field; a licensing law and procedure; and professional ethics. We speak of a cognitive base, professional association, institutionalised training, accountability, and control by colleagues via the Code.

The preceding means that professions have standards and include barriers to entry. How effective those barriers to entry are for a given trade draws on several factors, including the strength of the legislation, the reward system, and collaboration or otherwise of members.

Technology is breaking many of the barriers to entry, such as Zoom has done for events. Will it be positive or detrimental to your profession?
Professions are occupational social institutions established and maintained for providing essential services to the individual and society. Each profession is concerned with an identified area of need or function (for example, maintenance of physical and emotional health, preservation of rights and freedom, enhancing the opportunity to learn). The profession collectively, and the professional individually, possess a body of knowledge and a repertoire of behaviours and skills (professional culture) needed in the practice of the profession. Non-professionals typically do not possess such knowledge, ethics and expertise.

Professionalism will matter post-Covid19. Professionalism involves competence, service to clients, knowledge-based decisions, responsibility, and accountability.
In the immediate post-Covid19 period, clients will be even more demanding despite tighter budgets. They want competence, excellent service, latest insights as a basis for your counsel, responsibility, and accountability. The caveat is that many would want to pay less for more.

Excuses of the past in a city such as Lagos, like traffic, distance, and such would no longer hold. Clients have tasted the apple of technology and how it can bridge these challenges.
The intervention of technology may stretch the capacities and time of professionals. You may end up having four to seven meetings or client engagements a day. After all, you did not have to drive through Lagos traffic! Yesterday, I participated in four Zoom meetings back-to-back: two classes, one of which I taught, an association learning session, and a media conference. Pre-Covid, it would have been impossible. How do you move from Ibeju Lekki to Ajah, back to Ibeju Lekki and then to Maryland same day?

Peter Drucker’s five great questions are useful for the professional today. What Is Your Mission? Who Is Your Customer? What Does Your Customer Value? What Are Your Results? What Is Your Plan? Ask and answer these questions for yourself as a roadmap.

Post-covid19, the professional should pull out all the artillery in his armoury. The four classes of intelligence would be critical. They are Intelligence Quotient (IQ), Emotional Quotient (EQ), Social Quotient and Adversity Quotient (AQ). Most people are familiar with the first three.

Adversity quotient is the new paradigm in the measurement and application of intelligence. It is a critical one relevant to these times of job losses, reduced earnings or work hours and things that “test the souls of men”. Wikipedia states that “An adversity quotient (AQ) is a score that measures the ability of a person to deal with adversities in his or her life. Hence, it is commonly known as the science of resilience”. Paul Stoltz coined the term in 1997 in his book Adversity Quotient: Turning Obstacles Into Opportunities.

AQ looks at your grit and stick-to-itiveness. Will you be one of the professionals that will survive the rough patches that may come post-Covid19? Or will you be among those that will take to drinking, destroy their careers and marriages, or even contemplate suicide?

The central fact of professionalism is that it is all about customers. The professional, individual or a firm, must pay critical attention to client relationship management. Most disciplines know it as account management. Client management is at the heart of every business in the best traditions of Drucker. Drucker famously stated that every business has just two functions: marketing and innovation. (Peter Drucker, 1954).

Go ahead. Go forth courageously. Be professional. You will succeed in the post-Covid19 era. Start by contributing to the discourse. What has been your experience: will professionalism be a critical success factor in this era or should we merely strive anyhow the wind blows so long as it delivers soup?