As the pandemic resets major work trends, HR leaders need to rethink workforce and employee planning, management, performance and experience strategies. The coronavirus pandemic will have a lasting impact on the future of work in nine key ways. The imperative for HR leaders is to evaluate the impact each trend will have on their organization’s operations and strategic goals, identify which require immediate action and assess to what degree these trends change pre-COVID-19 strategic goals and plans.
32% of organizations are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers as a cost-saving measure.
1. Increase in remote working
A recent Gartner poll showed that 48% of employees will likely work remotely at least part of the time after COVID-19 versus 30% before the pandemic. As organizations shift to more remote work operations, explore the critical competencies employees will need to collaborate digitally, and be prepared to adjust employee experience strategies. Consider whether and how to shift performance goal-setting and employee evaluations for a remote context.
2. Expanded data collection
Gartner analysis shows that 16% of employers are using technologies more frequently to monitor their employees through methods such as virtual clocking in and out, tracking work computer usage, and monitoring employee emails or internal communications/chat. While some companies track productivity, others monitor employee engagement and well-being to better understand employee experience.
3. Contingent worker expansion
The economic uncertainty of the pandemic has caused many workers to lose their jobs and exposed others for the first time to nonstandard work models. Many organizations responded to the pandemic’s economic impact by reducing their contractor budgets, but there has since been a shift.
4. Expanded employer role as social safety net
The pandemic has increased the trend of employers playing an expanded role in their employees’ financial, physical and mental well-being. Support includes enhanced sick leave, financial assistance, adjusted hours of operation and child care provisions. Some organizations supported the community by, for instance, shifting operations to manufacturing goods or providing services to help combat the pandemic and offering community relief funds and free community services.
5. Separation of critical skills and roles
Before COVID-19, critical roles were viewed as roles with critical skills, or the capabilities an organization needed to meet its strategic goals. Now, employers are realizing that there is another category of critical roles — roles that are critical to the success of essential workflows.
6. Humanization of employees
While some organizations have recognized the humanitarian crisis of the pandemic and prioritized the well-being of employees as people over employees as workers, others have pushed employees to work in conditions that are high risk with little support — treating them as workers first and people second.
7. Emergence of new top-tier employers
Prior to COVID-19, organizations were already facing increased employee demands for transparency. Employees and prospective candidates will judge organizations by the way in which they treated employees during the pandemic. Balance the decisions made today to resolve immediate concerns during the pandemic with the long-term impact on the employment brand.
For example, advise CEOs and executive leaders on decisions regarding executive pay cuts and make sure financial impacts are absorbed by executives versus the broader employee base.
8. Transition from designing for efficiency
A 2019 Gartner organization design survey found that 55% of organizational redesigns were focused on streamlining roles, supply chains and workflows to increase efficiency. While this approach captured efficiencies, it also created fragilities, as systems have no flexibility to respond to disruptions. Resilient organizations were better able to respond — correct course quickly with change.
To build a more responsive organization, design roles and structures around outcomes to increase agility and flexibility and formalize how processes can flex. Also, provide employees with varied, adaptive and flexible roles so they acquire cross-functional knowledge and training.
9. Increase in organization complexity
After the global financial crisis, global M&A activity accelerated, and many companies were nationalized to avoid failure. As the pandemic subsides, there will be a similar acceleration of M&A and nationalization of companies. Companies will focus on expanding their geographic diversification and investment in secondary markets to mitigate and manage risk in times of disruption. This rise in complexity of size and organizational management will create challenges for leaders as operating models evolve.