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June 27, 2021 | Time and Attendance | Posted by Jennifer McClure

Leading Hourly Workforce Transformation in a Post-Pandemic World

In February 2020, global labor markets experienced a dramatic shock due to the novel coronavirus, with millions of workers either losing their job or shifting to remote work. While it’s been more than a year living the “new normal” of lockdowns, quarantining, and social distancing, economies across the globe are slowly reopening due to the rollout of vaccines and a decrease in infection rates. However, returning to the workplace is going to look much different in the post-pandemic world.

Over the past year, businesses and industry leaders have had to make many new adoptions to ensure their companies and the economy kept running, such as shifting to telework and implementing safety protocols to protect both employees and customers. Post-pandemic, many of these changes are here to stay. Navigating these changes, however, could prove challenging, especially for businesses that rely on an hourly workforce.

Leaders must proactively develop their employment practices to successfully attract, recruit, and retain the quality and tech-savvy employees they require in order to fulfill the needs of this drastically changing workforce. Throughout this post, we’ll go over the impact Covid-19 had on the workforce, potential challenges businesses face in the future, tips to ensure your workforce thrives, and more. Read through to learn all about how you can lead an hourly workforce through the post-pandemic world, or use the links below to navigate the post.

Covid-19’s Impact on the Workforce

The Covid-19 pandemic required businesses to completely reform the way they conducted work. With shelter in place orders put in effect, along with social distancing and quarantine guidelines, returning to the office wasn’t possible, leading to a significant shift in remote work and unemployment. In fact, the unemployment rate reached a historic high in April 2020 since data collection began in 1948, reaching 14.8%. A year later, in April 2021, the unemployment rate continued to be higher than it was in February 2020, remaining at 6.1% compared to 3.5%. While the unemployment rate dropped steadily, long-term unemployment is still prevalent, with 3.8 million workers jobless.

 

However, not every industry was impacted the same. The coronavirus pandemic affected different economic sectors disparately. Below are the peak unemployment rates by sector:
  • Construction: 16.6% in April 2020
  • Education and Health Services: 10.9% in April 2020
  • Financial Activities: 5.7% in May 2020
  • Government: 9.3% in April 2020
  • Information: 12.3% in July 2020
  • Leisure and Hospitality: 39.3% in April 2020
  • Manufacturing: 13.2% in April 2020
  • Other Services: 23% in April 2020
  • Professional and Business Services: 9.8% in April 2020
  • Transportation and Utilities: 14.2% in May 2020
  • Wholesale and Retail Trade: 17.1% in April 2020
Not only were different economic sectors impacted disparately, such as leisure/hospitality and wholesale/retail trade, but so were demographic groups. While the Covid-19 pandemic impacted every demographic group in some capacity, minority groups such as Blacks and Hispanics, younger workers, and women faced higher unemployment rates throughout the pandemic. Below are the peak unemployment rates compared to May 2021 for different demographic groups:
  • White: 14.1% (April 2020) to 5.1% (May 2021)
  • Asian: 14.9% (May 2020) to 5.5% (May 2021)
  • Black or African American: 16.7% (May 2020) to 9.1% (May 2021)
  • Hispanic or Latino: 18.9% (April 2020) to 7.3% (May 2021)
  • Women Aged 16-19: 36.3% (April 2020) to 9.0% (May 2021)
  • Men Aged 16-19: 28.4% (April 2020) to 10.1% (May 2021)
  • Women Aged 20 or Over: 15.5% (April 2020) to 5.4% (May 2021)
  • Men Aged 20 or Over: 13.1% (April 2020) to 5.9% (May 2021)
The Covid-19 pandemic also affected the unemployment rate for those with different educational attainment levels disproportionately:
  • Less than a high school diploma: 21% (April 2020) to 9.1% (May 2021)
  • High school graduates, no college: 17.3% (April 2020) to 6.8% (May 2021)
  • Some college or associate degree: 15% (April 2020) to 5.9% (May 2021)
  • Bachelor’s degree or higher: 8.4% (April 2020) to 3.2% (May 2021)
Overall, the coronavirus pandemic dealt a severe blow to more marginalized groups, such as Black, Hispanic, and Asian workers, women, younger workers, and those with lower educational attainment levels. Additionally, these marginalized groups make up the largest portion of low-wage workers, who work hourly jobs receiving rates at or below the federal minimum wage level.

Today, many questions remain unanswered, such as how will we return back to the workplace? How will we address diversity and the gender pay gap? Is remote work here to stay? These are just some of the challenges businesses face ahead—let’s dive into a few more in the section below.

Challenges Businesses Face Ahead

Returning to the workplace isn’t going to look “normal.” The post-pandemic workplace is going to look much different, as various practices implemented during the Covid-19 lockdown, such as automation and virtual meetings, are here to stay. Additionally, CEOs, industry leaders, and business owners are going to need to examine the intersection of the social justice movement, income inequality, the economic crisis, and the pandemic to create a workplace that’s fair and just for all workers. 

The coronavirus pandemic highlighted many systemic injustices throughout the country. Both consumers and employees are looking at businesses as leaders of change to build an equitable and inclusive economy. Some of the top challenges companies will likely face in the future include:

Health, safety, and well-being

One of the top challenges businesses will face coming out of the pandemic is addressing the health, safety, and well-being of its employees and customers. The coronavirus pandemic has taken the lives of more than 600,000 Americans as of mid-June, 2021 according to Johns Hopkins data, and more than 3.8 million people worldwide. 

The pandemic highlighted the vast injustices and disparities in the economy, showing how unprepared America was for a global pandemic. The workers who require paid sick leave the most have the least, with 30% of the lowest-paid workers who can earn paid sick leave having more contact with the public and the inability to work remotely. Additionally, a majority of these workers tend to be hourly and lack healthcare. With that said, ensuring the health and safety of anyone coming in a business’s doors is going to be a top priority.

In addition to workplace health and safety, tackling employee well-being is going to be another issue at stake. After more than a year of isolation due to remote work or being front and center as an essential worker, stress, burnout, and fatigue are at an all-time high. In fact, a Pew Research study found that nearly 1 in 3 Americans experienced high levels of psychological distress at some point during the pandemic. Finding ways to address these issues and ensure employees’ emotional and physical well-being are cared for is going to be a challenge while navigating the post-pandemic world.

Remote work

With the Covid-19 pandemic requiring most businesses to either shift to a hybrid model, remote model, or close their doors for good, finding flexible work options became crucial for most workers. Overall, around 54% of working adults would prefer working remotely after the coronavirus outbreak ends. Some reasons employees are promoting remote work include no commute, the option to choose their own hours, and the ability to take care of children and elderly family members.

However, remote work isn’t possible for every worker, especially for those in low-paying jobs that are typically hourly. A majority of workers who can work remotely—around 62%—are upper-income workers holding a bachelor’s degree or higher. Conversely, only 23% of workers without a four-year college degree have the option to telework, according to Pew Research. Businesses will need to find solutions to address this flexibility gap to ensure workers have more flexible work options to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Effective communication

Lack of communication was a top concern for many when the pandemic unfolded, and for good reason. After all, shifting to a completely remote model without a moment’s notice did prove difficult at the onset of the pandemic. However, video calling, virtual conferences, and communication apps became commonplace during the pandemic, helping to bridge the communication gap.

Going forward, businesses will need to continue improving effective communication with clients, employees, and consumers. This issue is interconnected with many of the challenges businesses will face in the future, as improved communication will allow employees to be more flexible with where they work and have clear protocols effectively communicated to employees should future illnesses and outbreaks occur.

Reskilling

High employee turnover can be a sign of a deteriorating business. In order to retain top talent, reskilling and upskilling is essential and can be cost-effective. To resolve talent shortages, businesses will now have to find solutions to give current employees the tools and skills they need to adapt to the inevitable technological revolutions that are to come. This is especially true for hourly workers who often have the most to gain. Overall, growth opportunities are a consistent demand for most workers, which can help produce better results and build a strong company culture.

 

Economic, social, and political change

As we’ve highlighted, the coronavirus pandemic disproportionately impacted marginalized groups, including Black and Hispanic communities, women, and those with lower educational attainment. Social, economic, and political issues are going to remain front stage as employees and consumers are looking at businesses to be forceful drivers of change. This socioeconomic divide will likely continue to grow, and workers and consumers have high expectations for companies to mend this divide.

Leading in a new world of work

The final challenge businesses will face is learning how to lead in a new world of work. Above are some of the issues at stake that need to be resolved, and organizations will need to come up with solutions in order to succeed. To get started, we’ll go over five areas to ensure your workforce thrives in the following section.

5 Areas to Ensure Your Workforce Thrives

Businesses and organizations are going to face several challenges on the road ahead in a post-pandemic world. From large pay gaps to health and well-being, these are just some of the concerns that workers are expecting companies to resolve. Below are five areas that you can improve to ensure your workforce flourishes:

1. Pay & Benefits

Only 1 in 4 HR leaders use analytics to better understand what drives people to join or stay at their company. Finding the reasons that promote employee retention can help your organization build a strong company culture with a low rate of employee turnover. According to The State of the Hourly Worker Report by Shiftboard, one of the most important factors for job satisfaction is being paid well, as voted by 66% of respondents. For hourly workers, providing skill-based pay can offer many positive benefits to both employers and employees.

In addition to better pay, workers are looking for additional employee benefits that not only make working at their job more fulfilling but can improve their quality of life. According to Harvard Business Review, some of the most desirable benefits of job seekers are:
  • Better health, dental, and vision insurance: 88%
  • More flexible hours: 88%
  • More vacation time: 80%
  • Work-from-home options: 80%
  • Free daycare services: 38%
  • Free fitness/yoga classes: 33%

 

In order to ensure your workforce thrives, offering competitive pay and benefits is a must. The coronavirus pandemic has shown just how important essential workers are in keeping our economy alive. However, a majority of these workers are low-wage, hourly employees, and the pandemic has highlighted the pay disparities they face, which is why moving toward a $15/hour minimum wage is becoming a national talking point.

2. Flexibility

The post-pandemic workforce is going to look much different. It will consist of a blend of workers, such as full-time and part-time workers, contractors, and freelancers, which make up the gig economy. This new blended workforce is going to require organizations to be more flexible in order to find top-tier talent. Businesses can expect the future of work to look like the following:
  • Career mobility: The post-pandemic workforce is going to emphasize career mobility, which is the ability for people to work how, when, where, and for whom they want. The coronavirus pandemic has shown that telework can be done efficiently, and a majority of workers prefer working from home once the pandemic subsides, meaning they’re going to look for opportunities that allow them to work how and when they want.
  • The end of static jobs: This trend has been going on for a few years now, but the coronavirus sped it up—jobs will no longer be static. This means jobs will become flexible roles in teams, allowing workers to develop multiple skills and areas of knowledge rather than sticking to a clearly defined job.
  • Talent everywhere: The gig economy is booming, meaning organizations have a large pool of talent to access. Today, talent is not just limited to those on your payroll—businesses can hire out freelancers, contractors, consultants, and other contingent workers for a certain project or task.
As a business, providing flexible scheduling means you’re going to need to be communicative. It can be hard working with a team of freelancers and other gig workers, and the number one complaint of hourly workers and cause of turnover is scheduling, according to Shiftboard’s The State of the Hourly Worker Report. Additionally, their report found that 85% of hourly workers claim scheduling affects their overall job satisfaction. 

 

To create a thriving workforce, communicate with your team and provide them with a clear schedule ahead of time, so they can create a schedule that works for them.

3. Diversity & Inclusion

As we’ve highlighted, the coronavirus pandemic has uncovered the deep systemic issues that plague our country and put marginalized groups at a disadvantage in the economy. Diversity and inclusion is a top priority for many workers, and companies are expected to have a more diverse workforce. It’s important to understand the differences between diversity and inclusion to ensure employees feel a sense of belonging. According to LeFawn Davis, the Group Vice President of Environment, Social, and Governance at Indeed, these are the definitions of diversity, inclusion, and belonging:
  • Diversity is the representation and reflection of global communities in which we operate.
  • Inclusion includes the actions and behaviors we take to create a culture in which employees feel valued, trusted, and authentic.
  • Belonging is a feeling of community with the people and environment that makes us feel connected.
Building a diverse workforce isn’t just about metrics, either. There are many proven benefits as to why organizations should create a diverse working environment with people of varying races, ethnicities, and gender. According to McKinsey’s Diversity Matters report, more diverse companies perform better. Below are some of the positive impacts diversity has in business settings:
  • Improves decision-making: Through a wider variety of problem-solving methodologies, views, and ideas, diversity stimulates innovation and creativity. Diverse groups frequently outperform experts, according to academic research.
  • Increases employee satisfaction: Employee satisfaction and group conflict are reduced as a result of diversity, which improves collaboration and loyalty.
  • Strengthens customer orientation: Women and minority groups are top consumer decision-makers, and gay men and women have average household incomes about 80% higher than average.

 

Creating a diverse and inclusive workforce that promotes a sense of belonging is not only great for your employees but your business as a whole. To get started, create an actionable, data-driven strategy and provide resources to enact meaningful change.

4. Upskilling/Reskilling

Automation and digitization are growing exponentially, and the coronavirus pandemic accelerated this trend even more. In fact, 85% of CEOs said the pandemic significantly accelerated digital transformation. To keep up with this trend, companies will need to focus on upskilling or reskilling their workers, especially hourly workers, to whom digital skills are becoming increasingly important. 

Dismissed By Degrees, a report by Harvard Business School, found a significant degree gap of 51%, where Americans with relevant work experience might not qualify for a job because they don’t have a college degree. In fact, 67% of job postings in 2015 asked for a college degree, while only 16% of workers in that role held one. Rather than placing job opportunities out of reach for most workers by requiring a degree, take time to upskill or reskill workers.

 

To get started, businesses should focus on investing in front-line managers who are not only trained in using technologies and AI, but are champions of lifelong learning. They must encourage their team members to improve their knowledge and skills through different opportunities and maximize each employee’s strengths.

Businesses should also focus on continuous development, which can be done by:
  • Focusing on internal mobility programs
  • Identifying and tracking skills
  • Incentivizing learning
  • Providing access and tools
  • Surveying to identify employee learning needs and wants
Additionally, learning in the future will be completely reimagined. Employees will be able to learn on the go, and learning will be continuous—not one-time events. In order for your company to succeed, upskilling and reskilling workers should be a top priority.

5. Well-Being

As many know, the coronavirus pandemic put a toll on the well-being of workers across the globe, especially hourly front-line and essential workers. Going forward, well-being is going to become the center of the workplace, which means companies will need to find ways to help their workers feel safe, secure, and cared for. According to Indeed’s Work Happiness Score, the primary well-being drivers are:
  1. Belonging
  2. Energy
  3. Appreciation
  4. Purpose
  5. Achievement
  6. Compensation
  7. Support
  8. Learning
  9. Inclusion
  10. Flexibility
  11. Trust
  12. Management
While compensation is a driver of workplace happiness, a sense of belonging often outranks pay. In the post-pandemic world, businesses will need to come up with solutions to keep employee well-being front and center.

How Ascentis Time Can Help

Ascentis aims to be our clients’ HCM partner and provide relevant information organizations need to be thinking about in order to ensure their own processes remain current and give our users the power to be the leaders in their organizations. With Ascentis Time, you can:
  • Correctly track employee time, schedules, and sick or paid leave
  • Stay fully compliant with key employment regulations like the FLSA, FMLA, and various state and local laws
  • Use advance schedule, which auto-generates schedule recommendations based on a business’s specific requirements
  • Use mobile features to request time off, submit expenses, adjust schedules, and more
Our best-in-class time and attendance system can help you automate time and workforce management to help your company succeed. 

To learn more about leading hourly workforce transformation in a post-pandemic world, check out our webinar hosted by Jennifer McClure, below:

Webinar: Leading Hourly Workforce Transformation in a Post-Pandemic World

Jennifer McClure is an entrepreneur, keynote speaker, and high-performance coach who works with leaders to leverage their influence, increase their impact, and accelerate results. Frequently recognized as a global influencer and expert on the future of work, strategic leadership and innovative people strategies, Jennifer has decades of in-the-trenches leadership and executive experience working in and with startups, privately held companies, and Fortune 500 organizations in a variety of industries. Jennifer is also the Chief Excitement Officer of DisruptHR, a global community designed to move the collective thinking forward when it comes to talent in the workplace, and she hosts a weekly podcast – Impact Makers with Jennifer McClure – sharing conversations with practitioners, entrepreneurs, authors and speakers who are changing the world while building careers that they love, and lives that matter.