December 9, 2020 | Human Resources | Posted by Ascentis
Moving Your Workforce from Surviving Back to Thriving
For most businesses, 2020 has been a year of adapting on the fly. Even organizations with extensive contingency plans for disasters and disruptions were unprepared for a crisis as far-reaching and long-lasting as the coronavirus pandemic has turned out to be. That required business leaders, operations managers, and workforce strategists to develop quick, actionable, short-term plans for protecting worker safety while maintaining productivity.
While the pandemic is far from behind us — in fact, most experts agree that the worst of it is yet to come — our businesses have now had enough time to adapt and establish new rhythms and processes. As the promise of effective vaccines moves us slowly closer to a COVID-free future, it’s time for organizations to shift out of survival mode and back into thriving mode. To that end, we’ve put together some guidelines for businesses getting back up to full speed in a profoundly changed world.
Embrace the ChangesSince the start of the pandemic, everyone has been eager to get back to normal. CNN Business even developed an algorithm to track how close each state’s business landscape is to returning to pre-pandemic levels. While that desire for normalcy makes sense from both an economic and an emotional perspective, it can be all too easy to confuse “getting back to normal” with “getting back to exactly how it used to be.”
The fact is that many of the changes brought about by the COVID pandemic will be permanent ones. By and large, that’s a good thing. The sudden and drastic shifts in the ways we approach workplace processes like scheduling, health and safety, communication, leave management, time and attendance have exposed a number of flaws and inefficiencies that might have otherwise gone unaddressed.
Business leaders have dealt with those changes using a combination of creative thinking and technology. As we move toward something closer to normal, there is no reason to abandon the changes that have worked. At the same time, businesses that adopted short-term tech solutions and policy changes to get through the pandemic now need to reassess those quick fixes and decide whether they need to find a long-term replacement. For instance, an employer that instituted flexible scheduling options as a pandemic stop-gap may now want to evaluate productivity and employee satisfaction levels to decide whether those policies should be made permanent.
Keep Focusing on SafetyWorker health and safety came to the forefront in 2020 in ways that it never has before. This is another area where businesses had to do a lot of learning in real-time. For instance, early in the pandemic we saw a rash of outbreaks at manufacturing and processing facilities. Since remote work is simply unfeasible in many of those industries, employers were forced to institute a whole new set of safety standards to prevent further spreads and protect their workforces. Manufacturers responded with measures such as staggered shifts, physically rearranged workspaces, and increased reliance on automation and digitization.
Even after the COVID crisis has subsided, these kinds of health concerns will play a major role in the new workplace. Employees, customers, and investors are all likely to place a much higher value on workplace safety. Surveys have shown a huge uptick in engagement for businesses that use health-related keywords in their social media posts, an indicator that workers are seeking out companies that put a premium on safety. Employers who can demonstrate a strong record of health and safety protocols and policies will be able to attract high-quality new hires and retain top talent more easily than those with a less sterling reputation.
Stay flexiblePerhaps more than any other factor, workplace flexibility has come to the forefront during the pandemic. More people are working from home than ever before, and both employers and employees have been surprised with the level of productivity they have been able to maintain. For businesses where working from home is possible, employers may want to consider making it an option. Not only is there ample evidence that companies can stay productive with more remote work, that kind of flexibility will likely play a key role in attracting and retaining quality employees post=pandemic.
Of course, an estimated 70% of American jobs cannot be performed fully remotely, and those figures are markedly higher in industries like healthcare, manufacturing, construction, and hospitality. Even in those fields, though, flexibility will be a key factor as employers move back to full capacity. A global survey has found that 77% of employees want to maintain less strict scheduling and shift-management options after the pandemic subsides. Somewhat surprisingly, the same study found that around 80% of C-level executives agree that increased flexibility will be good for their businesses. In the immediate future, human resources teams will need to find ways to institute more flexibility in areas like scheduling, setting up shifts, and handling sick leave and paid time off.
Upgrade Your TechWith all of the operational changes necessitated by the past year, automation and tech solutions play a bigger role in the workplace than ever before. Managing non-traditional schedules, tracking health and safety measures, incorporating new communication tools, and handling all of the other day-to-day processes that keep an organization running smoothly is a lot of work. Attempting to stay on top of all of those functions manually leaves your business open to human error that can cause delays, cost money, and risk compliance violations.
Any business that has not already invested in a comprehensive workforce management system needs to make it a priority for 2021. As the estimated 2.7 billion workers worldwide who felt the direct impacts of the pandemic return to their adapted work lives, employers need to be sure that their technology is up to speed. That means everything from safety-oriented time and attendance hardware to customizable scheduling dashboards to mobile apps that provide extensive employee self-service options.
While it will still be some time before the working world begins to feel “normal,” we’ve reached a point where we can begin the transition from simply maintaining and move our businesses toward thriving in a post-Covid environment. Find out more about the many ways Ascentis workforce solutions can help position your organization for success in the new business landscape.