Thoughts on the Return to Work in a Pandemic World

We are now exiting the pandemic survival phase and entering a cautious, post-lock-down, new normal stage But, what will this new normal look and feel like for employers and employees alike?

Remote working is here to stay…

While there will be a natural correction back to in-house working, after the easing of lock-down, remote-working is here to stay, at least as long as the virus is a threat, and probably beyond that point.

For example, Facebook announced that it expects half its employees to work remotely in the next 5 to 10 years. Amazon extended their work-from-home policy until October and Twitter say their employees can work from home forever. Inspired by Silicon Valley and innovative companies, permanent homeworking could become the norm for a significant part of the future workforce.

Talent management strategies must adapt to the new normal

A work-from-home world will inspire change in talent management strategies: employers will no longer be able to rely on trendy office locations, world-class campuses, and cool in-house work cultures to attract and retain talent. Employers’ value propositions will need to be modified in order to appeal to home-based talent, incorporating progressive, new-age features like:

  • Attractive job-design,
  • Results-orientated management
  • Game-based motivation methods
  • Fluid virtual collaboration culture

Employers who develop the most effective remote-worker value propositions, should have an edge in attracting and retaining home-based talent.

A new remote labour pool will emerge

A knock-on effect of building a remote workforce is that your organisation now has access to a new, exciting pool of geographically dispersed talent. If there is no viable talent in commuting range, a home-based talent model means you can effortlessly extend your search nationwide or even world-wide. However, this works both ways, as your own remote talent will now have access to a larger remote jobs pool. This means they will be a greater flight-risk, and so you will need to work harder to retain them.

Home-based service delivery model is more profitable

As businesses move to a remote-working based service delivery model, they should see a reduction in running costs due to reduced office space and travel costs.

Remote working also has the potential to increase productivity due to the possibility of more time- efficient online meetings and having your employees working in a more personalised home environment with reduced distractions, allowing greater focus and concentration.

Of course, we cannot ignore the challenges of a remote service delivery model: hiring, on-boarding, appraising, motivation, and training will continue with limited face-to-face contact. The talent management delivery model will need to adapt to be able to deliver an end-to-end online employee engagement model. No small feat, but the technology and know-how now exist to make this happen with acceptable fluidity. The online gig economy has been operating to this model for years now, so we know it delivers.

It will not be quite as easy to take those more complex. day-to-day social interactions online, such as impromptu water cooler chats, break-out meetings, or brainstorming sessions (where ideas are generated or concepts for new projects or critical issues are brainstormed). These face-to-face activities can be so important for team cohesion and identity, idea formation and project collaboration. Zoom and Microsoft Teams have risen to the challenge but have their limitations in that large meetings can be disorientating and tiring, lacking the fluidity of the face-to-face alternative. However, expect rapid improvements in this medium as implementation experience grows.

Digital Demand

Demand for digital services such as cloud, connectivity, e-commerce etc. grew during the lock-down. Not only do remote workers depend on these digital services to operate, many organisations have been, (and will have to) accelerate digital transformations to support remote working. As a result, we can expect to see increased demand for emerging skills as employers race to locate the talent to support mission-critical digital transformation strategies.

Agility and adaptability will be key in the post-lockdown world: Employers who are able to quickly take their HR process online to enable them to attract, hire, retain and motivate remote talent will have a competitive edge.

15-07-2020

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