April 20, 2020 By Amy Wright 4 min read

The current global crisis is unlike any we have faced in our lifetimes. Leaders within families, businesses and communities are facing some of the most challenging moments of their lives, yet inspiring stories continue to emerge daily. Strong leaders have shown the empathy and solidarity necessary to navigate these unchartered waters. Within organizations, leaders have acted with the agility and speed necessary to navigate the changing world of work.

As we move through the current situation and keep our eyes towards the horizon of recovery, planning for the new normal upon re-entry to work is essential. In developing this roadmap, successful companies will create a future-proof workforce – one that is crisis-resilient and flexible. The below key areas of focus will ensure that your workforce is empowered to be productive today, while strengthening your business resiliency strategy to aid in re-entry to the new normal.

1. Crisis communication is key

Helping ensure workforce connectivity is vital during a crisis. Leaders need to show empathy by setting clear direction and frequent two-way communication, whether it be sharing an announcement or expressing gratitude for an achievement or personal milestone. Most companies have employee (and customer) service centers to provide support, which are overloaded now with long wait times. One way to provide accurate real-time crisis related information without redesigning your call center is to augment it with a virtual agent. Doing so would help alleviate the volume of inbound inquires and enable your workforce to focus efforts on more complex and sensitive business initiatives. This can be put in place in days and be bolstered with company specific guidance, such as when and where to report to work, how to log sick days, and changes to travel policies.

2. Successfully manage and enable essential workers

Focusing on the health and safety of all employees is paramount. There are essential workers in every organization that need to operate with exceptions to revised company policies, having access to otherwise secure locations, the ability to travel, different levels of system authorization, customer service or provision of special equipment. Creating an approach for identifying and updating essential workers, then operationalizing ways to enable these employees not only now, but for a resilient business model in the future, is vital.

3. Keep your workforce engaged

Keeping a workforce engaged is an ongoing and rewarding endeavor often fueled by constant communication, collaboration, purposeful work, feedback, continuous learning and personal interest. This has not changed! What has changed is the method. Technology is essential in maintaining an engaged workforce. Whether initiating more frequent communication or fostering productivity, today’s technology allows us to maintain relationships and engagement in ways that were previously impossible. Beyond supporting the day-to-day operations of an engaged workforce, it can also be used to support personalized, just-in-time virtual learning.

It should come to no surprise that engagement levels across a workforce will undoubtedly be different than normal. However, ambition to maintain and improve engagement is when leadership matters most. Leaders play a critical role, not only in bringing teams together, but also bringing out the best in employees. While every employee will need some period of adjustment, there needs to be proactive assistance around the deployment and shift to new technology and tools, while providing opportunities that enable employees to successfully embrace new methods of collaboration and agile decision making. All of this will require a different type of leadership trait and approach, especially if your business is operating remotely.

4. Focus on virtual skilling

Industries are experiencing different staffing and skills dynamics due to the impact of the current crisis. Some industries are hiring at an all-time high and the ability to train and onboard new employees is limiting productivity. For many working from home has reduced commute time and provides an opportunity to use this time for learning. For others, learning new skills will be necessary due to new ways of working and automation. Whatever the situation, leaders must prioritize virtual learning both to make employees productive and engaged in the short-term and to position for the future shift in workforce skills. This can be delivered by making micro-learning content available and opportunities to share personalized skilling suggestions, as well as unleashing online coaching and virtual on-the-job support to accelerate the development of key future skills.

5. The new normal and optimizing your workforce

Our way of working will be forever changed. The current crisis will serve as an accelerator in adopting different types of job roles, organizational designs and enhanced collaboration with new external partners, ultimately impacting our workforce model. Though we are not 100% certain on the exact future model, several things are certain:

  • Our workforce model needs to allow for remote working
  • Role location, whether in-office or out-of-office or even in-country or out-of-country, will be reinvented
  • Processes will be automated while offices/plants will be redesigned
  • The workforce model needs to be flexible enough to change through time
  • The importance of employee experience and transparency will be accelerated
  • There will be a focus on cost-reduction, which means automation and outsourcing
  • New leadership behaviors and traits will be valued
  • We have to focus on teaming and in establishing relationships remotely

Carefully consider how to gradually re-enter your workforce into the new normal. Employee safety remains paramount and flexibility depends on local situations. This could mean checking the temperature of each employee upon entry into work, remodelling office space, and the dispensing of gloves and masks.

The ways we work will change for the long-term, providing a range of new business and employee opportunities. To successfully operate in the new normal, it is critical to focus on accelerating a smarter workforce strategy to help achieve cost reduction objectives and to enable adapting workforce planning to the ever-shifting balance of talent demand and supply against business priorities. Give thought to a new digital HR function – one open to embracing the influence of automation and new ways of working.

Discover actionable strategies to help empower your people on the way to creating a future-proof workforce.

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