Jen Locklear gives us ideas for post-pandemic business success.
When the Covid-19 pandemic first hit, organisations around the globe had to pivot at speed to enable and maintain their business-as-usual operations. For many, this involved initiating new remote workforce models at scale.
With lockdown restrictions beginning to ease, HR and leadership professionals now find themselves working behind the scenes to address the next challenge on the horizon – navigating new procedures and mandates, while factoring in the professional and personal impacts on employees. In times of uncertainty, this is proving to be a crucial yet stressful task.
Those responsible for steering the business back to full speed will need to rethink what the future of work looks like. To ensure the organisation – and its people – can stay productive, successful, and connected, it will be critical to focus on some key strategic areas.
Adjusting the onboarding process
Having had to deploy work-from-home policies at speed, many organisations are now rethinking their operating models based on how their people work best and accelerating their digital transformation plans to further boost business agility. As a result, recruitment and onboarding processes will need to move in step with today’s increasingly virtual world of work.
The pressure is now on for organisations to demonstrate how the wellbeing of employees remains a core commitment.
During the pandemic crisis, recruiting and training efforts by necessity moved to online channels and video conferencing platforms. However, as companies consider implementing long-term flexible working models that will minimise the frequency personnel are required to attend offices in-person, the challenges of digitally onboarding new hires remotely will need to be definitively addressed.
For HR teams this will include ensuring that appropriate equipment is available to new hires the moment they are on board, initiating virtual orientation programmes for new colleagues, and effectively connecting new joiners with team members and a wider support network.
Make employee ‘overcommunication’ the new norm
As leaders evaluate how to recalibrate the business, preserve capital, and prioritise where to allocate resources to maximise revenue generation, difficult decisions will need to be made and fast-paced change will be an ever-present backdrop as organisations adjust to the new norm.
Keeping employees motivated at a time when companies are announcing hiring freezes and the job market is slowing down will require frequent and transparent communications that keep everyone on board with the current state of play.
During the crisis, leaders and employees shared a common sense of purpose that has resulted in the social contract between employers and employees shifting. As a result, the pressure is now on for organisations to demonstrate how the wellbeing of employees remains a core commitment.
In many companies, that includes continuing to delegate decision-making to the nimble teams they established when the crisis first hit which proved their ability to make important decisions faster, and better.
Without the ability to check in face-to-face, winning organisations will initiate a digital overcommunication strategy that builds the trust and commitment of employees. Implementing a regime of regular video calls and ‘town hall’ style digital gatherings will enable information to flow in both directions.
Alongside gaining insights on employee sentiment and morale, business leaders should use these communication channels to calmly deliver regular updates on what is happening and why, and share how the vision for the future is shaping up.
Supporting employees to thrive
Asking the workforce to work from home on a long-term basis requires careful consideration about what support will need to be in place to help everyone perform productively, overcome barriers, and stay healthy.
HR teams will need to research which tools and resources will help address the needs of the distributed workforce, where the individual’s personal and living situations will vary widely.
While many will enjoy being liberated from the daily commute, there is plenty of evidence that the social distancing engendered by remote working can trigger feelings of isolation, stress, and difficulties managing an appropriate work-life balance.
In the UK, the health insurer Bupa has also found that nearly two-thirds of staff (63%) have sustained back and neck injuries as a result of poor home working practices and a lack of suitable equipment.
Try new things
As remote working becomes bedded in, HR professionals and business leaders will need to shift mindsets and resources to enable new working realities where maintaining the mental health and wellbeing of the workforce depends on leaving no one behind.
Where the office once played a central role in enabling employees to socialise, share concerns, problem solve and learn together, HR leaders will need to respond to a new working environment where uncertainty and constant change can generate anxiety among workers at every level of the organisation.
Asking employees to provide ideas on new ways to stay connected and engaged can help create new working practices and technology platforms that empower them to collectively interact on a professional and social basis.
Exploring new options like gamification and enterprise social networks could help to initiate a more coherent approach to digital employee engagement that boosts employee wellbeing and generates a greater alignment with the organisation’s strategic initiatives.
By addressing all these areas, organisations will be able to initiate a holistic and coherent strategy that redefines what employee relationships look like. The end result will enable the transformation of the organisation, and the people that work within it.
About the author
Jen Locklear is Chief Talent Officer for ConnectWise.