Are you ready for business unusual?

Business Essentials

By Krishan Deeljore

As the dust is starting to settle around us, there is a strong feeling of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (VUCA) when we think about what is awaiting us after the lockdown is lifted completely and when will we be able to resume business as usual. In fact, what does business as usual even mean anymore?

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This article aims to provide some constructive thoughts and ideas on how to go about devising immediate, medium- and long-term strategies over the next weeks and months with particular focus on people strategies.

5 changes we can expect to see in the workforce

  • Employee engagement levels have most likely dropped quite significantly due to prolonged social isolation, increased levels of anxiety and lack of team interactions.
  • Employees’ priorities have changed. After this long stretch of remote working and home sheltering, many people have shifted their priorities and will be asking for more flexibility in their work patterns.
  • Where and when to work. With strict social and physical distancing measures, commuting to and from a physical office at least five times a week and having all employees turn up in the same location all at the same time will not work.
  • Technostress has or will most likely become a new amplified form of work-related burnout in the post Covid-19 era caused by the phenomenal increase in the use of digital technologies and devices (ref – ‘The Technostress: definition, symptoms and risk prevention’ by Marta Chiappetta, 2017).
  • Value of talent. The pressure on companies to retain key talent has never been more critical.

10 ways of shaping the future workforce

“Our future will depend on the decisions that we make now!”

1. Take stock of lessons learnt

A relatively easy starting point is to start with lessons learnt from this crisis. What did we learn as an individual, team, organisation? What went well? What steps should we take to avoid same mistakes in the future? What behaviours were adopted during the pandemic that we want to preserve? How can we restructure to manage our costs today, and position our organization for success in the future?

 2. Engagement = Productivity

Running an employee engagement survey to assess the state of mind of your people, their fears as well as their expectations. This will help you identify as accurately as possible the soft spots and weak areas which should be prioritised. For example, one of the hot topics can be assessed: Is your workforce ready to perform productively at home?

3.Provide flexibility

Flexibility for some could mean reassigning more time for self and family. For others it could mean flexibility to have a secondary source of income. Consider introducing a voluntary special leave policy on a temporary basis, shorter working week or other flexible arrangements in the immediate to short-term.

4. Create an elastic workforce

Many firms are already experimenting with different work patterns such as rotating schedules, split shifts and ‘hybrid’ teams (mix of onsite and online) in order to accommodate the transportation and movement restrictions. Adopt and adapt workforce models from the software, consulting and BPO industries which have been operating in an elastic manner for many years.

5. Lose fat, keep muscles

For companies who will trigger a restructuring exercise, more weightage should be given to people’s technical skills and behavioural competencies and more particularly how critical and relevant they are or will be for the core activities of the business.

6. Anticipate future skills

Experts predict that tech savviness, data literacy and coding skills will become extremely valuable in the new world of work. In order to further mitigate the risks of losing key talent and expertise, organisations must start anticipating the skills which will be critical in their new business model.

7. Accelerate digitalisation

People’s relationship with technology and internet has radically changed during this crisis. Organisations must start exploring the use of digital collaboration tools and virtual solutions on a wider scale. However, as most of the workforce shifts to work remotely and as other critical operations begin to rely more heavily on virtual connections, make sure that your IT systems and your cybersecurity are both up to the challenge.

8. Embed Virtual Learning culture

The way people at national scale have used technology for remote learning, distance education and online learning during the pandemic is quite staggering. This trend will continue as long as physical distancing and travel restrictions prevail. Companies should therefore invest time in cross-training, upskilling and re-skilling of their workforce by leveraging on existing learning platforms and online resources.

 9. Get closer to your customers

This is the right time to value and nurture relationships with your customers, suppliers, sub-contractors and third party service providers. Turn them into strategic partnerships, even if there is no business deal at stake. If there is one lesson to be learnt from Covid-19, then it is about being more human in the way we do business.

10. Corporate citizenship

While focusing on all these internal and external aspects, businesses should not forget the community. More than ever before, we should show our support to the less privileged people in our society. Simply choose a good cause and make it count!

Whatever you decide to do remember that everything starts and ends with leadership. Whilst the Covid-19 pandemic is the most difficult time humanity has experienced in the last 100 years, it can also be a time of unprecedented innovation and creativity. If anything, it would have helped us – to quote from How the Coronavirus Crisis Is Redefining Jobs’, Harvard Business Publishing, April 2020 – “build greater resilience and efficiency in our organizations, and help our people live healthier, more sustainable lives”.

Krishan Deeljore

* Published in print edition on 5 May 2020

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