Well, this decade certainly hasn’t started the way most of us expected. The COVID-19 outbreak has pretty much annihilated ‘normal’ life and sent the world’s economy into a tailspin. But as we all start to put our return-to-work plans in place, we should recognise that we’re in an entirely unique position - HR leaders are facing a fascinating and pivotal opportunity to change the future of work forever. That might sound a bit hyperbolic, but given we’re emerging from a full-on Hollywood-style bord
1. Increased remote working
This one is probably going to be pretty fundamental to your workforce from now on. Chances are, you’ll be offering remote working in some form as standard (or to a greater extent than you ever did
2. Improving digitalisation
It seems many companies were discussing, exploring or actively trialling different ways to digitalise operations and communications before the pandemic hit, but were forced to speed up these decisions pretty sharpish when we went into lockdown. Whether that went well or not for your company, you will have been on a sharp learning curve that needs reflection and action. The new post-COVID-19 work environment shouldn’t simply be ‘digital-first’, where everything is essentially moved online. That would likely decrease productivity, lower morale and weaken areas of a business where face-to-face practices are vital. But whilst it seems everyone’s knee-jerk reaction is to continue high levels of digitalisation across all functions and operations (seeing as it was such a headache to implement and would stand you in better stead for weathering any future lockdown-esque scenarios), you need to assess where it makes the most sense for you to keep it. Bearing in mind many people are craving human interaction right now, and your competitors will likely be stepping up or maintaining digital methods, you don't want to lose sight of what distinguishes you from your competitors.
3. Solidifying your expanded role as a social safety net
The chances are, the relationship between your company and your employees has expanded over the past few months. Perhaps you’ve offered enhanced sick leave, financial assistance, adjusted hours of operation, flexibility around childcare or other employee-led initiatives that previously wouldn’t have been part of your package. Your company will likely be playing an expanded role in your employees’ financial, physical and mental well-being and you now need to consider what this looks like in your post-COVID plans. Many companies have had to be far more open to personal factors taking precedence – how can you adapt and embed this in perpetuity?
4. Distinguishing critical roles from critical skills
It might sound like stating the obvious, but pre-pandemic it was simply accepted that critical roles were those which demanded critical skills (i.e. those which a company needed to meet its strategic goals). However, it seems employers are realising they should
5. Designing for resilience as much as efficiency
A 2019 Gartner organisation design survey found that 55% of redesigns were focused on streamlining roles, supply chains and workflows to increase efficiency. Whilst this makes a lot of sense, the survey also found that these redesigns created fragilities and inflexibilities which meant those companies were less responsive to disruptions. Given the learnings from these past few months, perhaps we need to be focusing more on building resilient structures and roles than purely efficient ones, so we can correct our course more easily. This essentially means elevating the importance of agility and flexibility to the same level as efficiency when we’re making decisions on roles and structures.
An unprecedented opportunity
We’ve all heard the word ‘unprecedented’ more times than we care to remember in relation to the pandemic, but right now it applies perfectly to the opportunity HR leaders in the UK have for shaping the future of our workplaces forever. What started as a huge threat to us all on a personal and professional level has evolved into the chance of a lifetime to do things differently, and better, for generations to come.
If in amongst all this revolutionary strategisin