Organisations can differentiate themselves from competitors during the COVID-19 pandemic by leveraging the nine ongoing trends, according to Gartner, Inc. These trends are broken into three categories: accelerating trends, new impacts that were not previously part of the future of work discussion, and pendulum swings – temporary shorter-term reactions.
“Business leaders must understand the large scale shifts that are changing how people work and how business gets done,” said Brian Kropp, chief of research for the Gartner HR practice. “Then, they must apply this knowledge to their specific organisation so they can alter their strategy accordingly.”
HR leaders should evaluate the following nine trends to determine if and how they apply to their business:
1. Increase in remote work.Gartner analysis shows that 48% of employees will likely work remotely at least part of the time after the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to 30% pre-pandemic. In fact, 74% of CFOs intend to increase remote work at their organisation after the outbreak. To succeed in a world of increased remote work, hiring managers should prioritise digital dexterity and digital collaboration skills. HR must consider how the context of remote work shifts performance management, particularly how goals are set and how employees are evaluated.
2. Expanded data collection.Organisations have increased their passive tracking of employees as their workforce has become remote. According to an April Gartner survey, 16% of organisations are passively tracking employees via methods like virtual clocking in and out, tracking work computer usage and monitoring employee emails or internal communications/chat. In addition, employers are likely to have significantly more access to the health data of their employees. For example, employers will want to know if any of their employees have the COVID-19 antibodies.
“HR leaders should weigh-in on the ethics of using employee data, but also on how to utilise employee monitoring to understand employee engagement across an increasingly dispersed workforce,” said Mr. Kropp.
3. Employer as a social safety net.Employers will expand their involvement in the lives of their employees by increasing mental health support, expanding health care coverage, and providing financial health support during and after the pandemic.
Organisations are also considering the question of maintaining compensation for employees, even for those who are unable to work remotely or have been furloughed/laid off throughout and after the COVID-19 crisis.
4. Expansion of contingent workers.A recent Gartner survey revealed that 32% of organisations are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers as a cost-saving measure. Utilising more gig workers provides employers with greater workforce management flexibility. However, HR will also need to consider how performance management systems apply to contingent workers as well as questions around whether contingent workers will be eligible for the same benefits as their full-time peers.
5. Separation of critical skills and critical roles.Leaders are redefining what critical means to include: employees in critical strategic roles, employees with critical skills and employees in critical workflow roles.
“Separating critical skills from critical roles shifts the focus to coaching employees to develop skills that potentially open multiple avenues for them, rather than focusing on preparing for a specific next role,” said Emily Rose McRae, director in the Gartner HR practice. “Organisations should reevaluate their succession plans and may expand the range of roles considered as part of the development path for a given role’s potential future successors.”
6. Humanisation (and dehumanisation) of workers.Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, some employees have formed more connected relationships, while others have moved into roles that are increasingly task-oriented. Understanding how to engage task workers in the team culture and creating a culture of inclusiveness is now even more important. To deliver on employee experience, HR will need to facilitate partnerships across the organisation while working with managers to help employees navigate the different norms and expectations associated with these shifts.
7. The emergence of new top-tier employers.As the labour market starts to return to normalcy, candidates will want to know how companies treated their workforce during the COVID-19 outbreak. Organisations must balance the decisions made today to address immediate concerns during the pandemic with the long-term impact on their employment brand that will span the next several years.
8. Shift from designing for efficiency to designing for resilience.Before the COVID-19 crisis, 55% of organisational redesigns were focused on streamlining roles, supply chains, and workflows to increase efficiency. Unfortunately, this path has created fragile systems, prompting organisations to prioritise resilience as equally important as efficiency.
Providing more varied, adaptive and flexible careers helps employees gain the cross-functional knowledge and training necessary for more flexible organisations. Additionally, organisations should shift from trying to “predict” (targeting a specific set of future skills) to “responding” (structuring such that you can quickly course correct with change).
9. Increase in organisational complexity.Across the next several months there will be an acceleration of M&A, nationalisation of companies, and bigger companies becoming even bigger. This rise in complexity will create challenges for leaders as operating models evolve. HR will need to take the lead on shifting to more agile operating models and helping leaders manage greater complexity.
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