By Cliff Stevenson, Principal Analyst, Talent Management and Workforce Management

During a recent product briefing with isolved, they shared some thoughts on how they saw the post-COVID workplace and what it would mean for HR professionals. Although the briefing focused on enhancements to their products (which members can read here), it was this set of customer challenges that I wanted to expand on, as I think it might be useful. The list of challenges is below in bold and I’ll add my thoughts on each of these, as well, with relevant research.

Radical workforce flexibility 

This is a movement drastically accelerated by COVID, but one that will continue to be a challenge due to the lessons learned from the last crisis. According to Brandon Hall Group research, three-quarters of companies say they were completely unprepared for a massive shift in remote workers — which has happened at every level. If your organization is not thinking about what comes next, it might be time to begin.

Caring employee engagement

When Brandon Hall Group asked, “What are the most important actions that can be taken to improve employee engagement?” in 2019, the number-one response was “creating an atmosphere of trust.” That is pre-pandemic data, so this is a real issue that must be addressed by any organization that plans to thrive — or just survive — over the next few years. Some ways to do this is by openness, letting people know why decisions are made (transparency) and by being accountable for employee privacy and data.

Business purpose as well as culture

Creating a sense of meaning is the heart of the issue. Giving employees a sense of purpose means they must understand the business culture; to feel included and motivated by the culture they should share a sense of purpose. This is not a Catch-22 but a virtuous circle; create meaningful work that aligns with the business’s goals and values, and everything snaps into place.

Wellness and well-being

Organizations report record levels of stress and anxiety, which require leaders to manage in ways they are not accustomed to nor trained for, and managers and their teams are less connected. The second-most-common reason for productivity loss last year, according to our research, was stress and anxiety. Focusing on productivity without taking into account the long-term effects of varying stressors will have consequences to employees — and the bottom-line. Without a well-being program in place, you may already be operating at a loss. 

Business continuity

As mentioned earlier, having an agile workplace is no longer aspirational; it’s now a necessity. Much of the responsibility will fall on HR, but the good news is that the tools for employees are now much more sophisticated, allowing work to continue regardless of the type of disruption. Remember, it may not be an emergency that strikes next, but perhaps a major shift in buying patterns. Is your organization ready for those types of rapid market changes?

WFH Productivity

Employees are distracted while working from home. Brandon Hall Group research shows that the number-one cause of loss of productivity (60%) was distractions at home. But there have always been distractions at the workplace and being able to manage remote workers with an eye toward productivity as well as their well-being and engagement will be the next major competency needed by managers.

Talent retention

This is the final metric that shows how well an organization has done with all of the above. Being able to keep engaged, valued and happy workers is a goal, but it’s also a hallmark of being purposeful in decisions and aligning the business goals with the people executing on the strategy. Over 83% of organizations say that the decreased attrition of experienced employees is their leading indicator of successful employee engagement, according to BHG research. That makes sense. Employees do not leave for no reason. Employees stay because they are valued, connected to others, given a sense of purpose and the tools to do their job wherever and whenever they need to.

These are the challenges that cover the major trends coming over the horizon (and with us already), but please feel free to comment or email if you disagree or have something to add. And good luck to us all in 2021. We all have the ability to make things better.

Cliff Stevenson, Principal Analyst, Talent Management and Workforce Management, Brandon Hall Group

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