I had to rewrite this article about 4 times, from top to bottom. Torn between a sombre post-mortem and a hopeful outlook on what’s to come.
As we approach the gloomy anniversary of the pandemic, we can now identify trends and make observations.
"Now is not the time to try to put out the fire, it is already too late. Instead, you have to start thinking about plans for the next house. »- Mathieu, March 19, 2020
I said these words almost a year ago, with my heart filled with optimism, but my head anchored in reality.
Hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies later, it’s time to take a moment and look back. Did we actually learn from this episode?
I won't lie to you, I write this article with apprehension for the months to come.
Many businesses have reacted without any intention of building for the future. Simply holding on with hopes of getting back to their old habits as soon as possible.
I encourage everyone to stop and make an honest assessment of their current situation. Have the steps taken in recent months been made to keep the changes sustainable for the long haul or were they only made to manage a short-term crisis?
Will you be getting compound interests from the actions taken?
Even with a global pandemic that forced all industries to a halt, I am faced with the observation it still wasn’t enough and that many are slow to initiate their digital transformation.
Although the employability sector remains forever marked by this crisis, there are some great success stories and positive trends emerging.
Following a survey of more than 4000 employees, 400 HR leaders and 300 Finance leaders, Gartner highlights several trends, which we firmly endorse and notice in our best customers.
Here are 5 post-COVID trends that will affect human resources in the long term.
1. Increase in remote workers
While remote working was still marginal in January 2020, Gartner states that 48% of all employees surveyed plan to maintain a remote work routine in the years to come.
We are talking about nearly half the workforce now showing an interest in continuing to work remotely or seeking these conditions in their next jobs.
More than ever, it is important to instill an employee experience culture within your business.
We must abandon the “administrative and clerical” take of human resources, still too often maintained by senior management committees.
The implementation of employees’ learning paths, facilitating their onboarding and integration, becomes a requirement in your HR practices.
This kind of project will allow you in the long term to gain in productivity and improve the standardization of working methods among your employees.
2. The social role of the employer
The employer’s role has changed drastically so that it no longer acts only as an income generator, but also as a full-fledged social environment.
The top-tier employers understand that they must go beyond basic expectations and care about the individual happiness of their team members.
This trend is likely to lead to the resurgence of CHOs (Chief Happiness Officers), whose main function is to ensure the well-being of employees in a productive environment.
This type of approach supports the philosophy that a great employee experience, combined with various compensatory measures offered to employees will keep them engaged and productive.
A lot of re-emerging measures can be bundled together, namely things like Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), authorizations for temporary leave without pay, work-family accommodations and more.
3. Redefining the business-critical skills
Organizations benefit from redefining the notion of critical skills by distinctively analyzing them apart from role definitions.
This improves the mobility of employees within the company as there are now multiple ways to fill skill gaps in a single environment. Having more resources available to support critical skills facilitates business agility and adaptability according to constantly changing contexts.
Skills development is now reoriented to provide employees more continuous development options rather than developing them towards specific roles well in advance.
Whether it's for leadership development or technical expertise, reassess roles that require succession plans and reinforce development paths for potential successors. Always make sure you can shuffle your cards without leaving blind spots in your structure.
By standardizing the development of skills outside its work context, the company can more easily create training programs and adapt them to different internal realities.
4. Organizational resilience
Even though changing business environments, the top priority should always be to protect your employees.
Storms never last, but the crew can follow you until the next good weather!
Before the COVID-19 crisis, organizational redesigns were focused on increasing efficiency. The pandemic demonstrates the need for resilience and concern for the humans who operate and carry out our processes on the frontline.
Efficiency means nothing if our engine is running out of fuel.
Collect data to better support your resource allocation and development decisions. From there, you will have a better understanding of what is considered to be the minimal critical information needed to know when and how your processes should be adapted.
5. A meeting on Zoom is not a training course
In a wave of panic, thousands of companies have turned to technology to meet their training needs.
Problem is, the training format has not been adapted accordingly.
Without taking time to think about an approach with long-term payoffs, actions quickly turned into a false economy.
A year later, too many businesses are still relying on meeting tools to act as educational tools. Businesses offer training "the way they want to teach", without really worrying about the employee experience.
This short-sighted vision generates complaints about not getting the results or the appreciation they would expect. Even worse, those disappointing metrics are then used by the same decision-makers to comfort them in the idea that "their employees are not ready or interested in a digital transformation", that "nothing can replace in-person training".
Unfortunately, too many HR professionals find themselves overwhelmed with the number of options that are available in the market. You can hear one thing and its flipside, both supported by “things that make sense”. What could be a simple and effective digitization project quickly becomes a mountain to overcome.
As many companies already expect to remain decentralized and encourage remote working, it is essential to make minimal investments in both the environment and learning tools provided to the employees. That’s the only real way you can expect a real return on investment.
Don’t know where to start?
Reuse the same documents that have been used in the workplace for years! The simple fact of centralizing them in an environment to improve accessibility and update represents an organizational gain.
The challenge is no longer to create a whole new project from A to Z, but simply to optimize content as micro-projects over time.
Once the pandemic is over
The major takeaway from this is that each of these trends began well before COVID-19, but was significantly accelerated by the situation.
Despite everything, many decision-makers are slow to take action or show willful blindness by prioritizing small short-term victories to the detriment of sustainable long-term gains.
If your business is not in a better position today than it was last year, from a process and training standpoint, you have failed.
The context, tools, resources and subsidies will never have been more available than they were and to the advantage of businesses.
The good news is, it's never too late to take your first step towards the inevitable.