Eight tips for HR on adapting for a post coronavirus restructured workplace
No doubt we will reflect upon the COVID-19 pandemic as an historic point for businesses, putting the health and wellbeing of millions of workers at risk. In response to the outbreak, the majority of companies have been forced to quickly embrace remote working programmes, leading to an inevitable restructuring of workloads and processes which are likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future.
As the formal lockdown measures begin to ease and companies look to increase productivity, many business leaders will be discussing how their company will operate moving forward and what steps need to be taken to enable this to happen.
The reality is that the crisis will have a lasting impact on how companies are designed and that for many, getting the balance right between restructuring without compromising talent and investment in the future will be key.
Despite the obvious need for cost savings, companies must also recognise that investment in skills, training and digital transformation is also key to driving businesses forward and ensuring that they thrive despite the economic turbulence.
Without disturbing the pace or the protection of the pound or dollar, Paula Leach, chief people officer at FDM Group, offers eight practical considerations companies should consider when adapting for a post-COVID-19 workplace:
1. Start with a quick check in on ‘where we are going and why?’
No need to have complicated strategy sessions or detailed off-site meetings, but simply an aligned step back from the financial imperatives to ensure that everything we do to secure the viability of the business fits with a brief. An easily digestible, shared description of where we are going and why which can be explained to all stakeholders and acts as a ‘bounce’ for decisions is hugely helpful. Could everyone in the organisation state this if asked? Do we all share the same ‘North Star’? You need to be left with the strategic imperatives intact, not a financially stable shell (which will be costly in the longer term to rebuild).
2. Ensure that you pause to check that your restructuring approach does not adversely affect any particular group
If inclusion is important for you, it is important always. It is this moment when organisations will be judged as to whether they are serious about their stated inclusion values. It is not just for when the going is smooth and the growth is happening and you have time in your boardroom for a presentation from a diversity network. It is doubly important to ensure that you do not disadvantage anyone and move backwards on your diversity, inclusion and representation approach while you pursue financial savings. Build an inclusion lens or impact assessment into your restructuring work. Engage a wide range of voices and perspectives to ensure your decisions move this agenda forwards and not backwards.
3. Keep your pipeline of talent warm
Many organisations will impose an immediate and all encompassing ‘recruitment freeze’, seeing any and all spend on resourcing as discretionary spend. If you go on holiday in the winter and leave your home you would usually leave your heating on low so your pipes don’t freeze. In the same vein, keep a small amount of pipeline talent and recruiting turned on, especially in your key skill areas,as it’s much easier to turn it up than have to crank the whole system back into life.
4. Invest in leadership
Your leaders are going to be challenged with difficult decisions and difficult conversations. This is exactly the time when they need to be allowed some space, a network of support and the chance to process their own responses and answer their own questions before they can get on with the job of leading others calmly and with compassion (and being open to ideas and solutions). Investing inleadership coaching and building leadership skills and confidence at this time is crucial. It’s a small investment but will have a large impact.
Setting expectations, ensuring that people all have the chance to have a voice and be heard and keeping people up to date with changes and decisions is critical to any restructuring being seen as transparent, fair and understandable. Even when facing personal impact, most employees can rationalise a situation when brought into the conversation and being included in understanding the problem. Perhaps they have other solutions and ideas which are worth considering (eg the willingness to work shorter weeks, to re-train or to take sabbaticals).
6. Think about blended resourcing and be creative
The need for agility in our approach to workforce planning has been coming for a long time and significant economic impacts bring this into sharp relief. Take this moment to broaden the way in which you think about resourcing the organisation. In the modern economy there are many models and partnerships which go beyond permanent employees and contingent labour as the only two models of resourcing work and growing talent. Don’t just cut resources, re-shape and blend your talent. Re-imagine your workforce.
7. Technical talent is on the rise
Aside from the technological advances and changes we have seen in the last three decades in particular, the last three months have seen a rapid shift in the adoption of technology to support human interaction and work accomplishment. Technology is going to permeate every function of our organisations and every aspect of our working lives further and faster. As you restructure your organisation consider your skills mix and ensure that you build yourself sufficient technological capability to build upon and dynamise your technological advantage.
8. Restructuring is a human activity
We established that making decisions and changes to the employee cost base of an organisation is the urgent priority in a restructuring programme; ultimately this activity is completely people-centric. Some decisions may be logical and rational on your balance sheet, but most organisations stand for more than their financial results. Optimise the cost savings as necessary, while still protecting the work, the organisation and jobs. But ensure that by optimising those financial results you don’t sub-optimise the very values and human trust and characteristics which you will need to pull your business through to better times ahead. Leave space in your decision making for ensuring that you are intuitively doing the right thing as well as achieving the cost saving goal.
Paula Leach, pictured below, is chief people officer at FDM Group, a global organisation which provides resources for your technology talent pipeline