As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, an estimated 2.7 billion people, or more than four out of five workers in the global workforce, have been affected by lockdowns and stay-at-home measures.
Organizations’ first priority in crisis response has been ensuring the health and safety of workers. Now, as organizations begin to emerge from this phase, leaders are focusing on the next set of workforce challenges as they plan for recovery.
The biggest challenge organizations will likely face in recovery is the tension between getting back to work and rethinking work as they embrace a new reality. How leaders and organizations handle the recovery may define their brands for years to come, and ultimately whether they are truly operating as a social enterprise.
The future of an organization’s DNA in the age of the social enterprise, and critical guideposts for workforce recovery, should focus on three core attributes: purpose, potential, and perspective. As we detail in our 10th annual global report, Human Capital Trends in 2020, these attributes are:
• Purpose—integrating the well-being and contributions of individuals in the organization’s mission and work
• Potential—for what can be achieved by individuals and teams
• Perspective—with a focus on moving boldly into the future
We believe workforce-related strategies in the recovery are best orchestrated through five critical actions: Reflect, Recommit, Re-engage, Rethink, and Reboot. These can help bridge the crisis response to the new normal by laying the foundation to thrive in the aftermath of the crisis.
Reflection may be the most important step in the recovery process. Leaders need to dedicate time to reflect on what has worked and what has been missed in the crisis response. Reflection also involves bringing in perspectives from all levels for input on what comes next. As with most parts of the recovery process, reflection will not be easy, and it will require deliberate action from leaders to make the time for it on an ongoing basis.
Organizations should reinforce their commitment to well-being and purpose, addressing physical, psychological, and financial concerns at the workplace and at home. They will need to support workers through the transition to recovery, ensuring safe workspaces for those coming to the office and flexible schedules as workers continue to care for children and elderly family members. Organizations should communicate directly with their workforces on new priorities and business goals, recognizing that performance will likely take on new meaning in the post-COVID-19 workplace.
The recovery process creates opportunities for organizations to redeploy their workforces. While some employees will return on-site, others may continue to work remotely or engage in a hybrid model. In addition to arming workers with the skills and access needed to meet work requirements, re-engaging the workforce will involve assigning meaningful work.
As teams play an increasingly important role in recovery, leaders should provide their workforces with clear direction on new assignments and priorities. Given the ongoing challenges workers may face in recovery as they balance their work and home lives, team assignments should allow for flexibility while still supporting critical business needs. How organizations prepare and support their workforces for these new priorities and routines will be a key driver of workforce performance.