How HR Can Prepare the Workforce for the Next Normal

Once the current outbreak comes to an end, the world will be entering a new phase – what research firm McKinsey calls the “next normal.” To adapt successfully, HR will need to begin preparing the workforce now.

In the post-virus era, after all, many experts predict that significant changes will disrupt the economy, social structures, customer expectations, employee expectations, and more.

Between now and the arrival of the next normal, however, the workforce must be prepared for that business environment.

Below, we will look at a few preparations that HR can implement in the near-term, in order to minimize difficulties in the long-term.

How HR Should Prepare the Workforce for the Next Normal

Here are four ways that HR teams can begin preparing their workforce and the workplace for the inevitable changes that will arrive once the pandemic has subsided.

Long-term health measures

Health has become a major concern during the pandemic, and those concerns are unlikely to disappear completely after the crisis has abated.

Instead, public health and safety will almost certainly become a permanent focus for society as a whole, resulting in more government regulations, as well as scrutiny for organizations.

HR will need to coordinate with other business units across multiple fronts, focusing on:

  • Measures that improve workplace health and safety for employees
  • Privacy considerations for employees, since certain types of workplace health measures will involve the collection of personal information
  • Health and safety solutions that keep customers safe and free of infection

Each organization is different and each geographical region will have separate rules and regulations, so businesses should design solutions that are appropriate to their situation.

Comprehensive remote working solutions

Remote working has become the norm during the crisis, and in the coming years, we will continue to see more organizations implementing telecommuting options.

However, this change has been dramatic and rapid for many businesses, requiring an entirely new set of remote working protocols and procedures.

To enable remote working effectively, HR departments must consider factors such as:

  • Performance evaluations that can be implemented remotely
  • Remote employee management tactics and techniques that are both effective and non-invasive
  • Compliance issues that may be compromised by remote working
  • The psychological impacts on workers and how to support those workers

Though remote working may not become the standard for organizations around the world, we will see a greater acceptance of remote working. 

That acceptance, in turn, will require HR departments to develop management approaches that are geared towards the virtual, digital workplace.

Take advantage of the peak restriction time periods

As of this writing, the main peak of infections and government restrictions is beginning to subside. 

However, many public health organizations suggest that there may be a second wave or secondary infection spikes.

During these periods, many businesses’ operations are inhibited. 

One option is to provide pay to workers, which can be detrimental to an organizations’ bottom line, since those employees are not being productive.

Another option is to encourage workers to use up their holiday time, which can save organizations money, but cause some consternation among employees.

There are several other ways to use this time productively, however.

Here are a few considerations:

  • Reskill, upskill, and train employees with the skills they will need to succeed in the next normal
  • Focus on strategic planning and make pivots that are suitable for the upcoming environment
  • Restructure operations to accommodate the post-viral business environment
  • Implement other organizational changes that will help the organization adapt successfully to the changing economic landscape

The current situation is most definitely unusual, and adapting to this situation will require a combination of creative thinking and a willingness to take a certain amount of risk.

Strategically manage talent

Talent management and workforce management are two critical HR functions that can have a significant impact on the organization’s culture and its performance. 

As we transition through the rest of this crisis and into a new normal, organizations must cultivate a workforce that will help them survive and thrive during that era.

Here are a few tips for cultivating such a workforce:

  • Hire new talent that already possess the required skills and traits
  • Temporarily borrow short-term workers in order to fill gaps quickly
  • Build existing talent through training, reskilling, and upskilling
  • Hire selectively, choosing those who match the culture and have the right capabilities
  • Invest sooner rather than later, since waiting will only increase costs down the road

Workforce management should be a joint effort between HR and the business, but ultimately it should be owned by the business, say some experts. 

The rationale for this is simple: a workforce must remain strategically aligned with the organization’s aims, and the workforce strategy will only succeed if it is backed by business leaders.

Obtaining buy-in and support from executives, therefore, is crucial to the success of any workforce or talent management effort. 

To ensure the success of these efforts, HR should do all they can to earn that support early on.

Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.