Workforce management has undergone major changes in recent years. In particular, the trend towards remote and hybrid working has changed the way HR leaders manage teams. While countries worldwide are lifting Covid-19 restrictions, many organizations have experienced the benefits of remote and hybrid working and are keen to continue with more flexible employment practices.
The mass movement away from traditional office set-ups with everyone reporting for work at the same time and in the same place five days a week brings with it new challenges and new trends in workforce management.
Greater digital transformation in workforce management
Data is being leveraged across organizations in myriad ways. Sales and marketing teams can use data to better understand customers, make intelligent projections and set performance targets. Manufacturers can access real-time data to optimize supply chain visibility and improve productivity on the factory floor. So, why not include HR functions in the drive to use data to its fullest potential? This is where digital transformation has become a trend that is here to stay. Just as sales and marketing teams can use digital solutions to gain insights for better decisions, and manufacturers can use the technology to boost efficiency and save costs, HR managers can use digital solutions in multiple ways.
For example, the technology exists to enable employers to gain powerful insights into the workforce, predict forthcoming issues that could lead to skills shortages, analyze performance appraisal data and employee surveys, and ensure that people, workflows and skills align with strategic goals.
It is all part of a bigger workforce management trend, albeit one that needs to be carefully monitored and actioned by employers. A 2021 PwC study found that during the pandemic, 40% of workers reported an improvement in their digital skills. However, the study cautioned that it is important for employers to ensure the skills training needed for digital transformation are evenly distributed across workforces, rather than focusing on workers who were already highly skilled.
Challenges and opportunities for women
Chu Thi Thanh Ha, chairwoman of Vietnam-based company, FPT Software, has outlined some of the ways her organization has adapted since the pandemic. While remote and hybrid working has been praised by some women for improving work-life balance, Ms Ha says that for some women who are more likely to undertake family care responsibilities, such as home-schooling, the change in work patterns has forced changes in daily schedules.
For many employers, the pandemic brought into sharp focus the multiple roles many women undertake while holding down jobs. It is important that a positive outcome from this raised awareness is the provision of more flexibility, especially for women employees with competing priorities and responsibilities. This has been a lasting legacy beyond the pandemic, a trend that may become the norm for more employers. A 2021 McKinsey study found that women were disproportionately affected by pandemic-related job losses. The researchers called for greater equality for women, adding that improving conditions for women could add $13 trillion to global GDP.
Ms Ha added that her company, it was women who “contributed greatly to the digital transformation and process” and “worked really hard to maintain the health and safety of other employees through coordinating vaccination campaigns and supporting activities for employees’ families.”
An increased focus on upskilling
The Covid-19 pandemic was a tough time for many businesses worldwide. Job losses forced many workplaces to adapt and examine how they could continue to operate with a smaller team. Under these circumstances, undertaking a skills audit was more important than ever – for companies that had neglected this aspect of workforce management, the dramatic changes that happened as a result of the pandemic highlighted the importance of knowing what skills are present among your team and where improvements need to be made.
If organizations can make the most of the skills of their workforce in difficult times, such as having to reduce workforce numbers, it will stand them in good stead for better economic and labor market conditions. Upskilling existing employees helps set up a solid base of competencies and knowledge for future success – and when employers are recruiting again, the boosted workforce will be able to pass on knowledge and skills to new hires.
Reorganizing the workforce to adapt to the new normal
As well as looking at ways to upskill the workforce, Ms Ha said that for her company, this involved optimizing their “mix of offshore, nearshore, and onsite delivery models” to improve customer service outcomes. The company also set up more development centers and offices to support staff and reach more customers. This is just one example of how a company was able to emerge stronger from the past two years and set up a workforce where people were in the right places to deliver on organizational goals.
Taking a strategic approach to workforce optimization has become more crucial than ever for effectively managing teams, especially when they are based at multiple locations.
Renewed focus on employee happiness, morale and motivation
As well as ensuring employees have the right skills, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought employee wellbeing into sharp focus. While remote and hybrid working has brought benefits to many organizations and employees, for some, it was a time of great loneliness and isolation. This had a devastating effect on the mental health of many people, but it has led to more employers examining how they can better look after their team members.
For some organizations, this has meant helping employees return to offices in a way that is supportive as well as Covid-safe. For others, especially where remote working has continued, organizations have improved communication and found creative ways to ensure staff are happy and motivated – and, ultimately, happy employees tend to be more productive. This, in turn, has positive effects on staff retention and the bottom line benefits that come with this can be enormous.
The so-called new normal means that employee wellbeing has a higher priority for HR managers, which is a trend that will have far-reaching benefits beyond the pandemic.
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.