Jim Steinlage, President & CEO of Choice Solutions,
It is important that an organization’s leaders’ actions deliver a calm, focused, consistent message that shows empathy and emphasizes “we’re all in this together” during these unchartered, “new-norm” times. Those characteristics were true before the current health crisis and are even more critical now. Until 2020, pandemics and outbreaks were things we read about in history books. Now organizations everywhere are working to instill confidence and ensure their teams feel cared about and supported so they can continue to perform at their best while geographically and physically spread out.
It’s clear that the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated and even forced the adoption of new ways of working. Although some physical offices are closed or are at limited capacity, technology has allowed businesses to continue to serve patients, customers, and/or students with very little interruption. While the workforce and workplace look much different from the way they did just six months ago, organizations must continue to find ways to help empower their workers. Adding a new working style while juggling additional stress and responsibilities in homes can be barriers to happy and successful workers. Finding ways to help workers do their best work while helping support and motivate them is important for morale and ultimately to enhance your customers’ experience.
In this “new norm” virtual working environment, HR must create imaginative and innovative ideas on how to have successful employee engagement. Workplace strategies, clear expectations, clarity of goals, and feedback that is measurable will be on the list of things HR professionals will use to continue to keep employees engaged, regardless of their location. To reach these outcomes HR will need to collaborate with IT to support a growing digital workforce, ensuring they have the right technology, software tools, and communications infrastructure needed to achieve these objectives. IT departments will have to help HR to understand more nuances of the technical space including terminology, data flow, data security, workforce data analytics for quicker decisions, a deeper understanding of disruptive technologies and how to interpret AI information to build real-time survey output. HR needs to realize periodic surveys are ineffective, archaic and definitely undesirable when it comes to employee experience and must be replaced with dynamic, real-time feedback. In smaller companies HR has needed to take on the “Farmers mentality” and just roll up their sleeves and become the de facto first level of IT Support as they help employees try to troubleshoot why their virtual access tools aren’t functioning correctly.
Nurturing Productivity in a Dispersed Workplace
To succeed at keeping employees engaged and productive, HR and IT will need to work together to make sure a healthy corporate culture is preserved even when employees are dispersed remotely. A focus on upholding corporate values, strengthening trust and engagement, maintaining constant communication, listening, providing regular recognition, and providing growth opportunities help to maintain a healthy corporate culture. These aspects will require both a human and technological touch.
Personalized employee experiences that recognize a work-life balance needs to be supported while standards that foster engagement and inclusion are established. Emotional and mental health of teams are of priority. It’s a challenge for which there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Every organization will need to decide:
- Which roles are most important
- What talent is needed
- How much collaboration is necessary for success
- How to measure employee engagement in real time
- What external nonwork factors are now impacting the new norm
HR departments need to determine how to measure knowledge, performance, productivity and morale, and IT must identify which analytical tools and other technologies can be used to meet organizational goals.
Bringing HR and IT Together to Effect Change
Whether an organization is transitioning to a fully remote workforce or some type of hybrid model, redesigning the “workplace” is key to supporting remote interactions. To maintain productivity and engagement, the boundaries between remote and in-office work must be seamless and new ways of collaboration must become standard practice.
Although there’s no silver bullet for changing the employee experience during a pandemic (or any other crisis), it is no different than if a farmer doesn’t sow and nurture his seeds, then there will be no harvest. HR leaders and IT working together to sow seeds and nurture to build out digital workspace strategies to meet these remote-first objectives. A shared mutual goal of improving the employee experience and ensuring each employee has the tools and applications they need from any location, across any device will be key in maintaining business success and continuity, and organizations will reap the harvest.
No Going Back
Even when we reach the other side of COVID-19, there will be no going back to the way things were. COVID-19 just amplified overnight this new way of working and trend that has been a topic of my past blogs for some time. The progressive-forward organizations realized they needed to be transitioning to stay competitive with the next generation of workers. Little did they know what they did prepared them for the unexpected COVID-19.
A new generation of workers, workforce engagement, workplace utilization, and work productivity have all changed far too much for us ever to go back. These changes have already shown and will continue having positive effects in the years to come. HR and IT departments sowing and nurturing the seeds of working together to address these factors, and continuing to implement new digital strategies that focus on employee wellbeing will find themselves with a competitive advantage into the future.