The new normal of work courtesy of COVID 19. What and how do we face the new normal?
The Covid-19 coronavirus is becoming the accelerator for one of the greatest workplace transformations of our lifetime. How we work, exercise, shop, learn, communicate, and of course, where we work, will be changed forever!
People did not expect that they would be working exclusively from their homes while juggling home schooling and trying to figure out how to conduct three video conference sessions at the same time: one for their work meeting, one for our spouse or partner’s meeting, and one for our child learning at home!
But the larger question is: how will this massive transformation impact the workplace, you, your team, and your organization? Future Workplace’s recent survey, entitled The Impact of the Coronavirus in the Workplace, was conducted among 350 HR leaders in the USA to explore this question.
Here are our top three findings of how the Covid-19 coronavirus will accelerate many future of work initiatives for the rest of 2020 and beyond.
1) Ramp up Training and Investment in Remote Working
Across the globe, companies are dealing with the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic by mandating or encouraging employees work from home. As the coronavirus spreads, working from home is the new normal for workers.
Their research examined the various ways companies are dealing with remote working and one way is training. Thier Future Workplace survey, The Impact of the Coronavirus in the Workplace, asked, “In what ways does your company offer training on how to successfully work from home?"
The responses ranged from offering both worker training and manager training, to mentoring, coaching, and even launching Employee Resource Groups targeted to remote workers and their families.
CARROTS PH (in the Philippines) created a Practical Work From Home Checklist for the New Normal (COVID-19 and beyond). This guide was shared managers and HR professionals to help them cope with the challenges of working from home including how managers can stay engaged with remote employees.
2) The Future of Work Is the Future of Worker Well-being
My Forbes column, Top Ten HR Trends That Matter Most in the 2020 Workplace, details how companies that focus on the future of work are consumed by the impending disruption of jobs, automation, and changing workforce demographics. All of these are important, but we also need to make worker well-being a priority!
Today more than ever, the future of work is the future of worker well-being. With the growth of the digital economy, our ‘always on’ way of working, the stresses in managing work-life integration, and now dealing with the coronavirus, assisting workers with their wellbeing has never been more important.
As Cecilia Tse, Wellbeing Strategy Leader, PwC says, “We are committed to helping build our people’s wellbeing and we define this to include their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. But we are going beyond viewing wellbeing as a perk, we are being prescriptive to provide our people guidance and suggestions for habits they can consider forming in each of these areas on our PwC Be well, work well Habit Bank.”
This focus on worker well-being is especially important, as workers experience anxiety in dealing with the coronavirus. Our Future Workplace survey asked the question, How is your organization dealing with increased anxiety during the coronavirus pandemic?
3) The Coronavirus Can be an Opportunity to Re-define Your Business
The coronavirus pandemic is fundamentally shifting how we live and do business and will accelerate the Fourth Industrial Revolution, fueled by smart technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and mobile supercomputing. The Future Workplace Survey asked HR leaders, "How could the Coronavirus be advantageous to your business? "
Many survey respondents commented on how the coronavirus could be an opportunity to re-think assumptions on their products, services and business model as well as cross training and creating new products to be better prepared for the next pandemic.
As I toward 2021, I see the coronavirus as an accelerator for defining the role of the corporation, remote working, re-skilling, skills based hiring, and the transformation of corporate learning.
CEOs Will Be Bold in Protecting and Investing in Their People
On August, 19, 2019 the Business Roundtable released a statement signed by 181 CEOs acknowledging all of a corporation’s stakeholders- workers, communities, partners- were as valuable as their investor shareholders. This statement now looks to be prescient. In the past few weeks, there have been numerous examples of corporations proving they meant what they acknowledged back in August, 2019.
- Microsoft announced that they will keep paying the hourly workers who support their campus during this period of reduced service needs.
- Starbucks, identifying the anxiety of this crisis, has extended its mental health benefits and extended therapy sessions to all U.S. based employees and their eligible family members starting April 6th, 2020.
- StopTheSpread.org, the blog on Medium authored by Ken Chenault, former CEO of American Express, and Rachel Romer Carlson, CEO and co-Founder of Guild Education, asks CEOs to stand together to support coronavirus recovery by funding national healthcare needs such as ventilators, respirators and hospital supplies.
There Will Be a Surge in Remote Working after the Coronavirus
In 2017, FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics estimated the number of people working remotely increased 159% between 2005 and 2017, with a 44% rate of growth in the last five years of that span.
That was only the beginning. Remote work is here to stay! The coronavirus is making companies, employees and their managers more comfortable with working from home. From now on, we will question taking that flight to see a client if we can communicate on a new project using Zoom.
Face time will no longer be the measure of worker productivity. Instead we will finally focus on results! With the benefits of tapping into a geographically and ethnically diverse talent pool, managers will increasingly explore how to make remote working part of their culture.
Skills-based Hiring Will Move from The New Normal to The Normal
More companies will move from hiring based on degree pedigree to hiring based on skills and more apprenticeship jobs will surge.
Ravi Kumar, President of Infosys Ltd, wrote his point of view in an inspirational LinkedIn article, Thinking Out Loud, on the confluence of opposites born in unprecedented times, such as an increased need for collaboration while we work remotely or the need to reap benefits of global interconnectedness along with local resilience.
Organizations, even as they deal with the challenges of the here and now, are putting into place plans for their post-COVID recovery. Transforming their talent models and digitizing their talent value chains will be a big focus area.
Kumar predicts a surge in skills-based hiring as more companies outsource routine tasks to machines and humans focus on uniquely human skills of creativity and critical thinking. Kumar says, “I see a future where machines will handle problem solving and humans will focus on problem finding.”
That vision has committed Infosys to be a leader in the skills-based hiring movement, where the company focuses on recruiting candidates with the skills and capabilities they need rather than on their degree pedigree. Infosys partners with various community colleges in the country to hire for the right skills. In anticipation of the large scale digitization of workplaces, Infosys is stepping up its effort accelerating this with the recently launched Digital Apprentice program for community college students to learn-earn-work in order to land digital backbone jobs.
That was before the coronavirus. This estimate will only increase as companies have no choice but to launch a radical transformation of corporate learning.
We already saw this happening with:
- Walmart is partnering with Strivr to use Virtual Reality to prepare Walmart workers for Black Friday in store shopping;
- Best Western Hotels is partnering withMursion to use virtual reality to train front desk clerks in problem solving skills;
- Home Depot built a mobile app to train new hires while they are on the job, sharing product information to reduce the need for face to face training.
All of these experiments will be accelerated as business leaders disrupt their old practices which relied heavily on face to face learning and pivot to developing proof of concepts for learning on-the-job using the latest consumer technologies.
Chris Pirie, former CLO of Microsoft and lead faculty for online course Radical Transformation of Learning believes business leaders must find new ways to create engaging experiences which are experiential and fun. That means incorporating more gamification, virtual reality, and augmented reality for corporate learning.
Organizations will Double Down on Re-Skilling Workers
While some organizations like Amazon, SAP, Walmart, AT&T, PwC and Guardian Life Insurance have already announced plans to re-skill large segments of their workforce, the challenge for more companies will be to go beyond designing one-off training programs. This challenge will be much bigger than any one program. Instead, companies will create an ecosystem devoted to creating an AI powered skills inventory, reskilling and and exploring new private partnerships with traditional and non-traditional institutions of learning, as well as ed tech startups.
Welcome to the new normal of work. What is clear is none of us can afford to operate as we have in the past. In the words of Shunryu Suzuki, author of Zen Mind, Beginners Mind, "In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind, there are few." As business leaders we need to see all the possibilities, challenge our perceptions, and lead this disruption of work. This is our opportunity to show how we lead in a crisis as we navigate the unprecedented journey in the coming weeks and months.