The way COVID-19 struck was unimaginable, and no one in their wildest dreams would have thought that the world would stop functioning and lose every shred of normalcy for such a long time. The pandemic changed the way we live, work, sleep, and even function.
Businesses were, of course, highly affected by this. Many were sadly unable to survive, as they were unable to curb the losses. No doubt you made a great many changes within your business, from remote work to how you structure customer and staff interactions.
COVID-19 is not the first pandemic, and it won’t be the last. Experts are predicting that other epidemics with a similarly devastating effect on humanity will arrive in the future. Now that we have witnessed a pandemic, there are things you can do to ensure that a similar event doesn’t affect our day-to-day business dynamics like this again.
HR leaders must be focused on workforce and employee planning, management, performance and experience strategies. Even at the best of times, these issues can be challenging. They become much more complex during a pandemic. Here’s how to prepare your business for the next occurance.
1. Determine which of your operations can be managed remotely
Many people started working from home during the pandemic since office premises were closed to avoid social interactions. This meant working fully remotely and privately.
Before a pandemic, it is important to ensure that your business has all the resources ready if you require employees to work from home. This includes having appropriate technology and tech-savvy individuals along with having maximum cloud space.
Explore the critical competencies your staff will need to collaborate digitally, and be prepared to adjust strategies for employee experience. Consider whether and how to shift performance goal-setting and employee evaluations for a remote context. Tracking employee performance and productivity in the office is relatively simple. Tracking these aspects remotely can be a minefield of privacy and other concerns that can quickly result in the opposite effect you intended.
2. Invest in a password manager app
Since many companies shifted to remote working to curb the spread of COVID-19, the prevalence of cyber attacks has increased exponentially. Equip your business with the digital tools to protect yourself and your resources. To ensure that you are safe from hackers, investing in a secure password manager application can be important. This will help to maximize your productivity and collaboration and ensure maximum safety.
3. Stay up-to-date with CDC and health expert guidelines
One of the most important things is to ensure that people are aware of what’s going on, and the only way to do that is by minimizing disruption, which can be done by staying aware of expert guidelines.
This can also be done by having a workplace coordinator responsible for pandemic updates and regularly sending emails about the current situation. There should also be a proper strategy if the pandemic situation gets worse, and contingency plans should be updated. As a business, you can assign an executive to stay on top of health developments so that you aren’t caught by surprise when something happens.
4. Consider contingent worker expansion
Gartner research shows that organizations will continue to expand their use of contingent workers to maintain more flexibility in workforce management post-COVID-19, and will consider introducing other job models they have seen during the pandemic, such as talent sharing and 80% pay for 80% work.
A third of organizations polled are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers as a cost-saving measure. HR leaders will need to evaluate how performance management systems apply to these workers and will need to determine their eligibility for benefits as compared to their full-time peers.
5. Actively engage in the perceived needs of employees
Pandemics create a lot of individual stress and concerns that aren’t apparent during business-as-usual time periods. Workers are not only concerned about their own health, but how disruptions might impact their families and even how health issues within their home might impact their performance at work. Companies need to be aware of these concerns and adapt to them appropriately. A good health benefits plan is a key part of this process, but you can placate staff fears even more with policies that ensure they won’t lose their job if they have to deal with an emergency.
6. Transition from a focus on efficiency to resilience
A 2019 Gartner survey found that more than half of organizations were focused on streamlining roles, supply chains and workflows to increase efficiency. While this approach had value, it also created fragilities, as systems have no flexibility to respond to disruptions. Resilient organizations were better able to respond. They could quickly change course because they were focused on structuring around outcomes rather than processes. You can further improve organizational resilience by giving employees varied, adaptive and flexible roles so they acquire cross-functional knowledge and training. Rather than hiring and optimizing training for specific roles, put the emphasis on skills needed for the business to succeed and grow.
Pandemics can be surprising and are not easy to deal with, especially for smaller and less established businesses. This is why it becomes more critical to ensure that the tactics discussed above are used to prepare for the worst.
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