3. Compliance and change
Firms have “broken the glass” during this time, slashing red tape and streamlining change management. Results have often been positive, and the wide-spread experience of working like this, along with the benefits achieved, will reset transformation expectations, leading to fundamental re-evaluations of what is necessary to get things done while ensuring adoption and keeping firms safe.
4. Greater degrees of remote and flexible work
One positive outcome from forced remote working has been conclusive evidence that flexibility need not come at the expense of productivity. This may have very constructive implications for diversity goals, particularly for those with caring responsibilities. At the same time, the tragic and anxiety-ridden context, and forced isolation, has highlighted the importance of regular face-to-face contact. Working out what is preferable, from what is now recognized as possible, will no doubt influence corporate policy and spending decisions post the crisis.
5. Investment in digital HR
HR professionals can also expect to see a shift in how they recruit, hire and retain employees. Many processes have already been digitized to improve speed and efficiency. However, HR will now be operating virtually throughout the talent lifecycle with new employees joining and working with colleagues without meeting anyone within the organization in person, possibly for months. This push, as well as the need to mitigate risk for possible future lock-downs means that investment in the journey to digital HR will accelerate.
6. Human-centered workforce strategies
During the 2008–2012 financial crisis, companies sought to cut costs through efficiencies, which often included large-scale massive layoffs and redundancies. Many public companies are aware that their behavior during this current crisis cannot be repeated, and employer brands will rise or fall depending on their response. HR functions may need to take a more human-centered approach to workforce strategy and explore alternatives to layoffs. This includes reskilling existing workers or maintaining close contact with those made redundant with a view to rehire, or even seconding workers to other organizations within the company’s ecosystem that have capacity or capability needs. Finally, the privacy implications of the blurring of work and home will need to be deftly managed to ensure workforces maintain confidence in their remote work platforms and tools.
7. Digital labor markets
To date, many governments have only tinkered with labor legislation in response to the rise of the digital age while the underlying conceptual frameworks have remained firmly rooted in a traditional, analog view of work. This is likely to change, and more fundamental reviews may see labor legislation finally aligning to and facilitating future work thinking. Impetus to do so will originate from a combination of the new prevalence of remote working and the unique policy adaptations and workforce initiatives precipitated by this crisis.
The COVID-19 crisis has induced tragic loss of life and wreaked economic devastation upon societies. There is reason to grieve and good cause for anxiety about the crisis and its aftermath. However, from a strictly HR and workplace perspective, it could be viewed as an enormous, synchronized organizational experiment, of which we have all become sudden participants.
While we cannot predict the outcomes – which of those trends will transpire or dominate; which others may emerge – we can be very certain that this will be a time of dramatic innovation. Like everything else, HR will never be the same again. It will be the job of CHROs and their HR teams to ensure that the “new normal” is an improved one, leading to a better working world.