How does a stronger workforce drive a stronger recovery? How does a stronger workforce drive a stronger recovery?

By David Storey

EY EMEIA Workforce Advisory Leader

Helps clients transition into the Future World of Work. Frequent speaker. Entrepreneur. Fascinated by politics. Family man.

4 minute read 29 May 2020
Related topics COVID-19

Organizations that put people at the center can win the trust that will define true resilience in a post-COVID world.

This article is part of a series about COVID-19 enterprise resilience.

For perhaps the first time in history, the human population has been united around the world by a common threat at the same time: COVID-19. When uncertainty and fear levels are high, our human ability to trust is naturally put to the test. Now, more than ever, leaders must put people at the heart of the organization if they are to build the trust that is key to building true enterprise resilience.

Adapting operations

According to American businessman and academic Bill George: “No matter how effective your strategy, your vision, or your communication, you will fail to achieve the desired result for your organization if you cannot inspire trust.” Combining an immediately actionable plan to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic with a longer-term reimagining of the future of work will prove critical in sustaining and re-building trust among customers, employees and communities.

While the impacts of COVID-19 on public trust are not yet fully known, it is clear that authorities and employers all over the world have a duty of care for their citizens and employees – and need to be proactive in preserving trust in order to remain strong throughout the pandemic.

  • Adopt a “two gear” approach: creating a trusted transition plan to manage business continuity and mitigate disruption, while undertaking broader transformation efforts. With no clear blueprint for the road ahead, organizations are best served by envisioning how the pandemic will reshape their entire business. Working on an immediately actionable plan to act to mitigate disruption while developing broader plans to transform will create the most stable foundations for business to adapt and thrive.

  • Protect, enable and support teams as they lead through crisis, establishing resources for safety and crisis management and keeping dialogue active. The nascent trends toward remote and flexible work arrangements have accelerated since January 2020. Surveys across the UK and US show that working from home has increased in the current environment up to sevenfold – but the migration to remote work hasn’t come without challenge. Feelings of disconnect and isolation have been commonly reported. Strong communication is vital. Business leaders need to communicate early and often – even when they don’t know all the answers.

COVID-19 impact


Reported increase in work from home rates in the US. (Source: EY analysis, Bureau of Labor Statistics, The Harris Poll)

  • Establish authentic business continuity and crisis management communications while keeping leadership highly visible and accessible. Business leaders face headwinds in transitioning back to full trading activity and a visible commitment to the workforce reflects the true values and cultural strength of an organization. By putting humans at the center and remaining highly visible, accountable and authentic, they will be building a platform that will cement the long-term health of both the business and its people. 

Building resilience

As leaders plan for life beyond the pandemic, building a human-centered approach to improving enterprise resilience may not only drive a faster recovery but allow organizations to emerge stronger than ever.

  • Chief human resource officers (CHROs) must integrate with the other functions to coordinate a trusted, humans-at-center response, ensuring leadership support. The HR function may be the first line of resilience for people and workforce during a crisis, but teams need to work in an integrated fashion – along with operations, finance, IT, legal and investor relations – to build a complete picture of every touchpoint and system that needs to be reimagined to best serve the future workforce. Across all of this should sit powerful, purposeful leadership: an unwavering commitment to purpose and a strong culture serving as the undisputed north star that will unite teams and guide business through the current crisis.

  • React to employee expectations of a broader duty of care, including both employees and contingent workers, and the need to upskill and reskill employees to support operational changes. The relationship between an organization and its workforce has deepened, with many employees looking to their employer for help and support in navigating the health crisis. Organizations will need to assert greater accountability for their workforce, including part-time and contingent workers.

  • Match workforce capability to financial and risk considerations linked to lower levels of economic activity and customer demand. Companies are facing significant challenges with respect to modeling their workforce against continuously evolving economic, cross-border and regulatory uncertainty. Change is pervasive, however, organizations who place their people at the crux of all decisions will continue to build trust with their workforce and the broader community, fostering resilience and unlocking long-term value for all stakeholders.

Put people at the center to emerge transformed

Organizations, together with their people and workforce, are navigating uncharted waters. By placing their employees at the center of all decisions, companies will cultivate trust with not only their workforce, but their customers and stakeholders. Those that do will build enterprise resilience and emerge transformed in the post-pandemic world. 

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A strong workforce will be critical to a strong recovery. Organizations that combine an immediate action plan to mitigate effects of the pandemic on their people while reimagining the future of work can sustain trust and build a better business.

About this article

By David Storey

EY EMEIA Workforce Advisory Leader

Helps clients transition into the Future World of Work. Frequent speaker. Entrepreneur. Fascinated by politics. Family man.

Related topics COVID-19