The COVID-19 pandemic has irrevocably changed the world and the world of work. With the COVID-19 crisis, lockdowns, and a global recession, organizations are busy reimagining the “new workplace”. Some of the abrupt changes the coronavirus brought to the fore may stick around forever. And these changes have huge implications for businesses and talent leaders as they plan for 2021.
The digital transformation initiatives that businesses have embarked on will continue for years. While we don’t have a clear indication of when the virus will go away, organizations are trying hard to make the most of this uncertain time as we move into 2021.
So, what would be the key trends you should closely keep your eyes on in 2021? In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Chaitali Mukherjee, Leader – People and Organization, PwC India, shares her views on the outlook for work in the second year of the pandemic.
What are the key trends that you think will accelerate in the long term in terms of work? What gaps have COVID-19 brought to the fore?
Technology enablement was always a priority but going forward, the acceptance of digital and technology enablement will be even higher. As such with the coexistence of man and machine, decisions pertaining to the distribution of work will need newer aspects to be considered beyond just the cost and time arbitrage. Some of the newer considerations for operating models could be distributed models to ensure work continuity, reduced dependence on any group or location of talent, and super specialization from a skill perspective.
COVID-19 helped organizations look at the gaps such as overt human dependence, technology implementation but poor adoption and the biases that came in the way of real implementation. All of these will now be a story of the past and technology-led innovation will lead the future.
The pandemic will be an impetus for innovation in times to come, as many experts say. What have been the biggest lessons this pandemic has highlighted in terms of the culture of innovation?
The top three lessons this pandemic has highlighted that could enable innovation in an entirely different way include the following:
● Thinking of the larger problem and not a piecemeal problem to be solved. One of the things people have struggled to solve over the years but got clarity in this past one year was the need to look at the big picture and the larger problem. The point in time problem-solving solutions become redundant in duress but the ones that are industry-defining and solve the bigger problems will always be in demand.
● The workplace is for the work and has to be designed around the workforce: again, a big shift. Earlier workplace-related decisions were taken first, and thereafter workforces were allocated. This is not the case anymore.
● Work that’s right for the business and can be delivered in a seamless manner will take precedence over organizational constructs. Thus, the capabilities of the people to be versatile and yet deep focused in an industry or problem area will be highly valued.
What are some of the top questions that leaders need to ask to prepare its workforce for the future of work as we strive to come out stronger from this pandemic?
The top three questions leaders need to ask their workforce for the future are the following:
● How are you managing and taking care of yourselves (physically, emotionally, and mentally) to be ready for the future?
● What is the new skill or capability you’ve learnt to be future-ready?
● How are you aligning your personal motivations and aspirations with the organization’s purpose and goals to enjoy what you are doing?
How do you see the larger HR landscape evolve in 2021 and how should talent leaders reimagine workforce management in 2021?
Talent management post-COVID is going to be a lot about focusing on employee health and wellbeing, providing a seamless workforce experience and above all independent management of the workforce for the future. Another important focus area for organizations this year will be about creating capabilities in the workforce so that they could embrace the future.
Given the digital fatigue, how can employers foster their employee morale and productivity intact amid this uncertain time?
The key to managing employee motivation in the digital era would be to focus on the use of technology to enable the workforce and drive connectedness. Organizations would also focus on humans and their well-being and personal connect.
As long as technology is used for enabling work and human connect is used in greater proportions for caring and building social connectedness, the balance will get managed.
The key would be to rethink as to what humans can do that machines can’t and focus on them in a constructive way.
One key learning for you from this crisis and why is it important?
My biggest learning has been the need to learn how to balance health and well-being, family, work, and learning. Each of the four elements is an important constituent for internal happiness. Missing on anyone at the expense of the other will lead to a lack of right balance. It’s a tight rope walk and requires a lot of practice and focus to keep pace.