It has been more than a year since the COVID 19 outbreak, with no clear end in sight. The second wave has disrupted organizational re-entry strategies and forced many organizations to continue operating remotely. We now see companies globally as well as in India, arranging employee vaccination drives, offering leave to prevent burnout and improving productivity by focusing on mental wellness and fatigue management. This degree of intervention by organizations to ensure employee wellbeing stands testament to the fact that we have come a long way from just fair practices at the workplace.
If we look back through history, at the start of the industrial revolution, the typical working day would range from 10 to 16 hours and a work week was 6 day long. The needs of the workforce and the goals of the firm were largely seen as conflicting and hence propelled by mass production technology and growing consumer demands, profitability was the only motive, even at the expense of the workforce. As a result of this exploitative mind set, there was an understandable unrest, from which the eight-hour day movement arose. That in turn paved the way for a series of labour reforms, starting with the right to eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest. Since then, over the last 200+ years, many more laws have been passed across the world to protect workers and provide a safe and healthy environment, while meeting the needs of a productive enterprise. Many of the core workforce processes and policies that exist now have fundamentally evolved from employee health and wellness requirements and regulations.
Over the many years, the science of human resource management has clearly established that happy and motivated people are key to sustained organizational success. Today workforce management practices are aimed at evolving some of the existing workplaces policies from merely being fair to being the best-in-class. In that regard, even the laws have become more employee friendly, with aspects like consent from women workers to work night shifts and overtime working included in the recent labour codes. The recent regulatory changes have facilitated the inclusion of different workforce groups into the labour code definitions — like contract worker, gig worker, platform worker and home-based worker and ensured that benefits are accorded to all of them in line in a fair and equitable manner.
However, organizations today are not content with merely extending benefits based on the legal and regulatory framework. Most of them understand more needs to be done to have a truly world-class workforce and in that context the shift is from organization centric policy making to people centric policy making. While the pandemic may have fuelled this trend, the move towards providing more flexibility to the workforce has been in the offing for a while now. According to a recent study by SHRM and UKG on the future of work, greater flexibility emerged as the top requirement of the future workforce. During the current work from home regime, organizations have been focusing on improving the flexibility of the remote workers by helping them balance their work and life better. Also workforce friendly polies like staggering shifts to avoid overcrowding, proving plenty of breaks and stretch time to restrict employee burnout, better vacation planning and managing employee preferences are being implemented all with the aim of balancing the needs of the organization with that of the workforce.
Technology has become the most critical facilitator in driving and sustaining productive and flexible work practices for the future workforce. Employees are an organization’s most vital asset, and when they are disengaged, the ripple effects across the business can impact profitability. Engaging and inspiring a multigenerational workforce is a challenge today— but technology can make it easier to meet the evolving needs of the diverse workforce. For instance, intuitive AI based tools can help organizations take better decisions based on employee sentiment and preferences which in turn helps employees feel valued, empowered, and engaged. Features like mobile ready self-service and real time visibility into schedules, leave and attendance as well as productivity insights for managers help both employees as well as supervisors perform their work better. Coupled with powerful visualizations for actionable decision-making and ongoing monitoring of key workforce metrics, organizations have the information needed to take quick and agile decisions.
With workforce management technology providing critical insight into a heterogeneous and spread out workforce, organizations can now ensure people are engaged and at their collaborative best, giving more room for productivity that can in turn add to the company’s bottom lines. In time, organizations that have mastered the art of engaging with their people through technology may find themselves with the key to growth and success in an increasingly uncertain world.