“Observe, brainstorm, research, build and communicate.” Gitanjali Rao said these words when asked about her process by Angelina Jolie during an interview. Gitanjali is not just another 15-year-old kid. Named the first ever “Kid of the Year” by the Time magazine, she leveraged technology to combat issues such as contaminated drinking water, opioid addiction and cyberbullying. Interestingly, the same publication in its another issue declared 2020 as “The worst year ever” and marked “2020” with a big red “X” on its cover. The big red “X” has only been used five times before - all of them to mark the most infamous incidents or people in our planet’s history.
The two very different issues of the same publication illustrate the story of the year 2020. While the year was definitely not the best, it did make us realise that technology is a means to survive and not just a platform to thrive. Millions of people got confined to their homes and found solace in technology. The social media kept buzzing with images of virtual conference collages with smiling people exuding courage from tiny windows. If life was an art, it just got beheld on a digital canvas.
The year 2020 has also transformed the way employers look at ways to recruit, manage and engage their employees. According to Gartner, 91% of teams in the APAC region have implemented work from home arrangements since the outbreak of the pandemic. And the HR leaders have made bold decisions on the go without any precedent to draw upon. With the workplaces set to remain more distributed, HR leaders will need to be even more agile in their approach and people practices – as global (common) as is possible, but as local (tailored) as is necessary! This will mean being deft in managing polarities and dichotomies.
Hybrid workplace will stay
The pandemic has definitely ushered us into an era of hybrid workplace - a blend of office-based and remote work. Organizations have already started or completed charting their own hybrid approaches depending upon their requirements. At STL, we are in the process of formalising a hybrid workplace that is not only productive, but allows us to leverage great talent across geographies. We have moved to a fungible model where every role has been mapped between categories such as fully remote, fully working from office and partially working from office. We have also identified roles that can be gigified, centralised or decentralised to ensure a flexible workplace that is a win-win for employers and employees.
Flexible workplace will have flexible policies
With regards to policies in a hybrid, flexible workplace, it is critical to not paint every employee with the same brush. While the values and purpose should be constant, the ‘ways of working’ demands great flexibility. The year 2021 will see organisations adapting their policies according to the hybrid workplace. We will see the advent of more flexible paid time off policies, working hours, reimbursements and benefit packages aligned to both diverse workplace and role demands. The organisations will also be seeing investment in strong technology tools to felicitate collaboration and employee engagement between remote and on-site employees across locations and time zones.
Diversity, Equality and Inclusion will be redefined
The sudden shift to a virtual workplace has presented organisations a great opportunity to democratize merit and competence and truly live the principle of equal opportunity for all. The new normal has further opened the doors for women, people from different ethnicities and people with special abilities/disabilities to find their dream jobs from home. The year 2021 could be the watershed moment where businesses successfully integrate talents irrespective of genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations or pin codes into their existing employee culture.
With the new normal here to stay, the leaders and line managers also will see their roles evolving into “inclusive virtual space managers,” with a more open mindset in terms of respecting diverse thoughts, working experiences, personalities and backgrounds.
Agility in business practices
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it would be to remain agile and flexible throughout. The next year will see disruption, innovation and agility playing an even more important role for the organisations. The businesses will be seen embracing agile business practices and pursuing new initiatives according to the environment and customer experiences. An agile mindset will be equally prioritised to processes and tools, and a continual process of optimization, adjustment and openness to change will be followed.
In conclusion, I would like to say despite no one expecting the disruption the year 2020 brought, businesses with a strong people focus, agile workplaces practices and undeterred trust on technology have been able to escape largely unscathed. The three key elements will continue to play an equally important role in 2021 as we see the new world of work in place.