The COVID-19 crisis has truly ushered us into VUCA times. Businesses across the world seem to have fallen off a cliff, collectively. In addition to the sudden nature of this crisis, the global togetherness in it is quite unprecedented. And as different in size, scale, and sector these businesses are, COVID 19 has been a great equalizer. It leaves every impacted business with only one choice – innovate your way out or cease to exist.
The good news is that humans are resilient beings, and we are slowly but surely making our way back up the cliff. Businesses have quickly put in innovative measures and new ways of operating in line with the changing world around us. These involve adapting to technology-based solutions facilitating remote work as well as to tech-powered platforms to operate, communicate, engage, and track performance remotely. The kind of technological, digital, and human revolution that we all envisaged for workplaces in the next 5-7 years is happening now. The future of work is here, and it has validated that employees are the most valued resource of a business.
With an increased clarity on the importance of employees must come to the acceptance that as businesses sail into unchartered waters, employees too will witness the biggest workplace transformation of their lifetimes. If, as employers, there’s a trait to have at this hour, it is empathy. Consistent and clear communication -what’s really happening, how we are all in this together and the efforts we are taking to overcome this situation -has worked equally well for us with employees as it has with clients.
New expectations and protocols have to be clearly laid down and the guidelines to follow them must be shared extensively. To prevent social distancing from turning into social isolation, HR teams must prioritize mental and physical well-being of their employees through virtual means. The post-pandemic world will see a low tolerance for businesses that are unwilling to invest in the health of their employees. Top talent, especially in profiles not tied to a place or machinery, could even look at gig-based employment or renegotiate working hours, work profile, payment terms etc. As new-age employers, we must be cognisant of these needs and empower and trust the talent to do right by the business.
What you then need is a completely digital infrastructure that can support such needs. Businesses must build tech-readiness in IT, HR support, payrolls, administration, and other departments. Everything that can be, should be moved online.
Preparing for a post-pandemic world
For businesses, I believe that the COVID 19 crisis is a push to finally move away from the ideal of a “disembodied and universal worker” whose needs are same across the spectrum and whose personal life is irrelevant to work.
The pandemic has shown us how to be more humane and how to trust and empower employees to work with minimal supervision. At AuthBridge, only 30% of our 1000+ workforce had laptops before COVID -19. Today, 100% of our workforce has been enabled to work remotely. And we achieved this within 2 weeks! As we continue to serve our clients seamlessly with the help of self-sufficient digital products and platforms built and deployed by our teams over the years, we have realized we were always ready. Could this leap have come under less dire circumstances? Maybe. The good news for us is that when we finally took it, we hit the ground running.
As we are discovering, the new world of work is not without its merits for employers. As they say, never waste a good crisis. This is the best time to build new capabilities, infuse grit and resilience in organizations and really identify processes, people, and systems essential for growth. It’s the best time to build a lean and mean organization – while hacking your way to growth. Do you really need that much of office space? What is the best way to evaluate virtual employee performance? Do you need new collaboration tools? How do you make remote working more secure? How do you serve your clients as effectively as before? Can some employees be reskilled or repositioned to contribute better? These are some of the questions that you must address before the world returns to normal.
COVID-19 will change our world drastically and irrevocably. Things will become worse, before becoming better. Some businesses with limited cash flow or cushioning will bite the dust. There will be job losses. Some industries might change forever. But amidst all that, I am convinced that we will discover humane workplaces, maverick leaders, self-driven employees, and innovation and growth that won’t leave employees behind. The new world of work is here.