The coronavirus pandemic has forced businesses to work remotely, and in the future, many will adopt a blended model of remote and office working. Yet the mixture of in-office, remote and flexible working arrangements has come at the expense of staff support and development.
As restrictions continue, businesses must ensure that supporting their workforce remains a top priority. So, how can we go about adapting HR strategies to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, and in turn better support home workers?
Leveraging the right digital solutions
Business leaders must keep in mind that there are many digital solutions available to them as they create and deliver future employee planning, management, performance and training strategies.
COVID-19 temporarily put many of these considerations on hold, with businesses initially shifting into survival mode. As the immediate shock of the pandemic subsides, however, many will be turning their attention inwards, towards their workforce.
It is positive to note that the majority of companies have already become more open to adopting new technology: a significant 54%, in fact, according to Fountech.ai’s latest survey.
This offers evidence that companies are ramping up their investments in tech to create the workplace of the future. As they do so, HR leaders should look to put people-first technology at the heart of their long-term digital transformation strategies.
Collaboration and connectivity will remain a key focus in the months and years ahead, which means that managers must evaluate the performance of their current software platforms and consider whether to shift to new solutions that can better support employee needs. This necessarily involves determining what challenges workers have faced with existing platforms, and where improvements can be made.
To support employees’ personal and professional development, drawing and analyzing data-driven insights on performance, engagement and well-being also needs to be a long-term priority. There is a growing misconception that employees have to be monitored to determine these factors, however, technology can be leveraged in a non-intrusive manner to determine how employees are coping with changes — whether this is through virtual questionnaires, online projects and courses, or regular catch-ups through Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
Similarly, companies must ensure that they are offering ample scope for their employees to upskill and re-train. As workers adjust and settle into new routines, now is the perfect time to explore how digital platforms can be utilised to deliver valuable professional development opportunities (see what Fountech.Ventures’ portfolio company Soffos.ai is doing in this space).
The importance of soft skills
Businesses must also consider the impact that increasing automation will have on their workforce, and what they need to be doing to develop employees’ soft skills. After all, in the next twelve months, 45% of businesses are looking to implement artificial intelligence (AI) to bolster their operations.
Advances in automation will help absolve professionals of time-consuming, repetitive and resource-intensive tasks. Data management, for one, will fall squarely within the remit of AI.
As a result, professionals will increasingly be sought after for their inherently human skills — ones that AI cannot replicate. These interpersonal attributes describe how people work with and relate to others, and include communication skills, critical thinking, leadership and their general attitude.
As the workplace continues to evolve and we continue to divert much of the grunt work to machines, these skills will be in high demand. For this reason, it is critical that businesses focus on developing employee soft skills within future learning and development (L&D) initiatives, to ensure their workers are well adjusted to thrive in the so-called ‘new normal’.
Fortunately, COVID-19 has come at a time when businesses have a plethora of tools at their disposal to help their teams feel safe, supported and equipped to do their jobs well. As businesses navigate their recovery, HR leaders should explore digital solutions that will aid them in encouraging and guiding their employees through this transition.
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