The workforce is forever changed. The way we do our work now requires business leaders to maintain continuous communication across the organization, creating a need for planning and preparation.
Human resource leaders have been tasked with rethinking and reorganizing their office environment for a post-COVID-19 world. Even more important is the strategic work of reconsidering the evolution of the workforce and how work gets done. Organizations that plan and develop back-to-office strategies based on trust and transparency can make the return safe and rewarding while driving loyalty and engagement with their employees.
This article explores critical business continuity trends from an HR leader's viewpoint.
Business continuity trends for HR leaders in 2021 and beyond
The pandemic has caused many organizations to review and update their business programs based on the current business climate and conditions. To become more resilient, HR leaders must be prepared to simultaneously manage several critical phases of any crisis—prepare, respond, recover, and become resilient.
Trend #1: Flexible and adaptive planning
A trend toward flexible and adaptive planning has continued to heighten. General business practices, specifically HR management processes, have evolved to align with work-from-anywhere adjustments as the traditional office workforce moves to a more distributed labor model. The sudden shift abandoning the traditional office environment led to employee engagement and morale challenges from extended remote working. In turn, distributed workforces without property security protocols created new vulnerabilities for employers with more unwelcome opportunities for cyberattacks, as criminals preyed upon poor network security at employees' homes.
Trend #2: Renewed emphasis on employee well-being
The impact of the recent pandemic presents many challenges for both business managers and HR professionals. However, those challenges also present opportunities to think about how businesses effectively communicate with their teams, maintain the security and sustainability of remote operations, and sharpen their enterprise focus on health and well-being.
Trend #3: Simultaneous business disruptions are on the rise; testing can help businesses prepare for any disruption
An increased focus on risk management, regulation, and compliance has pushed organizations in regulated industries to revise their business plans to avoid penalties and fines. However, to create a company-wide culture of preparedness and threat resilience, all organizations must establish a unified business continuity testing strategy.
Conducting a test based on a simultaneous threat scenario is another definitive way to prepare your workforce and business operations for the unexpected, as well as reassure your employees that you are ready for any challenge that comes your way.
Trend #4: Effective and timely incident management and crisis communication are essential
A good plan fails if you can't communicate through the process. Organizations of all sizes must consider, plan for, and prepare multiple methods to communicate with employees, vendors, and customers about a disaster situation. When traditional voice communications and telecommunications are impaired, consider alternative systems such as emergency notification software so that everyone has access to the latest information.
Managing and motivating a distributed workforce
Most organizations have made a transition to remote work. While many people believe remote work is easy for employees, many people on your team might be struggling. In fact, more than seven out of 10 employers have struggled with this transition, and when researchers measured what motivates employees, they saw that those forced to work from home were the least motivated.
People with home offices spend more hours working in them than intended, and the home environment impacts the quality of the work. Someone who constantly moves from one area of their home to another may not stay productive. Arranging a dedicated work area can be challenging, particularly for someone who shares their home with other working individuals.
If you're going to maintain a work-from-home environment, even part time, help your employees find a place they can call their dedicated work station by getting to know their working styles and asking if they feel they can do their best now. If you notice that your teams' performance has dropped, find out if the workspace could be part of the problem.
To help your team stay productive and engaged, it is critical to take care of your team's overall well-being, both physical and psychological:
As you maneuver the challenges of managing a remote workforce, remember to be patient as everyone is working in a different environment and is faced with their own challenges. Online communication may not always transfer a person's intended tone. That's why being conscious of how your recipient will interpret a message electronically is essential. Trust your team, and help the company's leadership shift their focus from hitting deadlines to delivering quality work.
Establish a schedule and set expectations
Setting boundaries, such as work hours and breaks, or determining objectives for the day are critical in maintaining momentum. Don't forget to reflect on the day, and remind your employees to take some time off to recharge and decompress. Decide how often you need to communicate with one another and set expectations for task completion. Using software to track progress and send project updates can add more transparency to cross-departmental processes.
Working remotely can lead to a feeling of isolation or a lack of connection between team members. As Gallup research noted, isolation under normal circumstances can decrease work efficiency by 21%. No doubt, the pandemic has affected this percentage greatly. Conduct virtual meetings, check in on your teammates, and recognize your team's effort to deliver projects.
Lead by example
Demonstrate commitment to the success of working remotely. Use the same tools to interact and share work progress with your team, and don't hesitate to turn your video on when chatting with your employees.
Update roles and responsibilities
Whether due to layoffs or challenges of working remotely, some of your team members may have taken on more responsibilities. With the help of HR specialists, team leaders should review, update, and clarify the responsibilities of every role in the team, along with the team's objectives.
Ask for feedback and celebrate success
Be available to receive your team's perspective to find new and improved ways to accomplish your business goals. During check-ins, discuss what processes are working well and ask for suggestions on what to improve while the team is working remotely.
Be flexible and agile
Prepare yourself to adjust to the ever-changing circumstances and the inevitability of the unexpected.
Communicating with a distributed workforce
Many business leaders have struggled with the concept of staying in touch when their employees are not physically in the office. Some companies have implemented pandemic management protocols to ensure employee safety and transition to the new normal. In short, their suggestions are based on the main principle of staggering employee return and continuing social distancing, along with prolonged remote work. Establishing trust and maintaining transparent communication with your employees is integral to a smooth and safe return to the office.
Hesitancy to return to a shared office environment may stem from a lack of trust, whether in an employer or teammates. That is why HR leaders need to put the same level of effort into reestablishing trust with their employees. Not only will it help ensure a smooth transition back to the office environment as needed, but it will serve as proof that your organization truly puts its people first, which will increase and strengthen motivation and productivity. Many organizations are finding that a hybrid model of work from anywhere coupled with several days per week in a shared office space, gives their employee base a mix of collaboration and sense of belonging, along with the chance to flex their work environment to lessen commutes and allow focused work time.
With the right resources available anytime, anywhere, HR leaders can keep the workforce up to date on any changes made to the company's business and emergency preparedness training. Platforms like Agility Central offer centralized access to a shared library of various resources and educational training for everyone on the team. Emergency notification tools such as Agility Alerts can send a check-in note as a text message or an email to a specific group of people based on their department or location, allowing companies to target communications by geo-fencing and make sure the applicable employees learn the correct information.
Historically, companies were able to target this information simply by office location. Now with employees working in distributed geographies, it's more important than ever to be able to communicate with them if they are in harm's way or with special instructions based on team, department, or general geography; and on any device no matter where they are located.
Monitoring and communicating federal, state, and local updates and guidelines to employees as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves is part of a comprehensive communication plan. Updating your workers on the latest company guidelines and protocols can help alleviate employee confusion and anxiety.
Physical distancing as a workplace requirement
Bringing employees back to work in stages, establishing physical distancing guidelines, limiting business and personal travel, and following social distancing rules, along with maintaining robust communication in your department, are integral to a successful return-to-office program. Below are some of the questions to consider when planning the return to the office.
- Is there enough space to provide social distancing? Consider how many desks and private offices you have. Based on that number, you can determine the safe planning and organization of the office.
- What are the top-priority roles? Make a priority list of roles you intend to bring back immediately and when based on health and safety guidelines, business needs, or budget.
- How can we rotate work schedules to create a hybrid approach to the workspace? Consider rotating work schedules to ensure minimal cross-contamination.
- Use a return-to-office checklist. To help you formalize your organization's safety guidelines for your office, use a comprehensive return-to-office checklist your business can follow.
Training and reskilling employees for a resilient and productive workforce
The World Economic Forum estimates that more than 50% of all employees will require significant reskilling by 2022, and that's not considering the economic disruption caused by the pandemic. It's no surprise that employees' current skills are losing relevance. Being proficient with technology doesn't apply exclusively to the IT department. Employees across various teams need to be up to date with the latest technological developments in their specialty to do their jobs more efficiently and stay productive. And even if the employee's current skill set is sufficient, the role itself may need to be updated to address a change in industry practices, legislation, and working methods. Training and reskilling your workforce also includes focusing on soft skills. Organizations are more reliant on software and automation, and essential interpersonal skills such as communication, networking, critical thinking, and problem solving can take a hit.
Business risks and threats are evolving and increasing, making business continuity a top priority for modern businesses. HR management processes have had to evolve quickly, proving the ever-present challenges of work-from-anywhere, creating a global need for further adjustments. The sudden shift abandoning the office environment led to employee engagement and morale challenges from extended remote working. In turn, that created more unwelcome opportunities for cyberattacks, with criminals taking advantage of poor network security at employees' homes.
Organizations in highly regulated industries must revise their business plans to avoid penalties and fines. But with the mounting number of threats, simultaneous risk preparedness and unified, company-wide business continuity testing is key to ongoing resilience.
The workforce is forever changed. The way we do our work now requires business leaders to maintain continuous communication across the organization, creating a need for planning and preparation. As long as business leaders and HR professionals realize and acknowledge that, the road to resilience is within reach.
About Agility Recovery
Agility provides simple, flexible business solutions, allowing HR professionals and organizations to manage their entire business continuity program from one central platform, Agility Central. Agility is the industry's most comprehensive yet simple platform to help organizations plan, train, test, alert, and recover – all in one. For more information, visit Agility Recovery on ADP Marketplace.
About ADP Marketplace
ADP Marketplace is a digital HR storefront that allows companies to customize their HCM ecosystem while easily sharing data with the ADP platform. Easily discover, try, buy and implement solutions to build a custom HCM ecosystem, all with the simplicity of single sign-on, single data input and single billing. Learn more at https://apps.adp.com