Restarting the Workplace in the Emerging Post-Pandemic Era

As populations across the globe continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, the corporate world is entering uncharted territory. Government agencies are establishing guidelines about returning to work, but questions still abound among managers and employees: What will this look like? When will it be safe? What can we do to establish best practices?

And, most perhaps most pressing of all, how are we going to do this?

Indeed, the emerging post-pandemic era presents unprecedented new challenges for the business landscape. Employees will be returning to workplaces that likely look and operate much differently than they did just a few months ago, with new safety measures, processes, shifting workplace dynamics, and updated company policies — all of which are still continuing to evolve. Managers, meanwhile, are tasked with rebuilding the business to stay compliant with new federal, state, and local guidelines, while still keeping an eye on the bottom line.


Digital Transformation is Accelerating

With the stakes high to ramp operations quickly, workforce policies, operations processes, and business strategies are in a state of accelerated transformation. A new era of work is emerging, and it is forcing innovation around business operations at an unprecedented pace.

“There’s an opportunity to discover and embrace new ways of doing business, here and now,” says Frank Pereira, managing partner at Coleman Consulting Group, which helps manufacturers analyze their employee scheduling and overtime practices. “If there is a silver lining to the COVID crisis, it’s that there is now a mandate for change. Companies are taking a hard look at their operations and processes to determine what can and needs to change to adapt and thrive in this post-COVID landscape.”

Breaking down siloed processes to create a nimbler enterprise will be central to a successful transformation, says Pereira. Automation technologies, such as workforce scheduling solutions, will be at the heart of that change. “The world has been thrust into a critical event. This is the time for operations leaders to change the way they manage workers and the work they do,” Pereira says. “For many organizations, employee scheduling is the most important aspect of operations. Improving scheduling processes using technology has to be part of that change.”

Workforce scheduling technology will be especially critical for companies with 24/7, mission-critical operations, working in essential industries such as oil and gas, process manufacturing, healthcare, and public safety. Managing the complexity of their “always-on” operation, while also managing change, is time-consuming and vulnerable to human errors when using manual processes. Instead, as the future of work evolves post-COVID-19, intelligent workforce scheduling solutions will be essential in keeping operations running smoothly. Such systems allow organizations to react appropriately and quickly to the inevitable challenges and disruptions inherent in the business landscape, no matter what industry they operate in.


Focus on Employees, Retain Top Talent

One recent social media post that went viral encouraged job seekers at the interview stage to ask how their prospective employers handled the Coronavirus crisis. “How they respond will tell you everything you need to know about working for them,” the post stated, generating dozens of encouraging responses.

Indeed, streamlining operations is only part of the challenge for business leaders in this new age. Retaining and attracting the right talent will require taking an unbiased look at employee relations strategies, too. Going forward, organizations must understand that positive relationships with employees transcend the exchange of work for a paycheck. Focusing on improving the employee experience will be essential for companies in retaining their labor resources and creating a work environment that’s attractive and fulfilling for employees.

Research shows that workers want more control over their work schedules, and the pandemic has amplified the need for more flexible work policies. Most workers’ worlds have turned upside down during the pandemic: children are out of school, forcing parents to juggle home-schooling and their own jobs; family members may need additional care; or employees themselves are getting sick. All of these factors are causing massive disruptions across the professional and home lives of hundreds of millions of people all over the world.

To further compound these challenges, many of the support systems and routines employees previously had in place are no longer applicable. Workforce scheduling technology provides visibility into the workforce and the work schedule, allowing organizations to enhance the employee experience by taking a more informed and responsive approach to addressing worker requests and concerns.

“There has to be a long-term play to invest in the employee experience right now,” Pereira says. “Big value drivers are things like schedule flexibility, fairness, and transparency in scheduling and overtime opportunities. This can really help boost performance and retention.”

Mike DiClaudio, a principal in KPMG’s human capital advisory practice, also recommends that organizations consider a concept called a “value story”. Speaking as a panelist on a recent webinar, DiClaudio explained that employees can assess the level of value an employer brings to their work life in the same way they can assess the value a relationship brings to their personal life. Therefore, employers who demonstrate care, communicate how they care, and offer two-way, real-time communication tools will have a greater value story than employers who don’t demonstrate concern for workers’ well-being.

In other words: Concern for worker safety and well-being is likely to emerge as an employment differentiator post-COVID, and companies that have a clear commitment to both are sure to have an edge.


Workforce Scheduling Technology: An Effective Solution in a Trying Time

There is no denying that the current crisis is changing the experience of work and the ways in which work gets done. Organizations will need to leverage intelligent workforce technologies to continuously evaluate, update, and adjust processes to make informed decisions as the workplace evolves. Technology that enables greater agility and adaptability in workforce operations will be an important factor in how well a company regains or establishes its competitive advantage in the emerging post-COVID workplace.

As you chart your course in the aftermath of the COVID-19 storm, please reach out to us at shiftboardinsights@shiftboard.com for guidance about the workforce scheduling challenges you face.