The arrival of COVID-19 caused an abrupt change to the way most organisations work. Almost overnight, employees had to adjust to working from home (with assorted partners, children and pets), while others were unable to work at all.
Looking beyond the short-term crisis, leading organisations around the world are now beginning to consider the longer-term impact of COVID-19…including some potentially positive changes to the way that we work.
● Will commuting and business travel be significantly reduced?
● Will meetings continue to take place online?
● Will employees work from home on a long-term basis?
● Do we need to revisit policies on flexi-time, work-life balance, wellness, privacy etc?
● Will we be able to reduce our overhead costs?
Research shows that success-driven organisations start working on their post-crisis strategy as soon as the basics have been addressed (such as employee safety and short-term financial stability). They then start to work on how to operationalise and achieve this strategy, while simultaneously traversing the ups and downs of the short-term environment. A ten-year study by McKinsey & Company (2017) found that, out of a sample of 2,000 companies, those that followed this proactive approach emerged from the crisis ahead of their competitors.
In this article, we consider key questions that will help you to shape your post-pandemic talent management strategy.
How do we choose a direction?
It’s important to set your direction by starting with the short-term and longer-term strategic goals that your organisation needs to achieve. Because we don’t know what may happen in six months to a year, it is critical for flexibility and agility to be at the forefront of your planning.
When setting up your strategy, consider the following:
● Do we need to review our goals and are we on the right track?
● Do we have the right people in the right roles to deliver on our goals?
● Do we have too many people, or too few people, in each critical area?
● Should we suspend talent management activities, or continue to invest in this area? When is the right time?
● Are we considering the longer-term impact of selection decisions that we are making now?
● How is talent management prioritised relative to other operational requirements?
● Is our organisation agile enough to cope with the coming changes? If not, how can we instil a culture of agility?
How do we ensure teamwork?
One of the main drawbacks to working from home is the decrease in people interaction.
Because teamwork, and team performance, are so critical to high functioning organisations, a key question to consider is how to actively create and maintain a sense of team cooperation and cohesion. This issue needs to be considered from the task perspective (how do we deliver on shared goals?) and the interpersonal perspective (how do we maintain engagement?).
How do we measure performance?
How do we know that our employees are doing the work they are supposed to do? This is a question that is currently being asked at organisations around the world. Organisations that shift more quickly from an hours-based working model to an output-based working model will benefit the most from the new way of working, with a likely increase in employee motivation as well.
As outcomes replace hours, the performance management approach of the organisation also needs to shift from monitoring people to monitoring performance. This implies a greater focus on output and an emphasis on the employee’s personal responsibility over the number of hours worked. Questions that need to be addressed are whether your current performance management system can align with this shift in approach, and whether all line managers are suitably able to manage their employees in this environment.
How do we deal with skill gaps?
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, significant skill gaps existed in many organisations, a fact that was experienced by 75% of HR professionals in a 2019 study (SHRM)
Where large changes are required, a skill gap in the organisation generally results. As roles change, some skills may even become redundant over time. The pandemic has only served to accelerate some of these changes.
Once you know what changes your organisation needs to tackle, and what the end result will be, your role as HR is to determine how to get the business there. And for that, you need people.
An important step is to understand your ideal skill profile as well as the current makeup of skills in your human capital, via assessments, surveys or audits. You can then be strategic about how to address any gaps via development and strategic selection, focusing on the most critical areas first.
How do we develop?
Amidst the changes, the skill gaps, and, for many organisations, the threat of retrenchments, there is still an ongoing need to develop your employees. A strategic balance between external development (consultants, programmes, courses etc.), internal development (company-led initiatives, mentorship etc.) and self-driven development (book study, behaviour change etc.) is an effective way to keep driving learning initiatives, while managing financial output.
● Give employees an opportunity to enrich their roles or expand into other areas – and self-report on which development areas they foresee.
● Shift focus from content to process by focusing on on Learning Agility, Growth Mindset and Self-awareness, as the foundation for development. These areas will equip employees with key skills to manage the current and future changes within the organisation.
● Break down geographical borders – allow employees to learn from their overseas team members or sister companies
● Explore the world of technology and online learning opportunities for employees – these are often more cost-effective than face-to-face training (and may even be free!)
● Bake in experiential opportunities to internal development
● Track employee wellness, engagement and progress over time
Learning Agility & Remote Leadership