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It's hard to remember the world pre-COVID, and even harder to imagine one post-COVID. The crisis is testing the acumen of leadership and the agility of organizations in ways never seen before.

For many of us, it's the most challenging work related crisis we've faced in our entire lives. The pandemic, of course, will eventually end (we hope). But the world will look quite different then, which means workforces, organizations and leadership will need to act quite different as well. Recovery won't be easy. And although we can anticipate the changes, a lot still remains unknown and foggy. This means that in order to accelerate in the fog, we need to keep one 'foot on the pedal' while at the same time keeping our eyes on the future.

No one can predict exactly what will happen as the 'new reality' or post-COVID-19 world sets in – or even when we will get there – but what organizations can control now (or as soon as they get out of crisis management mode) is to plan for various scenarios that may occur and prepare for that future setup of the workforce accordingly. A setup that will most certainly include certain forms of automation.

As we see in the marketplace, every organization is in a different phase as it manages its way through the pandemic. Some are in survival mode. Some are planning to rebound from the crisis by reshaping their portfolio to align to new customer needs. Each company will have to take steps in order to jump-start their operations. Business processes, talent management, organizational culture, and so much more will have to adapt and change in order to thrive post-COVID. And organizations will need to embed these changes to prevent them from snapping back to business as usual.

Organizational capabilities can accelerate the prioritization process in the organization. What can be improved first or in parallel? Do we start with the processes, systems, tools, skills, knowledge, behaviors, or the structure(s) that companies need to achieve their business objectives? To accelerate the prioritizing we found there are six workforce areas that the organization can focus on to address the disruption happening in the labor market, their workforce and the disruption in the overall economy (during and after COVID-19):

1. Workforce Data

(Future) Workforce choices depend on the right people (data), the right processes and analytics: people data is more than just a dashboard – even more than just predictive, but rather prescriptive as to what organizations need to do. What are the numbers telling you regarding the last months? Think about your regretted losses, the quality and the quantity of (internal) job applications (are you a risk or a safe haven in the eyes of the labor market)? The percentage of training followed by your employees, the subjects of training, etc.

2. Workforce (Re)shaping

If we believe that the organization itself will stop working the way it currently works, it means that the traditional functions also disappear. Additionally, there is more than just the human workforce, shaping includes – besides employees – gig/contract workers and robots or automated technologies.

Maybe there are more or less project based or outcome based teams which may no longer add value in their current setup after they have completed the project. Is the current organizational structure also the best one during COVID-19? Has, for example, an agile organization become the new normal, did it turn out to be a failed pilot project, or is it still under consideration ?

3. Workforce Management

Workforce agility requires a fairly sophisticated workforce shaping process in order for organizations to, in a lean way, understand the skills in that workforce, deploy them rapidly, learn fast, ensure they are successful and then continue the process as appropriate. This is way more than the periodical job or position management as is currently common practice.

4. Employee Experience

What are the (new) moments that matter in your employee journey? Is reboarding needed and, if so, are you planning this per group or per level? What are the expectations of your current and future workforce? Does the message feel tailored or is it a 'one size fits all' approach?

The current and new people journey is about every aspect of how one's day starts, what they do, how they interact, when they leave and what they do when they're home regarding their work, etc. The tailored experience drives all interactions with and for the workforce as it is shaped and is part of how we operate (during and after COVID-19).

5. Organization's Purpose and Culture

What are your lesson learned (during and after COVID-19)? Do you recognize your organization (more) as a 'value driven company'? What changes did you see in your underlying systems and processes to affect purpose and culture? By identifying those key levers of change, you can make your organizational purpose and culture change tangible and practical by putting in place an environment which enables the change to be permanent.

6. HR organization of the future

A (more constantly) reshaped workforce will also impact the HR function and requires organizations to approach their own organization differently. They will need to continuously monitor the other areas, considering both their own workers and externals, both human and non-human. A future HR will be characterized by an 'outside in' operating model which is driven by business, customer, and employee insights and powered by technology and talent.

By anticipating and responding to these developments now, you will be several steps ahead accelerating in the fog when facing any new reality the post-COVID future has in store for us.

More information

For any further queries, please contact Alex Baggerman.