Covid has irrefutably been the catalyst for business transformation over the past year, but as we look to life after lockdown, what changes will remain and, more importantly, what long term effects will they have?
Here are four vital topics employers and employees should be talking about now:
1. FLEXIBLE WORKING
We know it works but for those of us who were previously in the office five days a week, this has been a pretty big adjustment. Like it or loathe it, it's here to stay. A report from Scottish based company Flexabiliyworks states that almost three quarters (73%) of Scottish workers had flexible working (FW) or wanted it before the pandemic hit. Employees who had FW options said it had made a positive impact on their: Family & home life (65%), mental health and wellbeing (64%) and physical health and well being (55%).
They also asked employers what they felt the benefits of FW were, regardless of Covid and lockdown:
70% either strongly agree or agree that it improves employee loyalty.
69% either strongly agree or agree; it helps them have a more diverse workforce.
67% either strongly agree or agree it increases people's productivity as well as improves employee engagement.
These figures demonstrate clear benefits for everyone involved; however, there are other considerations such as loneliness, as the report indicates, which employers must consider. Therefore, a balanced approach between working from home and being in the office is most likely the best approach to negate these.
2. COMMUNICATION & ENGAGEMENT
FW's continuation will likely highlight issues employers may or may not either have yet encountered or addressed along the way. The most obvious is the change in communication and engagement with their new flexible workforce. A recent poll we conducted on LinkedIn asked, 'Is your employer engaging enough with you?'
39% of respondents said no, either there was a lack of communication or inclusion.
21% stated the engagement levels were okay, but their employer could do better.
11% said yes, their line manager engaged but not senior management.
29% stated that their employer engagement had been superb.
So what will be best practice moving forward, and how do employers keep their staff happy while working at a distance?
A solid and unified communication strategy will be essential. Microsoft Teams, Slack, Yammer, whatever tech platform you have been using throughout the pandemic, now is the time to evaluate it for its long-term suitability. Will it work for a blended workforce?
Between e-mails, IMs, WhatsApps, Teams and Zoom meetings, we receive notifications constantly, but more importantly, we are continually distracted from what we are trying to achieve.
One simple and basic change employers and employees should agree upon, is ONE form of internal communication. Whether this is for work requests from managers/peers, personal conversations or essential company updates and announcements, keeping everything in one place and, more importantly, organised will help keep distractions to a minimum. Also, don't be afraid to encourage staff to turn off notifications on various other platforms your company may use if you/they deem it suitable to do so.
Another critical but often overlooked method of engagement, is to conduct an employee engagement survey. By executing this now, employers can use the results to benchmark progress and areas for improvement while everyone adapts to the new way of working. Understanding where and how you can better communicate and engage with your workforce should be a top priority for businesses right now if they are to emerge in a strong position post lockdown.
3. TRAINING & DEVELOPMENT
Many of us have used the last year and the time unexpectedly afforded to us to reflect; What's important to us, and how we are all guilty of succumbing to the stresses of everyday life. It's also resulted in many reflecting on their careers and asking 'what's next'? Many have been feeling disconnected, stale or just 'going through the motions', so now is a good opportunity for employers to engage with their staff around their career prospects and support them in their learning and development. If budget is an issue, then harness the power of your staff knowledge and have them share this with individuals or the wider team where appropriate.
Lastly, but probably most importantly, everyone must understand their purpose and the part they play within the company. Do you really understand why what you do is important and how it adds to the company's performance? Do you care? Are you all pulling in the same direction?
We all want to feel part of something, but that connection has undoubtedly been stretched over the last year. If a business is to succeed, it must be true to its word and trust and value its employees' knowledge and opinions; otherwise, it effectively creates an army of resentful and disengaged staff. In order to reignite the fire, organisations must set aside time to remind their staff about their individual and collective purpose and how this contributes not only to the organisation's success, but ultimately their own!