Beyond the Pandemic: the future of work

I have been reading material and listening to podcasts regarding the future of work post the current global pandemic and feel it’s time to share my thoughts, given my twenty years of working in recruitment.

I got into recruitment pre Y2k. I also worked through the aftermath of 9/11 and the Global Financial Crisis. I experienced all of this prior to moving to Australia and eventually setting up my own recruitment business in Melbourne.

Change has been forced on many people in the workplace globally and thousands of others have lost their livelihoods. This will be the biggest personal and business impact that I have witnessed in my working career. I predict that organisations will value risk management and resilience far more and will implement measures to absorb a shock to the business/ market, like what we are currently experiencing.

Will people continue to embrace remote working?

I think that it depends on two things.

  1. What are organisations’ long-term responses to what has effectively been forced upon them? Some organisations have adapted well, whilst others have struggled.
  2. Each worker has their personal preferences. For every worker who is missing the connectedness of working in a team and face to face meetings/workshops, there are others who relish working remotely. The latter will feel empowered by this and will get more work done at home.

I also feel that remote working will become the norm for those who want it. Certain organisations have transitioned to working remotely quite seamlessly.

During a recent conversation, the Chief Executive Officer of a consulting company explained,

“ We have just moved all of our staff to remote working and are working at 95% productivity and whilst I feel that there pro’s and con’s to remote working, it is highly likely that we will rationalise our property portfolio. For example, our software engineers are happy working at home with the technology that we have in order to support them. We need to ensure that we continue to ensure that employees are engaged, happy, motivated and productive.”

This could be the “Uber” moment for the commercial real estate industry and may transform how these organisations treat their customers.

Of course, the forced transition to remote working has not been seamless for everyone. Perhaps Technology and Digital functions will have adapted well. However, what about ensuring that business operations can cope with this, such as back office, supply chain, logistics, finance and accounting?

Experts are predicting that these areas will need to move to Digital approaches and the Cloud faster than they had originally planned for. An example being that some organisations are already using AI, Automation and Blockchain in their supply chains. This approach reduces wastage, inefficiency and provides greater visibility whilst reducing costs.

Organisations will need to make decisions faster and adopt a ‘test and learn’ approach if they have not done this already. Decisions will be measured in weeks rather than months. Data and Data Analytics will be of increasing importance for organisations as they grapple with ensuring business continuity, cost reduction and longer-term success. Also, the use of Voice and Video is here; expect this to become the norm. I think that voice will be a game changer for many organisations.

Leaders who have not previously been working with off-site teams will need to adapt. Not all of your workforce will be in the same office, town, city or country as you. Your team members may be looking for guidance from you. For now, the answer is on the lines of “just do the best that you can”. Nobody is perfect and collaboration is key to moving forward.

In one of my regular videos, “Jobs of the Future”, I touched on these themes, which may now be accelerated.

We will see widespread automation of transactional tasks and organisations will focus on hiring the best talent in the field with strong emotional intelligence, communication and leadership skills. The need for strong AI, Automation and Data skills will grow too, however the aforementioned softer skills will become increasingly important. Collaboration will continue to be the hallmark of the best companies and removing those silos in organisations will be key to success. Organisations that have embraced Business Agility will be the leaders here.

In conclusion, we cannot underestimate the impacts of the global pandemic on the economy and many people’s livelihoods. However, we will see more innovation which might be initially forced. Business leaders will now have a better sense of what can and cannot be done outside the company’s traditional ways of working. Operating models will change; there are already lots of examples of this happening globally. I predict that the pace of change will be accelerated, and businesses will need to find better, simpler and less expensive ways to operate.

Alan Herrity