How Will Your Company Adapt To the New Flexible Workforce in 2021?
How Will Your Company Adapt To the New Flexible Workforce in 2021?
The new flexible workforce means more than just working from home or staggered hours. With COVID-19, staff has set up shop anywhere there is power and Wi-Fi, and there is no going back. Omri Dekalo, CEO and Co-Founder of Ubeya, describes strategies to thrive in this new workplace reality.
As the world continues to adapt to the realities of COVID-19, companies, and employees are reinventing themselves in order to survive. Prior to the recent upheavals in the job market, when the term ‘flexible workforce’ was used, it was usually in regards to working outside of a rigid 9-to-5 schedule, a condensed work week, or occasionally working from home. With the massive layoffs we have seen in recent months and the rise in social distancing demands, even the term ‘flexible workforce’ needs to be a lot more flexible.
As businesses begin to cautiously reopen, an increasing number of employees, displaced from their traditional workplace, are praising the benefits of remote work. Indeed, a recent World Economic Forum survey reported that a staggering 98% of people said they would like the option to work remotely for the rest of their careers. We can only expect this trend to increase as tech-savvy and mobile-driven Generation Z (people born from 1997 to 2012) enters the workforce.
Challenges and Opportunities
This new concept of flexibility in the evolving workplace will put new pressures on businesses. How will employers effectively train, motivate, and engage when a majority of employees work in virtual environments? What about hybrid environments where the entire workforce shares a common workspace part-time, or on different days? It will come down to two intertwined factors: technology and company culture.
Company culture is, of course, always in flux, determined by everything from leadership style to economic conditions. The pandemic outbreak has accelerated the way many companies approach traditional employee operations and is driving new interpretations of work hours and days. PepsiCo, for instance, recently removed all official start and end times to give employees more autonomy around how they organize their work schedules, in a new initiative called Flextime.
The new flexible workforce, however, means much more than working from home or staggered hours. It gives employees the power to set up shop anywhere they have internet access; it means being able to work as a cashier on Mondays and Wednesdays, and do deliveries three evenings a week. They will continue to embrace the option and the tools to work anywhere at any time. In a recent report, global market research company Forrester called this the “Anywhere-Plus-Office Hybrid Model.” It’s a model that should be considered if you have a diverse workforce looking for flexibility.
Learn More: 5 Ways to Strengthen Culture When Times are Tough
Adapting to Change
With these changes occurring at an accelerated pace, we can expect them to put new demands on future employees and human resources managers alike. Already the need for individuals that are comfortable with implementing and using new technology, in addition to the basic skills required for various jobs, is becoming paramount. Economic conditions may also mean that we will continue to see a downsizing trend. A smaller employee base will force business owners to maximize the value each employee brings to the company. On the other hand, this will also provide employees with a greater opportunity to take on new roles and responsibilities and acquire additional skill sets to further their career aspirations.
Despite the advantages of a flexible workforce, managers are undoubtedly facing pressure to maintain employee engagement and productivity. Generation Z may be tech-savvy but they also value regular feedback from their supervisors. HR personnel will have to adapt to new working styles, processes, and career values in order to keep their workforce engaged while upholding company needs.
Technology Will Be the Key
Technology will arguably play the most crucial role in the way the new flexible workforce is managed. Companies are already reshaping the way existing technologies, from cybersecurity solutions to communications tools like Zoom, can be used in a different way to serve the evolving demands of rolling lockdowns and unpredictable markets.
In order to efficiently deploy and manage a more flexible workforce, employers and managers will need systems in place to help them oversee all the moving pieces of their workforce and expedite daily operational processes. Performance management AI tools, for example, may offer employees data-driven progress plans to keep them motivated and ensure productivity.
Smooth operations, high productivity, and increased engagement rates can also be achieved through management platforms that instantly perform automated tasks like notifying employees to apply for upcoming work opportunities and access details such as location, wages, position, and uniform requirements. These types of smart platforms will also help managers maintain and cultivate relationships with employees, wherever they are.
Online tools are also being developed to facilitate employee mentoring and growth, not just supervision. As the flexible workplace continues to change, employees are already focusing on the need to learn new skills to prosper. A new survey from California-based Degreed, called the State of Skills Report 2021, suggests that upskilling will be vital to economic recovery post-Covid-19. “More than a third (38%) of respondents feel less confident now than they did before the pandemic that they have the skills to do their jobs effectively. Nearly half (46%) predict their current skills will become obsolete in the next 3 to 5 years.” Upskilling will allow employees to play a larger role within their company, and in turn will empower them to further build on their abilities.
The COVID-19 crisis has brought with it a demand for a more flexible workforce with the term flexible taking on an entirely new meaning than we have come to know and understand. It is no longer about merely working from home, or a few flex perks thrown in for good measure. It is now about flexibility that requires an entire transformation of people, processes, and infrastructure. While the pandemic has brought with it no small number of challenges, new opportunities have arisen, both for businesses to operate with greater efficiency and technological prowess, and for employees to achieve a greater level of work-life balance and job satisfaction.
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