Workforce Strategies For Post-COVID Recovery


As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, an estimated 2.7 billion people, or more than four out of five workers in the global workforce, have been affected by lockdowns and stay-at-home measures.i

Most organizations’ crisis response has first prioritized the health and safety of workers. Now, as organizations begin to emerge from this initial phase, leaders are focusing on the next set of workforce challenges as they plan for recovery.

The biggest challenge organizations will likely face next is the tension between getting back to work and embracing a new reality. How leaders and organizations handle the recovery may define their brands for years to come and ultimately define whether they are truly operating as a social enterprise.

As detailed in Deloitte’s 2020 Global Human Capital Trends report, the future of any organization’s DNA, and critical guideposts for workforce recovery, should include insight on “the 3P’s”:

Purpose—integrating the well-being and contributions of individuals in the organization’s mission and work;
Potential—for what can be achieved by individuals and teams; and
Perspective—with a focus on moving boldly into the future.
We believe workforce-related strategies geared toward recovery are best orchestrated through the following five critical actions, which lay the foundation to thrive in the aftermath of crisis:

1. Reflect

Reflection may be the most important step in the recovery process. Leaders need to dedicate time to reflect on what has worked and what has been missed in the crisis response. Reflection also involves bringing in perspectives from all levels of the organization to provide input on what comes next. As with most parts of the recovery process, reflection requires deliberate action from leaders on an ongoing basis.

2. Recommit

Organizations should reinforce their commitment to well-being and purpose, addressing physical, psychological, and financial concerns at the workplace and at home. They will need to support workers through the transition to recovery, ensuring safe workspaces for those coming to the office and flexible schedules as workers continue to care for children and elderly family members. Organizations should communicate directly with their workforce on new priorities and business goals, recognizing that performance likely takes on a new meaning in the post-COVID workplace.

3. Re-engage

The recovery process creates opportunities for organizations to redeploy their workforces. While some employees will return onsite, others may continue to work remotely or engage in a hybrid model. In addition to arming workers with the skills and access needed to meet work requirements, re-engaging the workforce will involve assigning meaningful work.

As teams play an increasingly important role in recovery, leaders should provide the workforce with clear direction on new assignments and priorities. Given the ongoing challenges workers may face in recovery as they balance work and home lives, team assignments should allow for flexibility while still supporting critical business needs. How organizations prepare and support their workforces for these new priorities and routines will be a key driver of workforce performance.

4. Rethink work, workforces, and workplaces

In this COVID-19 moment, we have seen rapid shifts to virtual and remote work, new partnerships across ecosystems, and unprecedented levels of adaptability. A critical goal of recovery should be to pivot toward a more resilient workforce, shifting away from rigid routine and structure.

As organizations rethink work, it is important they communicate how and why they are redeploying workers and identify how this supports new business priorities. This includes providing context and rationale for changes, and clear communication on new workforce policies. Rethinking work also means rethinking the workforce— its size, composition, compensation, and performance management. Leaders should re-assess and explain compensation and promotion plans for the short-term while managing expectations through the recovery process and toward sustainable operations.

5. Reboot — HR Priorities

HR leaders are uniquely positioned to support their workforce through recovery and position the organization for a new era of resiliency. For many, this requires a pivot toward an HR designed for speed, new ways of working, digital first, teams, adaptable organizational strategies, and changing business requirements.

The HR function will need to focus its expertise on critical compensation, performance management, and promotion realities specific to the recovery period. HR leaders should ensure they have thorough understanding and timely access to expertise on the complex legal labor requirements and changes in tax rules around the world, as well as the dizzying array of government programs and subsidies.

In the workplace of the future, HR can become the voice making bold decisions in the face of uncertainty. The choices HR makes today will likely define its impact in the recovery and its role in the future.

Recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, given the human dimension of urgent workforce challenges and the uncertainties facing business leaders, requires workforce strategies that focus on both short-term recovery priority actions and reaching for the future and new normal. By anticipating and orchestrating these five actions in the context of a future directed toward purpose, potential, and perspective, organizations can prepare and support their workforces through the recovery phase while positioning themselves for the next phase: thriving in the new normal.

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