Change management has taken on a new meaning during the last 12 months, and whilst some things have worked well, some badly, and some not at all, there is a strong sense of survival instinct as well as competitive spirit that will continue to drive us all forwards.
For HR management globally this means stepping up, not necessarily interpreting things simply at face value for those #WFH initiatives, and being prepared to support corporate decisions that might be seen as popular by some and unpopular by others at the same time.
Here are some areas likely to consume more of your time regarding remote working:-
Personal interactions are impacted as both formalised, as well as those productive ad hoc informalised discussions are reduced or removed altogether with #WFH. This goes on to affect some key operational areas, leaving some management functions to proactively reflect on real efficiencies within the new norms.
On the flip side some employees say that they are in fact more, or at least as productive as before, so that there is no real benefit for them to be in the office at all, plus of course there are other positive work : life benefits expressed in terms of time and money being saved from not having to commute.
Not a one sided discussion nor an equal one depending on where you live and elements of truth can come from both sides, so going forwards some form of hybrid working environment, at least for some, is likely to occur in reality.
Tax compliance implications can also be driven from this, as in some countries the actual physical location of an employee whilst working at home or within a displaced location for that matter, versus the actual office location that employs them, needs to be taken into account to prevent a corporate being automatically liable for the tax payment.
Another important jumbo sized elephant in the room is also emerging, in that corporates have historically based levels of pay to employees on a multitude of cost of living factors and a broad assumption that staff would be working at the office where employed (or within some functional areas at home), but this is now being challenged in practical terms by employees as goal posts are nudged by them further forwards. Seen as a threat for some, and an employment magnet by others, further debate with polarised outcomes will likely follow.
Additionally, dollar ramifications on office costs ie smaller units, reduced total # of office locations etc are simply too large for management to ignore, meaning that the end result will likely be a compromise on both sides.
Some employees thrive within a more flexible working environment, whilst others feel that they have lost their corporate “connection” through them being totally or partially isolated from offices as well as colleagues or both, via some form of staff / office rotation being in place.
Some bosses are already positioning in broad terms that #WFH is not working for them, because it has resulted in lost staff interactions as touched on above, especially for those more ad hoc meetings that are so often creative as well as productive.
Concerns also exist around the real impact associated with the building of a consistent corporate culture and corporate identity, both of which need to be aligned for optimised stakeholder success.
As far as acceptable office hours are concerned, there is still going to be a great deal of variance across and within corporates as well as some government mandates. Whilst some position lifestyle as a corporate differentiator implying a freer working environment, others position a much harder core expectation with what has been described by Alibaba in China for them as a 996 culture ie 9am to 9pm 6 days a week. Regardless of this positioning, the realities for both in practical terms will over time make an interesting comparison where all-round positive engagement and work experiences will ultimately drive success.
Work : life balance for everyone has taken a big hit in the last 15 months, due to remote video calling and the existence of ever increasing fuzzy demarcation lines between office and home, a continuation of what has been an existing trend over the years. Some individuals have countered this by having a virtual commute to keep up their personal routines, and to drive more tangible differentiations between their home and work lives, but there are a multitude of factors at play.
These factors can be unique to individuals at any one time, and can cause major disruptions to both work as well as home life, especially if they occur at the same time. For example, successful personal relationships or otherwise, adverse home noise levels from children being at home including e-lessons, next door renovations, not to mention the obvious basic disruption and general stress or anxiety re business continuity considerations that come from today's new daily norms.
Management teams have largely recognised that work : life balance can tip the wrong way if not checked, but not all are in acceptance mode in actually making a change. The fact that there is now a concept of a Zoom Free Friday (organised by Citigroup) pushes home to all the fact that increased home video conferencing is in fact very intense.
Literally so, according to Stanford University which found four underlying causes for fatigue being 1) excessive close up screen work being much more intense on the eyes, 2) seeing yourself in close up for long hours, 3) the fact that you have less mobility ie no moves between meets for ad hoc chats, and 4) the much more intense cognitive loads in sending / receiving non-verbal clues between attendees. (Source: https://news.stanford.edu/2021/02/23/four-causes-zoom-fatigue-solutions/).
So stated more pertinently, what started as a welcome change with #WFH might not in fact be seen in the same positive light today by all.
Regardless of approach, we are in future likely to see more hard measurements around engagement & productivity, and as a result more arguments about the methodologies behind them. Deeper metrics other than the basics are certainly being positioned by some software vendors for some applications and the possibilities of what they bring are therefore becoming much more visible to corporates, as well as employees.
For example, using AI (artificial intelligence) to monitor various aspects of facial recognition is starting to creep into our daily lives for both remote and in-office work to measure engagement activity ie to distinguish between a computer being switched on and a specific application being used as a measurement of “down time”.
At a high level this means tackling data silos, duplicated tasks and decisions being taken with incomplete inaccurate data. In fact there is real value to unleash at that intersection where HR meets Financials and FP&A / Budgeting. In other words, resource optimisations based on a deeper understanding of the metrics.
It is more than that though, and one should start to think of systems working for you and not vice versa. In other words proactive systems.
Reactive cf Proactive
Increasingly value creation can be driven by making processes work for you. For example, it might be to put into place proactive commission management to support sales processes or figuring out and identifying within a consulting team those employees who are fully billed / occupied but have yet to take vacation ie they are in risk of leaving. In fact with broad metrics it can apply to all staff.
Integrated compliance is also gaining attention here with more automated compliance being introduced and fully or partially integrated into the system. For example, employee background checks or more integrated staff development processes with specialist external stakeholders / service providers.
Implementing these proactive processes, requires ultra-granular deployment capability across different vendors, including legacy. End to end process definition must therefore be extensive from data collection, through all required x-application / x-ecosystem transformational dependencies (including use of API’s), with actionable contextual reporting and / or workflows @anytime and @anywhere in the process + simulations.
Consideration is also required for other areas that include the logical, legal, physical and taxation location of data (eg aspects of GDPR) end to end within a process; data classifications for deeper compliance and cyber breach handling in identifying what has been lost during an attack, and a more subtle change being the ability to handle new data types. In summary integrated compliance across broader data sets including the incorporation of the emerging so far “voluntary” cybersecurity requirements relating to software bill of materials (SBOM).
Quantitative cf Qualitative Processes
One change that is driven from this is that because processes are ultra-granular they can also handle, with the same level of compliance, qualitative processes that before were hard to handle. Not only that but all processes can be executed whether the employees #WFH or in the office.
General or very specific surveys can organise feedback with personal tech leveraged to become a win / win for the employee as well as the corporate, the latter for example to drive reduced health costs. Sitting at that intersection of employee engagement / health and Insurtech there is going to be more positive change in this area to explore that will need broad integration capability.
HR’s role within a corporate has never been as important as today, and will increasingly become more central to all aspects of management to drive value creation. The intersection of fully compliant processes across apps, applications and mobile is going to be increasingly important to make this happen, as we all feel our way forwards during the next part of this pandemic.
FlexSystem is a business software vendor to 1 in 10 Forbes Global 2000 (May 2020) and 1 in 5 Global Fortune 500 (August 2020), operating at the intersection of new process and payment technologies to provide you with iterative opportunities for value creation with or without AI at both gross and net margin levels.