Developing the post pandemic workforce will be a leadership process of judging and determining the significance, worth and quality of the workplace. As pandemic concerns begin to ease throughout Canada, several Canadian organizations will need to determine whether to go back to on site teams, pursue the virtual team concept or plan for a combination of remote and on site working relationships, commonly referred to as the “hybrid virtual model”. Whatever workforce model is finalized, leaders ought to create the model that best fits their organization as this is not a one size fits all exercise.
As leaders ponder strategic corporate positions after the pandemic, the workforce model will be obligated to consider several strategic organizational elements that will need to be addressed. Such elements include; plans for bouncing back, projects that need to be launched, new corporate key performance indicators and culture change.
Adding to corporate challenges is the potential collapse of customer demands, decreased customer service, significant regulatory modifications, supply chain interruptions, a looming recession and increased uncertainty both at the employee and company levels.
Gareth Watson, Wealth Advisor at Richardson also points out that there may also be an extrinsic factor which will play a major role in determining the optimal workforce model. That is; how will Toronto Mayor John Tory and Council react to the new workforce model? With Toronto being the hub of Canadian business and wealth, Union Station the busiest public transportation structure in Canada (including air travel) is located in Toronto. It handles 65 million passengers annually with an average of 200,000 passengers each day. Such numbers would indicate that it could become the Canadian epicenter for the virus which would indicate that Toronto Council will have significant input as to what the new workforce model might look like.
There are no guarantees, legal liabilities are on the horizon and 31 % of all working Canadians have indicated that they wish to continue to work from home once the pandemic is over. There are a number of employee tasks that can be performed off site and have been for years. Such tasks as call centers, telesales, marketing research, software development, customer service functions, sales calls and credit card inquiries are all tasks that come to mind. With organizations being acutely aware that culture is imperative to a successful business because it holds the business together any workforce model must contain an element of employee inclusivity.
All of this would suggest that a “hybrid virtual model” may be the selection of most organizations however, such a model is not without its challenges. Yahoo, GoNoodle and Skygear were major organizations that aborted hybrid virtual models because they felt that such a model was counter productive to a strong working culture. They found that two organizational cultures emerged dominated by on site employees. To further fuel the problem, managers favored on site employees by giving them more challenging tasks, seeking their input and offering them promotions. Off site employees were seen as being secondary staff that rapidly felt isolated, disengaged and disenchanted. Victims of unintentional leadership behavior, off site employees had no sense of belonging, shared identity or common purpose and that in turn created two organizational cultures.
Alexander, DeSmet and Mysore, in the McKinsey Quarterly Paper point out that their research shows “avoiding the pitfalls of remote working requires thinking carefully and pragmatically about leadership and management in a hybrid virtual world. Interactions between leaders and teams provide an essential focus for creating the social cohesion and the unified hybrid virtual culture that organizations need in the next normal.”
Such organizations as Seimans, Shopify, JPMorgan, Capital One, Amazon and PayPal have found that virtual work from home options fit nicely into their corporate strategy because it offers employees a better balance work life and allows the company to meet their key performance indicators. However, a number of other organizations are not afforded this opportunity because of the industry that they part of.
As we delve into the question; what will the post pandemic workforce look like, we ought to eliminate the extremes. They are a fully virtual model and an entire on site model while attempting to settle for a model in between. History would indicate that quantifiable metrics such as employee and team productivity, ability to access talent and real estate costs will play a role in the development of the new workforce model. These are worthy metrics however, they should not be the main decision makers. The ability to lead and manage the transition, facilitate communication, provide leadership and on going employee coaching to team members must muster strong consideration.
The ability to ease employee anxiety, coaching employees towards an undefined now normal, facilitating collaborative innovative workplace solutions, resolving conflict and seeing in new ways are just a few things that ought to be considered. In order to treat employees equally – you need to treat them differently and this comes down to management style and approach.
Communication is tantamount to managerial and corporate success. The need to be flexible and adapt to new cultural shifts and norms to improve productivity and collaboration are enhanced by open and transparent communication. This also means crafting solutions to unstructured problems are a must. At times, offsite communication can become impaired, disconnected and difficult for leaders to follow up. This problem can be exacerbated due to time zone gaps.
We live in uncertain and undefined times and when the fog lifts there will be a now normal. What we do know is that it is important that organizations use this time wisely in order to craft the hybrid model that bests fits their reentry plan so that they can move forward. Operational and strategic leadership will play a key role in attracting the best talent and maintaining that in person interaction. Designed the correct way, the hybrid model should allow us to lower our conversion costs, increase productivity and allow for future growth by making performance culture stronger than it was before the pandemic.
About The Author.
Nicholas Pollice is President of The Pollice Management Consulting Group located in Southern, Ontario, Canada. An international presenter and consultant, he is known as a leader in operations management. Nicholas conducts programs in leadership, supervision, communication, negotiation and conflict resolution. He has been a consultant since 1989 and is the author of several professional publications. His presentations have been consistently ranked in the top10 % throughout North America. See Nicholas’ bio, his other publications and services on the PMCG. Website at www.pollicemanagement.com