What is the future going to look like as the coronavirus pandemic emergency stabilises and increasing numbers of businesses re-emerge and start operating fully again?
Even at this early stage, all the signs seem to be pointing at the fact that the pandemic might turn out to be the trigger for one of the most dramatic workplace transformations ever seen.
The Big Reset?
At the start of the pandemic, well known HR thought leader Josh Bersin suggested it could mark the start of what he terms the Big Reset.
In this article, he discusses the implications of the pandemic for the business world, how it has already changed it and the potential impact going forward.
Two of the key themes in his thinking relate to simplification and making the digital workplace thrive. He suggests that while some companies have made steps towards digitalisation over the past few years, not many of them have developed the rules, practices and cultures to get the most from it. But the pandemic is pushing businesses to look at how they can get more from digitalisation, and forcing the late adopters to catch up quickly.
At the same time, he talks about simplification. That doesn’t mean shrinking the organisation and reducing headcount. It means cutting out the processes that don’t serve businesses well and using technology to do the essential activity far more efficiently and effectively.
For some organisations up until now, digitalisation felt daunting. For others, while the intention was there, day to day activity got in the way of progress. But the coronavirus situation forced them to rapidly adopt radical new ways of working.
Where even a few months ago ‘working remotely’ wasn’t an option for some, suddenly it’s become the only way that many businesses can operate. The old arguments against it – “you can’t trust people to work properly”… “you’ll lose a sense of connection”…”people will be less engaged” – aren’t standing up as well now. (In fact, Bersin also believes there are already signs of employee engagement going up.)
The world has changed – and fast
There seems to be a lot of support for this kind of thinking. Other global management consultancies are releasing research that’s saying something similar; digital is suddenly and rapidly taking on a centre stage role like never before.
McKinsey highlights research that shows in the weeks elapsed in the first couple of months of the pandemic, digital adoption has moved forward at a pace that would, at the pre-pandemic rate, have taken around 5 years to achieve.
Managing payroll during the pandemic
Assumptions about how businesses should be run have been thrown up in the air and many companies will have to, or will want to, reassess businesses processes and practices for the future. When everything is more settled, could there be opportunities to do work better? Even if there is a sense of wanting to go back to how things were, is that coupled with a greater desire to be more agile and resilient? To be better able to cope with unforeseen problems?
For example, it does appear that some companies have found it hard to deal with the realities of running business processes like payroll since the crisis began. There have been various surveys taking place since the start of the pandemic which point to issues like not being set up for remote working, absence and the lack of infrastructure making it far harder to run payroll. Suggested figures have included around a third of companies having problems due to loss of payroll capacity.
It’s been indicated that almost half of companies have struggled to handle all of the complexity of the emergency measures and a similar proportion are worried about running payroll in the event of their own payroll team members being directly impacted by the virus. Around a third of companies believe the pandemic is going to affect future HR and payroll operations.
There is an opportunity here for companies to take a careful look at the best aspects of how they’ve worked pre-pandemic, review insights gained since the pandemic began, and consider how they can combine the two to best effect. Businesses do, of course, have to address the immediate challenges their companies are facing, but it seems likely many will benefit by being receptive to all the potential improvements created by the situation too.