The year 2020 has been an absolute doozy for all of us. Nothing has been easy. Nothing has happened as planned. These unpredictable times have brought numerous changes to businesses in every industry. There are certain macro trends emerging that continue to disrupt the way we work. The Human Resources departments in particular will be affected by three HR trends that will forever change the way we do business. It’ll be up to you and your team to decide if they impact your company for better or worse.
These macro trends have emerged over the past few months, and all the evidence and data points to their continued existence. We believe that these are things that would have likely happened in the future, but COVID19 has accelerated their arrival.
This article will break down the three HR trends you should be aware of and help you understand how to better position your business for the future of work.
Working From Home
Hopefully, this doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but working from home, or “working from anywhere” will be commonplace from here on out. Gartner reports that nearly 50% of the companies they survey will work remotely “at least some of the time” post-pandemic. Major companies like Slack, Shopify and Twitter have already announced that they’ll allow employees to work remotely on a permanent basis. As remote work becomes “the new normal”, employees will begin to expect and demand that their employers offer a remote option. Those who fail to be flexible will miss out on top talent.
As you focus on creating a work-from-home plan for your company, consider keeping the following things top-of-mind.
Re-think communication. Many businesses have already been forced to adjust the way they’re communicating, but you’ll want to come up with a long-term solution that fits the needs and style of your company. Do you prefer synchronous or asynchronous communication? Do you prefer email or messaging apps? Live video or phone calls? These are the problems you’ll need to solve in order to streamline and optimize communication for your company.
Re-imagine the employee experience. If your employee base is working remotely, that also means you’ll have to do things like hire, onboard, train, and promote remotely. This will require a total redesign of your employee experience and the employee journey. What does a new hire’s first day look like when they’re joining the company from their home office? How do you conduct employee training sessions when you cannot gather together physically? How will you know who deserves a raise, who merits a promotion, or who’s slacking off? So many aspects of the employee experience are different now. Each of them needs a plan.
Home office setup. Pre-pandemic, one of HR’s responsibilities was to set up an employee’s desk before their first day of work. Now, HR has to worry about ensuring that an employee’s home office is properly equipped and comfortable so that they can perform at a high level. This may include buying a desk and chair, shipping a laptop to their home address, purchasing additional equipment like a whiteboard or headset, or even signing up for a membership at a local co-working space to give the employee an excuse to get out of the house. Decide with your company how much you want to budget for these expenses and how far you’re willing to go to make sure employees can succeed from anywhere.
Mental and emotional health. No, you’re not a therapist, and it’s not necessarily part of your job description to keep tabs on the mental and emotional health of every employee. However, these are abnormal times, and monitoring the wellness of your workforce should be a priority. We are all going through a major transition, and the mental strain has not been an easy burden to bear. Every employees’ situation will be different. Some will be home with multiple kids all day. Others will be completely isolated and alone. Both situations can be challenging. Luckily, there are things you can do to positively impact the health and wellness of your remote workforce. Research methods and programs that make the most sense for your business.
Recruit and hire from a new pool of talent. One exciting advantage of a remote workplace is the ability to recruit and hire talented people from anywhere. Geography no longer puts limits on the net you can cast into the talent pool. You can choose to recruit across your state, your time zone, the country, or the world. Of course, if you do end up hiring employees in other time zones, you’ll need to figure out a plan to keep them in the loop. This might mean adjusting some of your meeting schedules or switching to asynchronous communication. You and your team should develop a strategy for how you’ll recruit outside of your immediate location.
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A by-product of the remote work shift is an increased emphasis on employee engagement. Without the benefit and convenience of catching up in the halls, eating lunch together, or gathering around the proverbial water cooler, it can be extremely challenging to keep tabs on employee morale, confidence, and engagement. We’ve written previously about the immense benefits of an engaged, happy workforce, so the added focus in this area should be welcomed with open arms.
The following are things you should focus on while improving employee engagement for your business.
Surveys. This isn’t very complicated, but it’s unfortunate how few businesses actually execute on this idea. Engagement surveys are simple, easy ways for you to get a pulse on how employees are feeling. These surveys can be as short as one or two questions and can be administered a handful of times each month. Ask questions like, “How are you feeling today?” or “Are you proud to work for this company?” or “On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to recommend working at this company to a friend?” Mix it up. Keep it short. Ask consistently.
Check-ins. This is an easy way to understand (at least at a high level) what everyone is doing every day or every week. The check-in process can be extremely simple– have each employee submit a one or two-sentence message, or even a short video recording, stating what they worked on that day (or that week) and what they’re planning on working on until their next check-in. Creating this habit fosters a culture of accountability, transparency, and honesty.
Performance management. Unlike your informal check-ins, performance evaluations should be thorough, deep dives into what an employee has accomplished, and how well they’re meeting expectations. Normally this is done via one-on-one meetings with managers. HR teams should ensure that managers are having these meetings with their direct reports and that they are scheduled on a regular basis. Remote work can make it challenging to know whether or not an employee is truly pulling their weight. The only real way to ensure they’re being productive is by creating and managing performance expectations.
Create events. One way to help keep employees engaged is to give them reasons to get excited. Events, both virtual or in-person when local health officials and governing bodies allow, are great ways to create excitement and build momentum for your business. There is power in numbers. While some may begin to feel lonely while working remotely, a company-wide event will bring energy and excitement. For virtual gatherings, you could do traditional events like company lunch or a happy hour over Zoom. You could even get creative and hire a comedian to perform on a Zoom call. If you get the chance to do in-person events, we recommend creating an environment where everyone can feel included, involved, and comfortable.
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Leveraging the Freelance Economy
Where we work is also changing how we work. Because people no longer feel tied down to a single geographic location, many talented employees are taking advantage of their new freedom and working from around the globe. They’ve also decided that they don’t need to be tied to a single employer to make a living. Freelance workers have never seen higher demand, and they happily take on multiple clients, either on retainer or on a project-by-project basis. Learning how to leverage the gig economy and take advantage of the talents of skills of freelance workers will likely prove vital to your company’s future growth.
Here are a few things to think about when diving into the freelance economy.
Get comfortable with freelancers. For years freelance workers have been stigmatized for being “less than” and not having the skills or commitment to stay with a single employer. Well, those days are long gone. Many of the most talented people in their given field now work solely as a freelancer. This gives them the freedom and lifestyle they’re looking for without long-term commitments to companies they may or may not want to be a part of. Freelancers can add tons of value to a business either by executing on a project, consulting and sharing advice, formulating high-level strategy, or even performing a repetitive task. If you’ve never tried working with a freelancer before, we recommend testing the process. Learn what it’s like to communicate, work with, and manage someone who doesn’t belong to your company. Getting comfortable in this setting now will pay huge dividends in the future.
Take advantage of trusted resources. Another previous concern with freelance workers was their reliability. What if you hired someone who ended up doing a crappy job? What if you paid someone and they never actually did the work? Luckily, you no longer have to worry about that anymore. There are so many great and reliable resources for vetting freelancers that you should feel comfortable and confident every time you make a hire. We recommend searching sites like UpWork, Fiverr, 99Designs, TopTal, or Lemon to start your freelance search.
Save money. Another great reason to leverage the freelance economy? Savings. When you hire a freelance worker, you don’t have to pay a lot of the extra costs that come with hiring a full-time employee. Health insurance premiums? Nope. Payroll taxes? Nope. New laptop? Nope. The savings can be huge. You also have the advantage of paying a freelance worker for as long as you need them and not an hour more. For example, if you’re planning on publishing two blog posts per week, you don’t need to hire a copywriter that works full-time. Instead, you can save and just pay a freelancer for the amount of time it takes to write the content.
Working from home, an increased focus on employee engagement, and the ability to leverage the freelance economy are three HR trends that will heavily impact the future of work. As you prepare to make changes and adapt to this future, be sure to have strategic conversations with your team about how to prioritize these initiatives. To remain competitive in your industry and to continue attracting talented employees, you’ll need to adjust course and invest in these macro trends. Businesses that do so effectively will emerge with advantages in recruiting, retention, and resources.