In the weeks leading up to the World Health Organization declaring the spread of COVID-19 a pandemic, many industry leaders had already sprung into action, asking employees to work from home, curbing non-essential travel, and cancelling key organizational events.
Business leaders around the globe are facing an unprecedented issue, and as the developers of people analytics solutions, nothing is more important to us than helping you ask the right questions about your workforce today, and in the future, to better understand how to care for and lead your workforce through a disruptive time.
Each industry, and business, faces unique challenges in the face of this pandemic, with public programs increasingly shutting down, employees balancing personal and professional commitments in new ways, and businesses striving to maintain operations. For example, in the manufacturing industry, leaders are navigating issues in the supply chain. In the services industry, business leaders are grappling with how to keep doors open and keep employees and customers safe. But regardless of sector, every business will be better served with a solid understanding of key workforce data that can provide insight in an uncertain time, and help leaders adapt to an evolving situation armed with a detailed understanding of the people who power their business.
As business leaders work to develop and implement COVID-19 response programs, real-time, predictive data will be critical in ensuring your organization continues to adapt alongside an evolving situation. Here are 8 key workforce questions employers should be asking now:
- Which work groups can immediately work from home?
Keeping your teams safe and preventing the spread of the outbreak is priority one, and identifying work groups that can work from home immediately (before a location becomes a quarantine zone) can help curb the negative impact for your people and business. For example, a customer service center may be able to distribute the hardware needed for employees to remain responsive at home. When business leaders identify and implement a plan before quarantines are eminent, it allows more time to partner with the IT department to ensure all employees have the tools they need to do the job from home.
- How many support staff employees will be impacted by a work from home policy?
Converting most of the workforce to a home office may help curb the impact of quarantines, but for some functions, like food vendors, shuttle drivers, or on-site tech support, it also means the need for their roles might unfortunately be gone entirely. Businesses will need to determine how to handle sending support staff home – and Microsoft has set the tone by deciding to continue paying support staff during this time. Leaders need workforce data not only to understand the scope of who is impacted, but also to help model how many support staff will be needed in the coming months when quarantines end.
- How can we protect high risk employees?
The World Health Organization has established profiles for those most at risk of negative outcomes if they contract COVID-19. Business leaders need to understand demographic profiles of their employees by both work group and location. Aside from remaining complaint with local labor laws, agreements and any emergency government proclamations, business leaders can take several steps to protect employees with higher risk profiles, including:
- As we’ve already mentioned, allow employees to work from home if their work group can remain productive in a home environment
- Re-allocate higher risk profiles to shifts and schedules that limit exposure
- Provide training to all employees on social distancing best practices and protocols
- Understand where the business’ highest concentrations of high-risk employees are, and ensure those areas have the supply, training, and scheduling support they need first
- How close are our employees to hot spots?
For global companies in particular, planning for each individual location simultaneously may be impossible in such a rapidly developing situation. Instead, by staying current on where virus hot spots are popping up and mapping them against employee locations, business leaders can hone their focus to stay ahead of the curve. Prioritize areas with the highest risk first to develop and implement contingency plans, and monitor areas that appear to be growing concerns.
- Where are our business critical work groups located?
Identify core functions for the business, and map the location of employees in those groups. If many are located in areas that could quickly become quarantine zones or face further disruption, business leaders must determine whether it is prudent to try to relocate employees or how to best instate a work from home solution – before options become limited.
- How will a travel ban impact company events?
In some businesses, key company events can represent significant revenue for an organization. For example, an organization that relies on revenue from conventions may need to plan how its bottom line will be impacted based on several scenarios, trending its revenue against the staff required to support events throughout the year – not just in the immediate.
Organizations should also assess how much of their salesforce is largely travel based, and predict how new sales are likely to be impacted while a travel ban is enacted.
- What impact will reducing company-sponsored events have on morale?
Businesses can assess how retention rates fluctuate based on a variety of factors by modeling their data against events like bonuses and raises, or special perks like company-sponsored events. Assuming these events have to be curbed for the foreseeable future, organizations should understand the degree of impact on employee morale and engagement, and think of new, creative ways to spark excitement and boost morale.
- How should we think about hiring during, and immediately after, a pandemic?
Although it’s impossible to predict just what will happen in relation to COVID-19 in the coming months, organizations shouldn’t lose sight of what current and future hiring needs will be required to maintain target growth across the year. For example, manufacturers may still need to hire for seasonal production needs that occur around the holidays; businesses that need extra staff in the summer months also shouldn’t lose momentum. Using predictive modeling, businesses can determine how long it takes new hires to ramp up, and estimate the headcount they’ll need throughout the year.
In addition, if bringing in a new employee from outside the business is difficult during this season, organizations shouldn’t overlook the talent they can uncover with internal transfers or promotions. (And in fact, we suggest you always keep this top of mind.) People analytics allows managers across the organization to identify top talent and predict which skills and strengths position employees best to succeed in a role. Managers can work together to identify promotional opportunities within the organization, both meeting staffing needs and helping boost employee engagement and morale.
A better understanding for an uncertain future
Long after the crisis management has ended, it’s likely the COVID-19 pandemic will have longer term economic and business impacts. Organizations will have changed core business practices, and innovation will have inspired entirely new models for doing business. We believe business leaders are best equipped to guide their organizations through uncertain times when they have the most information available and powerful analytics to harness that information into actionable insights.
TrenData is committed to helping you through this situation and to facilitate a better tomorrow for your entire organization.