A lot has changed since the COVID-19 outbreak began in Wuhan, China, a year ago.
As the world navigated the new normal, Sindhu Gangadharan, Managing Director of SAP Labs India said the pandemic-induced lockdown and the resulting global recession of 2020 accelerated the arrival of future of work.
The disruption has impacted an estimated 2.7 billion people and more than four out of five people in the global workforce, she said, while delivering the keynote address on the third day of Bengaluru Tech Summit 2020.
The rise of virtual connections
Sindhu called COVID-19 a watershed moment that led to emergence of network economy.
She said, “Virtual networks and digital collaboration technologies have become mainstream and the true enablers of work, shaping new ways of conducting businesses, interacting with employees, and how we connect with larger ecosystem of customers and partners.”
Business leaders are increasingly prioritising the adoption of cloud computing, big data, and ecommerce.
Citing the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs 2020 report, she said that 84 percent of employers ready to rapidly digitalise working processes with significant expansion of remote work. As much as 44 percent of the workforce could operate remotely.
This naturally gives rise to concerns around productivity and well-being. Sindhu said that about one third of employers are expected to take steps to create a sense of community and belongingness among the employees virtually.
The world is poised for rapid tech adoption like never before, which will lead to demand for skills like critical thinking, analysis in problem solving, self-management, active learning, resilience, stress tolerance, and most importantly, adaptability.
She shared that on average, an estimated 40 percent of workers will need reskilling of six months or less. Companies absolutely need to invest in better metrics of human and social capital with environmental, social, and governmental metrics in mind.
“A significant number of business leaders understand that reskilling their employees through industry coalition, private-public collaboration can be so much more cost-effective and has significant dividends in both mid-term and long-term,” Sindhu said.
Road to recovery
The leader emphasised it is important to realise that recovery is not static and will not occur overnight. However, the launch of vaccine for COVID-19 would be detrimental to a major part of what is to come.
Based on Deloitte’s workforce strategies for post-COVID recovery, Sindhu shared five critical actions to for businesses as they chart the recovery path. They are to reflect, recommit, re-engage, rethink, and reboot.
She said that reflection maybe one of the most important first steps which involves making time to bring in different perspectives, voices, and learning from across organisations as inputs to move ahead.
Speaking on the need for organisations to recommit to well-being, Sindhu said SAP’s employee assistance programme of providing free and confidential counselling service proved especially effective during remote working.
With focus on physical, psychological, and financial concerns, she asserted that leaders should recognise the diversity of workers and support employees through the crisis as well as transition to recovery.
“I believe this should extend to well-being at home as well because many of our employees are also caregivers to children and elderly family members,” she added.
Notably, the recovery process can create a lot of opportunities for organisations like to redeploy the workforces and create meaningful opportunities for them. “As organisations, we should prepare workers with the skills and capabilities and this includes providing them the bandwidth and tools needed for virtual work as well as the critical knowledge resources and digital access required,” she added.
She said rethinking work, workforces, and workplaces needs shift in perspective and will embolden leaders in such times of uncertainty.
Most important of all, organisational culture is the strongest foundation which has to be constant, irrespective of any kind of disruption. She said this not only guards the organisation but retains the faith in employees and propel them forward.