Article: Going back to normal will be gradual: Keca Ward, Phenom

Strategic HR

Going back to normal will be gradual: Keca Ward, Phenom

In an exclusive interaction, Keca Ward, Global Sr. Director Talent Experience at Phenom, throws light on the future of work and the new normal as we move through the age of COVID-19.
Going back to normal will be gradual: Keca Ward, Phenom

Talent experience had been highlighted as one of the major HR trends for the year 2020. Before COVID-19 struck. But even as organizations move through the age of the COVID-19 world and prepare themselves for the new normal, talent experience will occupy the center stage in the global HR market which is more than a $400 Bn, with over $32 Bn spent on technology solutions. In order to optimize talent experience for millions of job seekers, employers require data and automation throughout the entire journey in order to personalize and optimize every talent experience. This is the gap that firms like Phenom aim to address.

The Philadelphia based leading Talent Experience Management (TXM) platform founded in 2010 by Mahe Bayireddi, Hari Bayireddy, and Brad Goldoor offers a single platform that eliminates the need for multiple HR tools—connects the four key stakeholder experiences in the talent lifecycle and reduces time-to-hire and cost-per-hire while improving talent quality and productivity. 

In an exclusive interaction, Keca Ward, Global Sr. Director Talent Experience at Phenom People, throws light on the future of work as we move through the age of COVID-19

What are some of the changes which Phenom has introduced in the workplace as lockdown comes to an end?

 We’re still following shelter in place regulations, but we are preparing to go back. First, we will observe other companies’ success in the transition. From there, we will take volunteers who are interested and willing to be the first to enter the office. It will be a gradual process but we want to ensure our employees’ safety first and foremost.

I guarantee that we will maintain the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended guidelines at the office. Face masks, hand sanitizing stations, and social distancing will all be enforced. We have an open office floor plan, so the first thing to implement is a healthy gap between employees while sitting at their computers—likely every third desk is where we’ll assign seats.

We will have daily office cleanings, hand sanitizer stations, and we’ll disassemble common areas to avoid any gatherings. Since we’ll practice social distance in the office, we’ll repurpose conference rooms and break rooms as desk space.

For the kitchen, we plan to limit its use to a certain number of employees at a time. And we’re going to provide only disposable utensils, plates, and cups for the time being.

 What percentage of the workforce has been brought back to the office? How was that decided?

 When the quarantine ends, we’ll let willing volunteers go back to the office first. They will be our eyes and ears onsite for areas and rooms that receive a lot of foot traffic and should be cleaned more often. This will establish a safer migration back to work. However, we will not make anyone go back who does not feel comfortable. For those who want to continue working from home, may do so.

 How will HR ensure that people working from home do not miss out on the same employee experience as the office?

 Before the pandemic, we were a hybrid workforce of in-person and remote employees. We’ve been prepared to deliver the same employee experience for everyone by using video conferencing for company-wide meetings and award ceremonies to make sure we all feel connected and all have the same Phenom culture experience. 

 What are some of the HR policies that have been tweaked at Phenom post-COVID in the workplace?

 We’ve updated our Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) policy to include any employee who comes down with COVID-19.

 We have to be very flexible especially should an employee or their loved one have to recoup and recover from the virus. Working from home for long periods requires an elevated level of attention to life; working parents are homeschooling their children and some employees are caring for loved ones with COVID.

 We are discussing a plan that will enact workforce coordinators whose focus is on a COVID-free office space and practices. They would enforce CDC guidelines such as social distancing, mask-wearing, and cleanliness.

I foresee large organizations creating Chief Safety Officer positions and other OSHA (The Occupational Safety and Health Administration) jobs.We will see a new line of health and safety jobs open-up post-pandemic. In fact, companies who don’t hire for these types of jobs could be at a disadvantage in the future.

Employees want to work for an employer who puts the utmost concern on their health, well-being, and safety.

 What are some of the challenges that Phenom is facing while the majority workforce operates from home?

 We’ve made a substantial shift from focusing on the candidate to employee. Companies are in hiring freezes but their internal talent still needs to be addressed. We have pivoted our TXM solution to better enable virtual events, upskilling of employees, and matching employees with project-based work in areas of the company that have higher demands as a result of this pandemic. 

 What are some of the trends that will become the norm in the post-COVID workplace in the coming six months?

 There will be several new trends in our work lives after this pandemic, including:

1. Social distancing within the building

2. Health and safety officers enforcing CDC guidelines and practices

3. Limited or no office visitors and more virtual meetings with clients

4. Traffic patterns on floors

5. Posters and flyers for best hygiene practices and symptom checklists

 How will the employee experience of employees be different in the post-COVID workplace compared to before? 

Since common areas, kitchens, and cafeterias will have to change, we will have to get creative to cultivate that ‘togetherness’ feeling and provide a space for breaks. In the short term, I’m sure we will see more people eating their lunches and conducting meetings outside.

Going back to normal will be gradual, and part of that process will include a portion of the workforce telecommuting the first half of the week and in the office the second half.

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Topics: Strategic HR, #TheNewNormal, #ResetWork, #COVID-19

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