Article: It’s unlikely the world of work will ever return to its pre-COVID-19 state: Leslie Tarnacki

Strategic HR

It’s unlikely the world of work will ever return to its pre-COVID-19 state: Leslie Tarnacki

In an exclusive interaction with us, Leslie Tarnacki - SVP of Human Resources at WorkForce Software, shares with us why continuous reinvention is the need of the hour and how organizations can encourage employees to exercise intellectual curiosity.
It’s unlikely the world of work will ever return to its pre-COVID-19 state: Leslie Tarnacki

The world may have vaccines in 2021 but it still needs the ability to respond and adapt to change continually. No wonder, just like 2020, 2021 will be another year marked by continuous reinvention, transformation, and adaptation. Companies will need to focus on purposeful transformation to tide over the vulnerabilities and create plans for managing a global workforce.

In an exclusive interaction with us, Leslie Tarnacki – SVP of Human Resources at WorkForce Software, shares with us why continuous reinvention is the need of the hour and ways in which HR will be critical to managing the ever-changing world of work this year, and ultimately redefining the way work gets done from this point forward.

2021 will call for continuous reinvention. What are some of the ways you are reinventing the workplace at Workforce Software?

Like many organizations, we could not have anticipated how the sudden shift to 100 percent remote work was going to impact our employees, customers, and partners. Although it is not without challenges, we found our team was able to adapt and we see few signs that productivity was impacted. Because our customers are going through the same thing, we are fortunate to have been able to maintain contact, keep projects moving and maintain our customers’ service expectations.

It’s unlikely the world of work will ever return to its pre-COVID state. At WorkForce Software, we see many opportunities for more employees to shift to full-time remote work or a hybrid work setting in roles we may not have previously offered this option. Even though we have always worked to support a good work-life balance at WorkForce, we also learned many positive lessons about increasing flexibility, which was a necessity during COVID. These types of policies will endure moving forward. 

This shift to a hybrid working model will drive changes to work at WorkForce Software and we anticipate that we’ll learn even more as we continue to adapt and change in line with the ''new normal'' With more confidence in our ability to get work done remotely, we can adapt hiring practices, our use of collaboration tools and even the design of some of our office spaces to accommodate the changing nature of work.

Purposeful transformation is the need of the hour. How do you think companies need to do that in the second year of the pandemic?

As a global employer, it’s clear that 2021 will continue to be another year of change. Variations in the availability and timing of vaccinations, variations in the easing of social restrictions, and variations in attitudes toward returning to pre-COVID activities all indicate that 2021 will require a continued ability to rapidly adapt and respond. 

Many organizations learned how vulnerable they were and how difficult it was to support their global workforce when the sudden lockdowns occurred in locations all around the world. We know that many organizations struggled to communicate with their employees consistently - especially for deskless employees who make up approximately 80 percent of the global workforce. Plant openings and closings, COVID safety measures, and adjustments in shifts and schedules were challenging for many large employers. In 2021, these companies will have to make plans to address those weaknesses. Creating plans for how you manage a global workforce in order to continue to adapt to change will be critical in the second year of the pandemic.

What are some of the policy and process changes that your organization has brought about to reinvent the workplace after the pandemic?

With a diverse global workforce, we’ve implemented a number of policy and process changes to accommodate the needs of our employee population. Investments in improved productivity for in-home offices, flexible work hours, support for workers with young families or aging parents, finding new ways to engage employees with virtual events, storytime, and impact groups like our equity and diversity teams. We’ve spent more time on collaboration tools and adding educational resources to help employees with real-life challenges. Many of these are here to stay as we continue to learn what benefits and options are valued by our employees most - now and into the future.

Keeping employees engaged, encouraged, and productive is more challenging with a remote workforce but also more critical than ever. We’ve added some new programs and made enhancements to a number of policies and plans in support of our employees’ physical and mental wellbeing since there is a direct correlation between employees seeing their employer making this a priority and their level of engagement. There will also be revised policies introduced as we return to a hybrid work model to continue to ensure employees are healthy and safe as we begin to enjoy in-person office time again.  

What are some of the ways in which innovation and sustainability can be encouraged by organizations?

Innovation and sustainability can be encouraged by organizations in several ways. 

With respect to innovation, companies must recognize and reward innovation initiatives to create a culture of continuous ideation, trial, and learning. Encourage employees to exercise intellectual curiosity and create opportunities for new teams to work together to expand input and perspectives. Enabling your workforce to engage in mentally stimulating conversations and/or brainstorms will not only lead to employees that are more likely to stay engaged, but also has the potential to generate positive outcomes for the business. 

When it comes to sustainability, organizations should implement programs to make it easier for employees to participate in sustainability efforts at work. For instance, offering time off to volunteer in the community (with the option to volunteer with an environmental entity) contributes to an organization’s practice of sustainability, and also supports corporate social responsibility. While it may seem difficult to implement other sustainable practices while working remotely, encouraging these practices is still possible. As employees return to work, companies should encourage sustainable transportation to and from work (and even provide stipends for those who take part), promote a paperless system, and initiate a recycling system in the office. For those companies still remote, HR teams might also consider implementing office-wide sustainability challenges that push forth an environmental mission, while also introducing a fun cultural element into the mix.

How do you see the role of HR getting transformed and reinvented this year?

Throughout 2020 as offices sent their workforces remote, HR leadership and teams became integral parts of businesses everywhere. This year will be no different. As many organizations determine how they will initiate a return to work, HR will ultimately lead this conversation and drive the process for a safe re-entry to the workplace. HR departments are no longer simply the place to go for your W-2 or onboarding paperwork. Instead, these teams are accelerating and leading change in the workplace. HR will now be responsible for finding the best tools and technology to support hybrid/remote workforces, designing an office that is proven COVID safe, enabling greater collaboration despite location, as well as communicating these changes to workforces of all sizes. HR will be critical to managing the ever-changing world of work this year, and ultimately redefining the way work gets done from this point forward. 

 

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Topics: Strategic HR, #ReinventToReimagine, #HRTech, #Innovation

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