Over the past few months, COVID-19 has forced organisations to put downward pressure on employee costs and numbers in the short-to-medium term. Early reactions and initiatives have varied among companies. Some have reduced hours or pay (or both) or ‘forced’ annual leave (reducing leave liability and excess capacity). In some large organisations in heavily impacted industries, the response has been to ‘loan’ part of their workforce to another organisation experiencing higher demand than usual.
As the COVID-19 situation has progressed, initiatives have become more focused on the longer term. Many organisations have imposed ’hiring freezes’ and begun to draw on their internal labour market, re-assigning employees with capacity into vacant roles in other teams. This has created an increased appetite for understanding and leveraging capabilities and potential of the workforce, as opposed to technical skills. And it’s helped facilitate re-assignments into a broader range of roles than would previously have been considered.
As organisations form a view of the timeline for economic recovery, their focus is moving to regaining productivity and identifying their strategic minimum workforce.
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Returning to the workplace provides an opportunity for organisations to make a snap assessment of the extent to which their existing HR operating model is ‘fit for purpose’ in a new and unforeseen business environment. In the event that the operating model needs to change, consideration should also be given to whether HR processes, policies and structures should also change. For example, how well have these supported a distributed workforce? Are they flexible enough to continue to do so over the longer term?
This year has shown us that change can be faster than imagined – or than we thought was sustainable. So how can we take advantage of this opportunity to reduce complexity in our organisations and improve productivity?
Organisations at the forefront will be looking to get their houses in order as they return to the office:
As change accelerates, there is also an opportunity to create a leaner, more sustainable and productive organisational structure by redesigning functions and roles. Re-engaging employees to leverage the strength of teams and the value of collaboration will be critical. And of course, employee listening will be a crucial component of determining the way forward.
There is so much opportunity – so how do you get started? It could be by taking a data-driven approach to your labour costs with insights into market remuneration practices.
You may need to thoroughly review your reward strategy, with a careful eye on retaining top talent. Where talent risks exist, you can prepare with succession planning. And if you’re not listening to your employees, you should be – now more than ever. There’s plenty to do but you don’t need to do it alone. Talk to Mercer to find out how we can partner with you to minimise your labour costs and maximise your workforce.
Is your organisation ready
for the new shape of work?
Speak with one of our consultants today.
To learn how to manage labour costs by optimising the workforce download the 'Six workforce management strategies to minimise labour costs through and beyond COVID-19' or complete the form and a Mercer Consultant will be in contact with you.