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Five ways to future-proof your organisation post-pandemic

Tim Kellett, Director - Paydata

Five ways to future-proof your organisation post-pandemic

Amid the ongoing uncertainty for businesses that the coronavirus pandemic has created, Reward Management Consultancy Paydata discusses the changing face of employment and how this will be indefinitely shaped by the experience of lockdown and increased safety measures to combat COVID-19.

Paydata has recently conducted many of its Spring HR workshops, gathering HR professionals in online sessions to discuss the challenges they are facing in different sectors. It has been fascinating to hear the shared hurdles they are facing and their different approaches. Here Paydata outlines the five key lessons that organisations can take from the pandemic, in order to remain responsive as more people start to go back into work.

1. Always have a contingency plan
March was spent solving many of the logistical issues raised by remote working and managing a remote workforce. In April, the focus then shifted more to whether organisations needed to furlough a proportion of their workforce. Now, attention is refocusing on planning for a return from isolation and this will vary sector by sector. Construction and House Building companies have been at the forefront of getting their people back to work and now many office-based companies are considering how they will enable people to return to work safely. Some are offering staggered working hours or days; office capacity planning and one way systems are being designed; and technology like Zoom, Skype of Microsoft Team Meetings is being utilised to replace face-to-face meetings in the long-run. Lessons can be learnt from the Construction industry in particular, where there are considerable project management challenges for major civil engineering projects and detailed procedures and software enables them to effectively plan their resources.

What this has underlined throughout is the need for companies to always have contingency plans in place to be able to remain innovative and adapt in extraordinary circumstances. 87 per cent of respondents to our UK Reward Management Survey reported that they had a business continuity plan in place at the outset of the lockdown. Many employers are formulating four to five different scenarios when planning for the future, for example considering a partial recovery by the end of 2021 or further in the future and the impact on roles across the organisation.

2. Consider the long-term ramifications of your approach
Whilst it is an employer’s market, the cost of mis-hiring can run into thousands of pounds of losses. When the country is being braced for a tough economic recovery, organisations must be focused on how they can attract and engage the best talent available that also seamlessly fits into their culture and shared values. Where some organisations have managed to avoid redundancies so far, it is important to keep in mind the cost of recruitment as opposed to retention of talent. Lost skills and experience now may pose problems further down the line.

How employers behave during this period and in its wake will define them in the eyes of their employees and future candidates. Acting transparently and fairly will be a defining factor in how employees perceive the organisation as an employer. It is also important to step back and evaluate what has worked well during this period and what can be improved. For instance, the financial lifeline of the furlough scheme for many employers will also raise challenges of re-engaging these individuals on their return. Similarly, in what has been described as the world’s biggest working from home experiment, Paydata would urge employers to consider whether in fact it was a realistic test of these conditions given that many nurseries and schools have been closed, requiring parents to potentially balance the demands of a full time job with childcare and homeschooling. Speaking to employees about the valuable lessons they would take away from this period will also help employers define what can stay.

3. Communicate effectively and transparently
Valuable communication for employees is often a two-way system, so that employees feel listened to and understood during these difficult times. Being as transparent as you can in the circumstances, even when things changed daily in the early days of the pandemic, is still reassuring to employees who equally find themselves in unchartered territory. For example, determining who to select for furloughing has been potentially fraught with difficulties and poses a risk to employee motivation that can be overcome with strong line management. In some sectors, individuals were involved in the decision making process; some welcomed the chance to take 80 per cent of their salary, whilst for others this was a source of anxiety.

Actively listening to employees can go a long way towards maintaining engagement, particularly in circumstances where introverts may thrive away from the office, but many extroverts struggle with the lack of social contact with colleagues. Our HR Groups underlined how many employers have strived to think of how each individual employee is affected by the policies they set in place, with some providing pulse surveys to regularly gauge employee opinion.

4. Promote fair pay
The coronavirus pandemic may change the way that employers evaluate roles based on societal value. The focus on key workers and how essential these roles are in supporting communities up and down the UK, may lead to greater scrutiny about how we value job roles as a society. Whilst a transparent and fair approach is essential to future-proof reward systems and promote employee trust and engagement, factors, such as the critical care that some roles provide to vulnerable individuals or those requiring around the clock care, may be given greater weight in future pay decisions.

Similarly, great strides were being taken to shine a spotlight on under-represented demographics in the workforce before the pandemic hit. Gender pay gap reporting had been buoyed by the ‘MeToo’ movement, which underlined the importance of scrutinising the opportunities available to women. This initiative was set to be joined by reporting on the ethnicity pay gap, but their deadlines have been put on hold as HR professionals are busier than ever. However, much of the work had already been done to calculate the data for gender pay gaps, so some employers still intend to publish their data for 2020 as soon as possible. It is important for businesses not to lose sight of these initiatives in order for the momentum behind closing these gaps to continue year on year. It will be interesting to see whether the data provided by companies in 2021 can demonstrate they have maintained efforts to promote diversity and inclusion across their business even in the most testing times.

5. Have a strong remuneration framework in place
A strong remuneration methodology can provide the basis of fair and objective pay throughout an organisation. By categorising roles by responsibility and remit, this system can highlight any areas that may undermine companies achieving equal pay and provide a framework to map career paths so that individuals understand how to progress, promoting equal opportunities. A robust job grading system can also pave the way for more responsive pay decisions. Younger demographics within the workforce are driving change by expecting and wanting immediate feedback to reflect their progression and achievements in real time. Agile performance management systems will increasingly be anticipated.

Job evaluation can help with effective pay review management by ensuring that line managers have consistent reference points to appraise their team. This helps to reduce subjectivity in performance management reviews, by equipping line managers with the toolkit they need to allow a unified approach. This helps promote the business as a fair employer, driving down employee turnover; businesses set to thrive in the future should step back and consider what drives their pay decisions and how they arrange roles throughout their organisation.

Remain responsive and innovative
So many businesses have had to quickly adapt and revise their approach during the lockdown period. Having the right systems and technology in place rapidly moved from being ‘business-critical’ to essential for survival. Remaining agile and able to quickly respond to fast-changing and uncertain circumstances will be the defining skill of businesses of the future.

We welcome your views
This is the last week that you can contribute to Paydata’s UK Reward Management Survey before we analyse the results. Have your say now by giving ten minutes of your time to complete the survey and in return, receive your free report.

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