No one will be surprised to hear me say with confidence that 2020 will be the year that most organisations will happily put behind them. It would have taken a brave person to predict in early January 2020 how April 2020 would turn out. However, not everyone will feel 2020 was a complete failure. Some businesses have boomed, large food stores, on-line retailers, cloud services, communications and Digital providers have all outperformed their own business targets.
Whilst I cannot claim the skills of Nostradamus or even the talents of Theophilus Moore whatever the impact 2020 has had on organisations I predict that 2021 will hold even more challenges for the global workforce. The mass shift to remote or flexible working has irreversibly affected large parts of the UK working community. The adoption of remote technologies whether as rescue techniques or as the catalyst for creativity has placed intolerable strain on so many. There have been massive impacts positive and negative caused by increased time at home, less commuting and increased leisure.
So here are my five basic predictions for the world of work through 2021 and beyond.
1. Simply moving into a new year won’t change anything. COVID protocols will be in place for a large part of 2021. Even as the vaccine rolls out, organisations will have employees who choose not to attend their original place of work. Childcare, schooling, carer responsibilities and individual wellbeing will remain in a state of flux and in many cases, organisations will continue to struggle with remote management arrangements and lack of effective performance management arrangements.
2. We will need to stop talking about a return to an old order in terms of “pre-COVID” and “post-COVID” days. We can no longer cling onto a hope that, “That’s the way we used to do it” Will become the impetus to return to an old way of working. We must start operating in a new reality that is not yet fully formed and will be founded on the certainty of uncertainty.
3. Many employees, managers and senior business leaders have been waiting out COVID before leaving their current jobs. They are growing increasingly impatient with the wait and consequently there will be an exodus level of turnover and subsequent necessary recruitment activity across all sectors of employment in 2021.
4. Traditional managers and senior leaders will continue to find their power and egos challenged by their limited engagement with their workforces and lack of face-to-face interaction and instruction giving. How managers respond to these realities will reveal their potential and future suitability for the new world of work post Covid and how organisations will manage in future.
5. Organisations will need to reconsider what “employee advocacy” really means. The concept of employee loyalty and their impact on organisational culture has changed beyond recognition. The things that mattered to staff and appeared at the top of their previous motivational wish lists in staff surveys will not only be omitted from the list, but they will also disappear from their organisation’s DNA.
I can’t remember a time when organisations had the opportunity to be part of such dramatic changes to their businesses in such a short period of time, even rarer still is the ability they will have to do so in a way that will better prepare their staff and managers for the changing landscape that is ahead. Although it’s not a change that anyone asked for nor expected, it’s the change that will help organisations create more flexible, sustainable businesses that put people first whilst ensuring organisations can not only achieve organisational goals but also new levels of sustainability, diversity, and innovation.