I have the pleasure of hosting a weekly conversation with a community of leaders in the Future of Work and open talent ecosystem. The goal of the group is to learn together and help our culture and businesses transition to the Future of Work. Recently, we discussed this question: How will companies emerge and move forward as the Covid-19 curve flattens? Will there be a new work paradigm, or will we all be back to work as usual?
Chris Stanton – Harvard Business School
Chris pointed to an interesting data point: while software engineers can work from anywhere, 28.5% of them work within five commuting zones in the United States. In an industry that was already remote, will we all stay remote or go back to the way we worked before? Chris’s hunch is that change is coming. Many organizations have struggled with organizational transformation because of the notion that we need to be physically together to work effectively, but Covid-19 has shocked us into a model of remote work that will likely lead to persistent changes in this respect.
In response to this, we see models developing that are a hybrid between traditional employment and more open work as part of the recovery process. It has been fascinating to see that just a few months ago, 4-5 hours on daily Zoom calls was unthinkable, and now here we are, and some of us are more productive than we were at the office.
Steve Hatfield – Deloitte
The future of work is now, and hybrid work models have now been thrust into the forefront of the discussion. The first phase of the business response to Covid-19 was the response phase – getting things sorted out, getting people Cloud access, getting teams the hardware they needed, etc. What we’ve seen is that organizations that had some degree of work-from-home for their teams or were virtual-friendly have been better able to rapidly get things up and running. For example, a large bank in China had been putting WFH policies just as a perk, but as a result, as soon as Covid hit, they were able to onboard 12,000 workers with WFH capabilities very quickly, and they now boast an 80% response rate in their operations center.
In short, those who had some virtual experience have shown resilience to the new business paradigm we find ourselves in, and those who didn’t have had a bumpier ride. The former have also proven to be better at managing teams virtually and scaling and operating on digital platforms than the latter who are very new to it all.
After response comes the recovery stage and thriving in the new normal. Organizations have to think about how to engender trust with their workforce, their partners, other employees, and other alternative workers in very simple ways.
There are many other interesting outcomes of remote-friendly work. For example, companies with friendly WFH policies are three times more likely to have women leaders and women in leadership positions. Also, we’ll see network effects change over the long run as people choose to live in different places based on climate, the cost of living, or other family considerations.
Finally, companies need to talk about how we stage the return to work. The conversation changes from “why do we need virtual work” to “whom do you need physically working and in what way?” Scenario planning and modeling on who comes back and in what order are important. The new workplace will be designed with regards to social distancing, signs, sanitation and more. This will all affect how companies re-staff and how workers interact and work together in the future.
Dyan Finkhousen – Shoshin Works
Many new business models will come up and will be propagated. Analysts need to ask and prod organizations about why they are not breaking traditional norms and investing in new models. Analysts need to influence the metrics by which executives are evaluated. New sets of questions and assumptions about performance need to be highlighted at the investor and analyst levels to propagate these new ideas from the top down and to help people break free from rigid, traditional, regimented norms.
Balaji Bondili – Deloitte Pixel
On a micro level, many exchanges are being built based on the fact that the companies laying off or furloughing people want to connect such workers to other companies that are still hiring. The economy is moving fast in some places and slowing in some, and informal economies are coming up that are, for example, connecting people from transport or hotels to companies that are hiring rapidly like Instacart, Amazon or CVS. What about these companies? Will they break traditions and change things? When the opposite happens, can they scale down proportionally?
Also, white-collar employers will want employees to come back, so they want to help them find short-term work, and the best places to connect them are market aggregators. These aggregators are now working with employers to connect workers to jobs and new opportunities. This is a great way for marketplaces to educate large companies about what short- and medium-term workforces are all about. Only when new connections and relationships are fostered will we have a new normal, otherwise we will come back to the traditional mean.
Steve Rader – NASA Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation
On the theme of asking hard questions, when it comes to migration vs. an in-place workforce, whose responsibility is it to take care of the workers? Do marketplaces take care of them the way a traditional company would, or does the ex-employer do it for contingent workers the way they would for full-time?
People will remember what employers did during this time. What Morgan Stanley said is everyone will have a job, which was a great way to demonstrate concern. This is important because your workers need to trust you. Some may be coming for physical work, they need to know they’ll be safe or that they will have cybersecurity solutions in place if they are working virtually, etc. The big barrier in the face of the contingent workforce going mainstream is the feeling of security and the idea that, does this construct really work? What are the marketplaces that deal with workforces doing? Even if you can’t guarantee anyone a job, do you offer training or other forms of help?
Dean Bosche – Toptal
The goal of marketplaces is to keep a high utilization rate. You need to manage supply and demand. If utilization drops, we can stop accepting new folks into the network. This happens organically and can be managed. We know when projects are winding up and we know what to re-staff and when. We try to keep holes out of people’s schedules. Once things change, we can work on adding to our network and reconnecting to new projects as needed. As the dynamic plays out over the next several months and we burn through the backlogged projects we already have in the pipeline, we can then reassess admission to our network and see what companies are doing with respect to freelance or temporary workers and what that resource supply looks like at that time.
John Healy – Kelly
Organizations’ willingness to break rules with respect to WFH policies, co-employment, communication, information sharing, wages, etc. will determine what sticks and what does not. Some companies are using thermometers to check people coming into work and are putting in safety, sanitation, and hazard rules, but some companies want to pay you below the rate needed to get the federal subsidy, which is highly reprehensible. It will lead to a lot of questions for the organizations going forward, so for us, the question is, how are we using technology in different ways from what people initially thought, and what rules are more important than others? The question to ask is what rules are you breaking that are causing your organization to find exponential growth, and what are the stories for others to mimic?