The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, but we’re finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel as more and more people get vaccinated. With the end of the pandemic comes the uncertainty of what the future of the workforce, employee management, and employee experiences will look like from an HR lens. The past year has completely reset existing work trends and priorities for most HR professionals, so it’s time to pick up the pieces and pave the way to post-COVID recovery. Here are some trends that are here to stay post-COVID, and some tips for how HR can prepare.
Post-COVID Workforce Trends
1. Remote work is here to stay
Though COVID-19 vaccine distribution means that it may soon be safe to go back into the office, HR pros should understand that the remote/hybrid work model is here to stay. A Gartner poll showed that almost 50% of employees will continue to work remotely for at least part of the time, even after the pandemic is over.
HR managers should expect to plan around this new scenario, by optimizing employee onboarding processes, re-evaluating communication methods, streamlining day-to-day HR tasks, revisiting performance management plans, and tackling new employee engagement tactics for the remote age.
How HR should prepare:
Go paperless. A modern HRIS like GoCo will make all the difference for remote onboarding, benefits administration, payroll, and data management. When your team is working remotely, you’ll want a centralized “filing cabinet” for accessing all team info.
Onboard new hires digitally. If the remote model is here to stay, you may not even meet your employees in-person before they start. Use an employee onboarding platform to send digital offer letters, let them enroll in benefits online, and set onboarding tasks so that your employees know exactly how to get set-up.
Increase touch points and emphasize communication between you and your team. With the entire team scattered across town (or the world), it can be more difficult to gauge how your employees are doing, where they may be blocked, and how you can support them. Set up frequent check-in meetings and calls.
Review or create a remote work policy. Research best practices and take a role-specific approach to make sure policy is inclusive to all. Use your HRIS document management system to update policies and send updates to your team for digital acknowledgment.
2. Increase in automation
Pandemic-induced automation will make a massive impact in the lives of HR managers and business owners as well. Human resources is often thought of as an extremely manual department process, and managers are typically getting the work done on their own. If utilized correctly, automation will take tedious busy work off of the plates of HR managers so they can focus on high-value, people-first tasks.
Processes that were previously manual, like HR checklists, new hire paperwork, and reimbursement requests are likely to stay online after the pandemic. Automation will likely impact every part of the business -- whether it be factories using new technology to increase productivity or your employees using new software to organize their work.
How HR should prepare:
Automate and standardize your existing workflows to save time. HR workflow software like GoCo gives you the option to transform your frequently used checklists and processes into a custom automated workflow, assign specific employees, due dates, and track timelines. Here are some common processes you can choose to automate with workflow software:
Shift your focus to your people. We’ll cover this a bit more in depth below, but freeing up time with automation means you’ll have additional time to analyze your HR data, make smart business decisions, and collaborate with leadership on employee engagement practices.
3. Increase in contractors & contingent workers
A recent Gartner report finds that due to the financial impacts of COVID-19, 32% of organizations are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers/contractors. Post-COVID, we expect to see the trend continue, which means that HR will be exposed to new, non-standard work models, time-tracking, talent sharing, and workforce management methods.
How HR should prepare:
Make sure you can fully support your contractors. An all-in-one HR software like GoCo comes with features to support businesses that hire contractors. An increase in contingent workers means you’ll need:
Simplified contractor agreements & documents. GoCo’s document management technology allows you to add customization to NDAs, statements of work, scope of services, and non-compete agreements.
Custom work group capabilities. Make sure you can track hours worked against customers, projects, tasks, and more.
Multiple time tracking policies. You’ll want to efficiently set up time-tracking policies specific to contractors, instead of standard clocking in/out.
Automated onboarding workflows. HR should prepare to build standardized contractor workflow templates, assign tasks accordingly, and track the status of tasks.
Simplified license collection. Easily collect documents like licenses, and receive notifications when they expire, with an HRIS.
Exports of new contractors. Seamlessly hire contractors through ATS systems and export them into your HRIS as easily as standard employees.
Have a process for communications with contingent workers. These are valued team members as well, and you’ll want to make sure they have everything they need to successfully help your business.
4. Emphasis on employee experience, treatment, and inclusiveness
Perhaps one of the toughest challenges that COVID-19 has brought is a lack of community and employee engagement processes. Post-COVID, we expect HR to play an expanded role in every aspect of an employee’s life, from their mental to physical health. The majority of employees faced new hardships in the past year from the shift to remote work, whether that be the feeling of isolation, or the struggle to juggle personal life and work life. HR’s role is expected to shift as the employee experience shifts with it.
How HR should prepare:
Revisit how you collect feedback. There may be a sense of disconnect between direct reports and managers, or how your team is connecting to the community at large. Create weekly surveys to gather feedback, and encourage Walk & Talks or frequent check-ins between employees.
Remind everyone of your company benefits. Whether it’s telehealth options or even mental health support programs, make sure you remind your employees about their resources on a regular basis, to keep it top-of-mind. It may also be a great idea to look into guided meditation subscriptions like Headspace for your employees.
Host more virtual social events. From virtual coffee breaks to game nights and happy hours, your employees may be craving social interactions after over a year of isolated work. Here at GoCo, we host new virtual happy hours every month, have themed days, and consistently ask for more feedback on how to keep the fun alive.
Think about how to support working parents. Allow for flexible work schedules, stay on top of local school regulations, shorten and record meetings, or even establish an education assistance program. It isn’t certain what school schedules will look like, or how the return to school will look yet. Use your document management system to update work policies to reflect these changes.
Consistently work to be more inclusive. Open up a dialogue with your employees on what leadership, your company, and your employees can do to better support DEI initiatives. Take it a step further and review your key workplace policies for potentially discriminatory verbiage. Revisit:
Employee pay review and benefits
Conditions of service
5. Finances & payroll under a microscope
The majority of industries felt a financial impact due to the pandemic -- for most, it was a negative impact. Businesses, particularly small to medium sized businesses, continue to struggle with finances and finding extra wiggle room for spend. Because of this, HR managers are expected to continue reviewing finances and payroll under a microscope. Making sure payroll, job costing, and additional expenses are properly accounted for will be crucial in the coming months.
How HR can prepare:
Minimize payroll errors. With potentially tighter budgets moving into post-COVID times, make sure you aren’t making any costly mistakes as you run payroll. An HR payroll software like GoCo can automate employee changes, benefit deductions, final paycheck calculations, and pull custom reports so you don’t run into errors.
Review your time-tracking system. If your business runs on a time clock system, inaccurate time-tracking can be detrimental for job costing and business calculations. Investing in an employee time tracking kiosk can help track costs associated with specific areas of your workforce, and use photo capture to ensure buddy-punching is not present.
Stay compliant. From employment eligibility to taxes and even ACA compliance, HR managers are tasked with completing a variety of compliance documents that could result in costly compliance issues. Make sure you have a centralized record-keeping system, where you can easily store and track all of your team’s essential documents and information.
No one knows for sure all of the changes that will come once the pandemic is over, but HR can use learnings from the past year to anticipate trends for the coming year. If you're ready to start streamlining your HR processes, GoCo's here to help! Take a free tour of our modern HRIS today.