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How COVID-19 is redefining jobs

Mathias Linnemann

The global pandemic has forced businesses into perhaps the most grandest social experiment of the future of work, with remote work policies dramatically changing the way we go about our daily lives. But the impact on jobs is far more profound than just changing where we work. It’s also fundamentally changing what work is performed and how we perform it.

Many businesses have found themselves doing work they never imagined a few months back. Employees in clothing companies like Brooks Brothers and New Balance are now producing face masks and gowns, while Tesla, Ford, and General Motors are producing ventilators from car parts. 

Now more than ever, business leaders have an unprecedented opportunity to reimagine how work is performed by rearranging the way we work to better respond to the developing needs of the business, customers, and workers. 

Businesses need to build resilience and agility to navigate uncertainty. Here’s the three ways we see work, talent, and skills change to where and when they are needed most.

1. Focus on critical projects, not roles

Because of the pandemic, it’s crucial to move your people to the most critical work as fast and efficiently as possible to ensure that tasks of the highest priority are also taken care of first. The Bank of America has for example temporarily moved more than 3,000 employees into positions intended to take care of concerned small business customers and private consumers.

By breaking the rigid job roles, the right talent can be matched to solve developing business challenges and needs in real time. The flexibility to operate outside of existing organizational hierarchical structures are a critical capability to reacting quickly in times of crisis.

Many businesses, like Allianz Global Investors and Cisco, have already set up internal project marketplaces that break down work into tasks and projects. 

Deconstructing jobs into component tasks gives businesses a clear overview over which tasks can be performed by workers from within the company and where outside flexible workers are needed.

If your business is in need of flexible workers, online marketplaces like Worksome matches your company’s projects with highly skilled freelancers with the relevant skills and availability. Using such marketplaces, can enable businesses to add extra team members to critical projects or to backfill a sick employee. 

2. Accelerate automation

Businesses need to scale efficiently to ensure competitiveness, which can be achieved by accelerating automation. Many utility companies have already expanded their use of automation software in recent months to allow workers to operate, monitor, and control systems from afar to ensure that utilities continue to run as usual.

Other companies have increased their use of automation in call centers to handle the increase in incoming calls. Automation speeds up response times and free workers’ time from administrative tasks so that they can direct attention to responding with the needed care and empathy for customers during these troubling times.

Automation is also great when looking for flexible talent. Find a platform that uses automation to match your business’ needs with the right skills out there to avoid having to stall any of your critical projects.

For many tasks, automation can increase speed, reliability, accuracy, and handle sudden increases in demand. In fact, automation isn’t bad for jobs in today’s environment, it’s a mandatory capability to deal with the crisis.

3. Share talent across industries

There’s a big pool of talent out there that business leaders can tap into to build resilience. One innovative response is to do a cross-industry talent exchange, temporarily supplying more talent to those companies that have an excess of work, like health, logistics, and some retail stores. 

This avoids the frictional and reputational costs associated with firing people while supporting workers in developing new skills and networks.

For example, supermarket Kroger is borrowing furloughed workers for 30 days from Sysco Corporation to restaurants that have been hit hard by COVD-19.

This practice first began in China several months back, where businesses started sharing talent, lending workers without work to others that had a spike in demand like Hema and Alibaba’s retail grocery chain. Today, more than 3,000 new workers from more than 40 companies in different sectors have joined Hema’s cross-sector sharing plan.

 

Even though the pandemic has devastating impacts and will likely continue to have so in the time to come, it can also be a time of unprecedented transformation. Reimagining jobs given the constraints of the crisis may accelerate the future of work and open up new and innovative ways in how, where, and by whom work gets done. 

Ultimately, this can help us build greater resilience, agility and flexibility in our businesses, and help people live more sustainable lives.


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