HR Leads Business

Sep 14, 2020 | Amy Dufrane, Ed.D., SPHR, CAE

How the Pandemic Can Spur Transformation at Work

Work has changed dramatically in recent months, highlighting lingering inefficiencies and revealing new ones as we adapt to a remote environment. 

This widespread disruption to legacy work processes is painful, but it also provides an opportunity to rethink assumptions about how we work. 

Clarissa Peterson, GPHR®, SPHR®, and Jeff Lesher recently joined me for a webinar in our Alchemizing HR series. They shared some best practices for leveraging transformation opportunities and harnessing the pandemic’s disruption at work as a catalyst for change.

Assess Where You Were

The first step to transforming work processes is measuring what the pandemic changed. Use surveys or existing employee data to establish a benchmark for how processes were before the pandemic. Measure pre-pandemic productivity outputs against current outputs, for example, or use surveys to measure how workplace morale has changed. You can’t leverage change until you know precisely where it’s occurring.

You may find that in some places, not much has changed. Lesher’s research found that in remote work, connections with management, for example, have mostly stayed the same as before COVID-19. This could indicate, he proposes, that those relationships weren’t solid before. This data point provides an opportunity for re-evaluating how direct managers interact with team members. You might find that team members require more frequent check-ins or more explicit communication protocols.

Let the Past Inform the Present

Comparing pre-pandemic workforce data with current data provides entry points for meaningful change. With so much out of our control, we must be agile and create change where we can — starting with ourselves. “We have to show up differently as HR professionals,” Peterson says, “trying different approaches until we come up with something that will help better serve our organizations.” Workforce data provides a concrete starting point.

Focus your energy on where you can make a difference. “If you expend your energy productively in those spaces, you can actually expand your sphere of influence,” Lesher says. Set specific, measurable goals for change. Pilot a program where one or two direct managers interact more frequently with team members, for example, and measure the impact of increased communication on the manager/team member relationship in a remote work environment.

Plan a Better Future

The pandemic has created challenges, but it has also led to opportunities for transformation. Examine the data, set specific goals for success, and then establish a plan to get there. For example, your goal could be to improve work outcomes by cultivating stronger relationships between managers and their direct reports. Surveys can provide data on what works and what needs to change, providing a blueprint for transformation. 

You’ll encounter times where you feel uncertain, but let the data and your experiences as an HR professional lead you to the best option. “If you go into your plan A with an active plan B, you're far less likely to achieve your plan A,” Lesher says. Your workforce has proven their resilience, so be bold as you plan for the future. “We can make a difference like never before, so each of us has to make that commitment,” Peterson says.