Creating an agile people strategy: Early lessons learned from the pandemic

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December 22, 2020

Recently, the vice president from a leading global financial services provider joined the Infor team for a webinar discussing some of the lessons learned in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the disruption caused by this new “abnormal,” companies have responded by squeezing multiple years’ worth of digital adoption initiatives into a handful of weeks. To survive, they’ve been forced to become more agile and adaptable, whether they’ve wanted to be or not.

What are some of the takeaways from this tumultuous year? How have companies fundamentally changed their approach to business, and which of those changes will outlive the current crisis? Following are a few of the highlights from this thought-provoking session.

Maintaining the safety and health of employees and customers

Job One for most businesses has been to ensure the health and safety of their workforce and customers. For those that provide essential services, they needed to provide ongoing access to physical locations, which translated into reformatting workspaces for effective social distancing—while also accommodating different staffing models that allow high-risk employees to work remotely but still collaborate effectively. The pandemic has also triggered a rediscovery of the essential nature of employee interaction. Companies learned that facilitating that interaction without jeopardizing employee health was a mission-critical priority.

There was no best-practice playbook for this new way of work. Companies had to create their own guidelines for everything from how to combine on-site and remote work models to how to enforce social distancing protocols in elevators.

Empowering the workforce for recovery and continuity

Companies saw dramatic — and sometimes unpredictable— swings in demand and workloads. Some underwent eye-popping increases in business activity while others dealt with unprecedented drops. In many cases, one area within a single enterprise would experience spikes in demand, while others went dormant. In these cases, businesses learned to pinpoint where they had unused capacity and personnel and reallocated those resources in real-time to meet demand. This meant creating virtual training to equip existing staff with new skills, tracking the productivity of remote workers, and improving visibility into employee performance and well-being metrics. Ultimately, businesses found that connectivity and collaboration are indispensable ingredients for continuity.

Optimizing staffing amid changing demand

Even though a vaccine has become available recently, we still don’t know when it will be safe for a return to the workplace and the resumption of in-person interaction. However, many businesses discovered something surprising: they can pivot much more quickly and effectively than they thought, and they want to preserve that flexibility to help them adapt to future challenges. They want to retain the ability to redistribute staffing and move talent to where it’s needed, when it’s needed. They want to put the people with the right skills in a position to contribute. And they want to maintain the flexibility to reassign roles and redirect resources at the drop of a hat. In other words, they know an unforeseeable crisis will occur again at some point, and they want the ability to optimize staffing to meet the challenge head-on.

Enabling flexible and transparent workforce operations

Not everyone adapts to remote work in the same way. Some temperaments are better fits than others. While some level of remote work is a necessity for the time being, businesses will need to rethink basic hiring and management processes for a work paradigm that will continue to be standard practice for many enterprises. HR leaders will need the ability to better understand how new hires and longtime staff fit with the company culture—and how they’ll contribute to that culture in a remote work scenario. They also need insight into how well individuals can thrive without constant in-person supervision. The key to generating these insights is the data and analytics that help determine the right mix of remote and on-site roles and the behavioral components that identify the aptitude for different types of work.

Developing an innovative and adaptable workforce

One of the silver linings behind the corporate response to the pandemic was the excuse to be creative and try new things. Businesses had the latitude to experiment with new practices and rethink conventional approaches. They learned that they can make sweeping structural changes to the business much quicker than they thought, and they found they could eliminate many steps from processes without affecting quality and productivity. They’ve reimagined workflows and embraced a data-driven approach to problem-solving. These changes have also created new opportunities for employees. Many have discovered that they thrive in a more challenging environment and they’re looking to upskill and reskill to help them advance their career prospects.

For more on how Infor can help you put to work the lessons you’ve learned in your pandemic response, visit

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