The Future of Work – Survey Results 2020, in conjunction with the East Midlands HR Network

In March 2020 all businesses across every industry were forced to change their working structure due to the outbreak of COVID19. Organisations started to embrace working practice which before they’d not considered or allowed. As months have passed, organisations have been able to recognise the benefits of new methods of working and opportunities these hold for business beyond the COVID lockdown. In collaboration with the East Midlands HR Network, Think Forward Consulting opened a survey to the HR community, inviting them to respond to questions around “COVID strategy” and what they intend to embrace or change going forward.

The survey was open for 2 months and in total, 44 HR professionals from across 13 industries completed the 20 questions.

Out of the respondents, 52% furloughed staff, 81% embraced home working, 47% put in place social distancing at work, 9% made redundancies and only 14% maintained “business as usual”. With the majority of individuals having to embrace new methods of working plus manage their personal logistics, wellbeing and mental health, only 27% of respondents claimed that engagement was decreasing, with equal amount (27%) claiming engagement was increasing due to changing practice. With 45% engagement remaining the same and 27% increasing, it is unsurprising that 87% of respondents reported they would be maintaining remote/flexible working post lockdown.

With increased remote working, it is interesting that 71% stated they would be investing in communication technology and digitising various people processes including; recruitment (62%), onboarding (70%), training (75%) and coaching and mentoring (40%). The shift to remote and online working appears to have influenced the geography from which to recruit, with 47% being happy to recruit from a broader geography and only 18% saying they wouldn’t be open to it. With 51% expecting the war for talent to increase it seems a positive move to reduce the criteria when trying to attract top talent.

Out of the 44 respondents, 92% claimed to be satisfied with their company’s crisis strategy and 52% stated they thought the leadership team worked well together, sharing ideas, making decisions and communicating well. The impact of effective leadership skills can be seen with those respondents stating their leadership team hadn’t worked together to manage change and communicate with staff through stating staff loyalty and engagement had decreased, company pride was low and they were disappointed in the company’s COVID crisis strategy.

Effective leadership skills are critical at all times, but in crisis, are essential for company survival. It is no surprise that 93% of respondents intend to invest in leadership and management skills which is crucial, especially when working practice is changing drastically and management and performance appraisal is occurring from a distance.

It is natural that the changes imposed and being adopted going forward, will influence the company culture. Of the 44 respondents, 33% claimed their culture had already changed and that they would be formalising it as a result; 23% claimed they were going to be reviewing the culture and 19% said that it was a possibility. With the fact that 84% claimed that loyalty had increased and 93% felt proud to work for their company in their response to the crisis, it could be damaging for company’s to return to the “old normal”.

The role of HR during the crisis has been pivotal to success, with guidelines changing constantly. It is reassuring that 14% of respondents claimed they finally had a seat at the table in developing company strategy and only 12% were not involved. The crisis has certainly highlighted the importance of “people” over process and involving HR in business strategy is critical to success.

As time moves on and new guidelines are introduced, organisations will have more scope to make decisions for their strategy; incorporating innovation and learnings from the 2020 lockdown. Let’s hope that “people” remain centre stage and that more people are able to balance their work and personal life for all round success and satisfaction.