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The United States seems to be on a path toward eradicating COVID-19, immunizing its population, and initiating plans for reopening the economy. The health threat still exists, but greater numbers of governments and leaders are turning their attention to what lasting effects the pandemic and the ensuing business shutdown will affect the country’s workforce. Metasys is confident the nation will rebound from the economic hardships the virus has and will continue to inflict. While today’s hardships have vastly different causes than previous ones, we may take some lessons from the downturn of 2008. Following that recession, wages remained stagnant for nearly three years and the impacts reached most industries and occupations. This time around the situation may not be as dire, as the country’s underlying economy was going strong before the disease reached these shores. But we also know there may be more painful times ahead; the economy will need time to recharge, and that will bring consequences to America’s workers. We have compiled our best estimation of the challenges and successes the U.S. economy can expect.
The disruption brought about by COVID-19 has made many components of work and workforce management more difficult. But it has made at least one initiative easier to implement: a policy of location inclusion. Location inclusion is a diversity movement that had difficulty gaining traction before social distancing orders transformed most organizations into remote workplaces virtually overnight. Companies now are experiencing the possibilities and efficiency benefits of incorporating decentralized employees, contractors, and gig workers. Though workers at most traditional, office-based firms still live and work in proximity, the pandemic has proven that it does not matter where talent is located.
Routine, repetitive operations are the enemies of productivity and innovation. Every hour your Human Resources and Procurement teams spend on acquiring, deploying, and managing contingent workers is an hour stolen from more valuable activities. Many aspects of business, from marketing to production, have taken advantage of machine learning and artificial intelligence to free skilled workers from mundane and monotonous tasks so they can perform more creative cerebral work.
Just like the rest of the world, American businesses are struggling to come to terms with the two most transformative occurrences of our generation. To sustain operational continuity and eventually flourish, companies need to implement the lessons the Black Lives Matter movement has illuminated and avoid allowing COVID-19 from sidetracking diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Everyone in business seems to be tapping into the power of big data, and the field of workforce management is no different. The availability of billions of data points presents hiring organizations with the potential to optimize the entirety of the human resources function, from attracting potential job candidates to planning their retirement parties and every step in between. The expanding prevalence of contingent workers only widens and deepens data’s status as a central pillar in workforce architecture.
Using artificial intelligence to identify, attract, and convert prospects has long been the purview of the marketing department. Marketing teams segment customers based on their likelihood to buy and their total lifetime value to the company. Marketers want to know what drives customers to choose one brand over another, when they are most interested in engaging with the product, and what kind of messages will induce them to load up their virtual shopping cart.
Among other disruptions, COVID-19 reversed on one of the tightest talent markets in U.S. history. Even with millions of people thrown out of work and the pandemic’s second wave advancing at full force, the country’s business fundamentals remain strong. Many economists predict the recession to be short-lived. Most industries already have overcome supply chain challenges, helped newly remote workers ramp up their productivity, and refocused on core competencies. Once the economy gets the jolt it needs, the hiring frenzy will resume. Businesses will want to make up for lost time. Once-stagnant industries such as hospitality, travel, and live entertainment, will spring to life. Businesses that flourished during the pandemic will leverage those lessons and revenue to expand and integrate.
Flexibility has become a watchword in the current business and hiring climate. Businesses are encouraged to build flexibility into their talent strategies by increasing the variety of worker types they employ. By making greater use of freelancers, contract workers, and consultants in addition to traditional, full-time employees, firms become better prepared to deal with market fluctuations. This approach assumes the nature of work will change often, and companies should be able to shift their workforce to take on new challenges. Of course, the ability to pivot manufacturing, operations, marketing, and supply chain procedures is a key component of firm longevity and success. But meeting the dynamic demands of buyers, vendors, and workers also requires companies to have access to diverse skills. Hiring workers who possess many in-demand skills and developing new capabilities among employees and contingent workers allows firms to expedite refinements to their go-to-market strategies, absorb market shocks, and take advantage of emerging trends.
The concept of “work” and “career” are undergoing a major shift. The COVID-19 pandemic may have expedited this adjustment, but contingent work is an idea whose time has come. Many workers have pivoted nicely into roles as freelancers, contractors, and part-timers. Some companies, on the other hand, must adapt quickly if they are to remain competitive in the battle for talent that will re-emerge with the reopening of the U.S. economy.
Companies always have boasted that their people are their most important asset and the source of their greatest competitive advantage. And while that may be true, for much of the last decade organizations rarely were forced to compete for talent the way they fight for customers. That all began to change several years ago, as work became more technical, collaborative, and specialized. COVID-19 has temporarily eased the talent crunch, but it already is showing signs of returning as the curve flattens and more and more states reopen. To attract and keep employees and contingent workers, successful firms of the future must approach their workforce assets strategically, building their brand as talent-centric hiring organizations.