In McKinsey & Company’s deep dive into the trends that will define 2021 and beyond, they preview the ‘next normal’ that we can expect to look forward to as individuals, businesses and society begin to shape their futures beyond the Covid-19 pandemic. The renowned management consultants even go as far as to say the pandemic will define history in a similar way to the 20th century’s ‘prewar’ and ‘postwar’ periods. They call it ‘the pre-Covid-19 and post-Covid-19 eras’.
With multiple vaccines already certified and being administered – at impressive speed here in the UAE – there are green shoots of optimism on the horizon that we can start thinking about in the post-Covid-19 world. But the ‘next normal’ that McKinsey predicts is likely to be very different from what we were used to pre-Covid-19.
As businesses have scrambled to stay afloat by switching – overnight in many cases – to a remote operation, employees’ daily routines have changed. Working hours have become less defined, as people juggle working from home with other important life tasks. We’ve become far more aware of our colleagues and customers’ personal circumstances, as well as the inside of their homes.
But as more offices reopen, businesses are realizing that their staff are returning with very different expectations from those they left with pre-Covid-19. They have proved they can perform remotely, and that they can work to the beat of their own drum. This new-found autonomy will transform what employees want, and expect from their employers. The extent to which they are empowered and supported in their role will be more important than ever before.
This shift in behavior and expectations has predominantly been driven by the rapid digitization that has taken place over the last 12 months. The adoption of automation and cloud-based platforms has accelerated as businesses have focused on driving efficiency and agility – putting a new emphasis on the level of digital sophistication companies provide.
This is particularly relevant when it comes to millennials. They are the future; ambitious, digitally savvy and free from the constraints known to previous generations. Their yearning for the latest technologies must be embraced and therefore catered to. Otherwise, employees will look elsewhere.
Businesses in the UAE should therefore be looking to take advantage of the opportunity that the Covid-19 crisis has presented by modernizing their operations and enhancing the employee experience through digital. This should be at the heart of any transformation program.
The new age
The key challenge facing business leaders is understanding how they can meet employees’ digital needs. It all comes down to giving employees access to the right digital tools and platforms that empower them to do their jobs more effectively. This is what will differentiate companies from their competitors.
A platform that centralizes and streamlines HR processes provides a perfect example. Such a platform can significantly enhance the HR function by cutting down the time-consuming manual tasks that HR managers have traditionally been inundated with. From processing leave requests, to tracking attendance and managing insurance policies, everything can be handled in one place. As well as driving productivity and cutting costs, this can free HR managers up to focus on the part of the job they really love: supporting and engaging other employees. In turn, they will be happier in their role and better placed to support the long-term success of the business.
The same is true for payroll. When not given access to the right tools, finance managers may be forced to rely on complex or outdated payroll processes. This can result in a lack of accuracy and efficiency – not to mention significant frustration. The good news is that an integrated digital platform can significantly simplify payroll, empowering finance managers to transform the way they work while also saving the business time and money. As well as getting full control over pending reimbursements, they’ll be able to keep track of expenses, distribute payslips and renew insurance policies all at the click of a button.
Linked to all this is the role of data. On the HR side, giving teams access to real-time data insights can empower them to optimize processes and dedicate more time towards adding value to the business and its people. Most importantly, it will give them insight into the impact of HR strategies on business performance, enabling them to make smarter decisions. In comparison, having access to data can give finance managers a stake in business decisions, empowering them to drive financial efficiency and support business growth.
These are just two ways businesses can use technology to ensure their employees stay happy, engaged and effective. As a result, they’ll be in the best position to drive success in an increasingly competitive landscape.
The next normal
As McKinsey put it; “The Covid-19 crisis has created an imperative for companies to reconfigure their operations – and an opportunity to transform them. To the extent that they do so, greater productivity will follow.”
But it’s not just about productivity. Transforming their approach to internal operations is what businesses must do to meet the needs of the new empowered workforce. As we come out of the other side of this pandemic, businesses have an opportunity to reinvent their approach to HR and payroll and truly empower their employees in the way that they now expect. Those who don’t could soon be yesterday’s news.