The Revolution in the Staff-Management Relationship: An Analyst’s Perspective
Digesting the tumult of 2020 offers multiple threads to explore for the curious: what is the best way to secure and deploy a vaccine? How much disruption will the public tolerate to overcome a global challenge? What impacts will be short-lived, and what longer-term trends have been accelerated?
There’s little doubt that some organizations have thrived more than others over the last fifteen months, with long-term trends being significantly accelerated. Online retailers have gone from strength to strength, while some traditional brick-and-mortar retailers have struggled and closed. Cash payments have struggled against the use of digital cash, even in normal retail environments. Widespread homeworking has also proved practical, with management recognizing that staff do not have to be in the office to be fully effective.
This last point was the subject of some research carried out by the analysts at Gartner in their recent Quarterly Business Report, which explored the changing nature of the staff-management relationship. Prior to the disruptions of 2020, the relationship was reasonably straightforward. By and large, more benefits would accrue to staff during boom years, and during contractions, the benefits would favor the employer.
A more nuanced approach staff/company balance
Gartner’s research suggested this situation was reversed in 2020, creating a more nuanced dynamic, which will likely last. At its core, 2020 demonstrated the role that talent plays an important role in value creation.
In early 2020, staff exited their offices wholesale, and through a mix of determination, resilience, and ingenuity, they continued working, replicating many office-based manual processes, with ad-hoc applications using Excel, email, Cloud-based file share applications for example.
At the same time, and contrary to previous experience, despite the economic shock, companies did what they could to retain staff. Through a mix of reducing hours, furloughing staff (with government support), or helping them with additional technology and equipment to work away from the office, companies typically worked hard to retain staff where feasible.
This situation highlighted the value of talent over the pure use of technology or data. The unique ability of staff to understand their customers and markets, together with their ability to apply creativity to solve problems, offers businesses an unrivaled capability to create value.
Let’s be clear, the decision not to reduce staff wholesale was not down to altruism. There was a recognition that sooner or later the crisis would pass, and that normal economic activity would return. Governments stepped in to support businesses, staff, and consumers to ameliorate the worst economic effects. Companies were also keen to avoid appearing heartless in the face of a situation their staff had no control over.
The lasting effects, according to Gartner?
Looking to the future, life will return to a normal, if different, routine. One lasting effect will be both staff and management recognizing that employees can be fully productive away from the office, given the right support. Staff have clearly enjoyed the flexibility that being productive at home can bring. Numerous surveys have highlighted that many workers are keen to retain this flexibility in the future.
Gartner’s central contention was that employees and potential employees will expect working flexibility as BAU and will reward employers who offer flexibility over those who do not. The assumption is that employers will have to adapt the business to deliver this flexibility, albeit cost-effectively.
Delivering this flexibility will likely involve a mix of support for working 2/3 days a week at home, and the greater use of shared working spaces. Staff that works from home regularly will likely trade a dedicated desk for a hot desk at corporate offices that will likely have a reduced footprint.
The technology to deliver this – VPN accounts, Zoom accounts, the use of SaaS-based applications for example – has been well proven in 2020 and 2021.
Flexible policy management for flexible workforces
What will challenge companies who are delivering the flexible work arrangement that staffers will prize? Ensuring that the staff conduct themselves properly, and follow the correct procedures regardless of where they work day-to-day. This will cover HR policies, IT security policy, health and safety policy, travel and expense policy, and much else.
Enforcing these policies – which may have contractual or legal implications for the business – is a significant but unheralded aspect of flexible working. It is likely easier to inadvertently breach a policy if one is away from the controlled environment of a company office. So staff must understand their obligations and responsibilities, and always act accordingly. Without that, flexible working is unsustainable.
Delivering effective policy management requires an enterprise approach. Having multiple systems with multiple, inconsistent policies will expose a business to operational and legal risk. It needs to feature a central policy library that is easy for users to navigate to find the guidance they need. A system also needs to make it easy to post policy changes, ready for review and approval.
This system needs to feature controls that assure the auditability and transparency of policy management. It needs to include training and testing capabilities that help users understand what they need to do, regardless of where they work every day. Lastly, a system needs to use automation to deliver efficiency savings and consistent, accurate results.
Mitratech offers a range of powerful, robust, and proven policy management and compliance management solutions that help companies deliver the flexibility that will prove a game-changer for many. They’re solutions that are swift to implement and create value quickly, and are relied upon by corporations across the world, and across multiple sectors. Here’s where to learn more.