As the country reaches the 1-year mark since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is remarkable how much has changed within the past year. Nearly all facets of life have been altered by the coronavirus crisis, including how business leaders and teams operate. Organizations have adopted new strategies to meet objectives, stay afloat, and keep employees safe amid uncertain circumstances.
Yet with the arrival of 2021 comes a newfound sense of optimism for team transformation. Many businesses are hopeful for a return to workplace normalcy as widespread COVID-19 vaccinations become more readily available across the country. However, even with the potential for universal immunization, there is no guarantee as to how workplace routines will pan out. It will be a gradual process, and it is likely that several components or strategies from the past year will remain prevalent.
With this in mind, teams will need to embrace transformation as an ongoing process in 2021, from both technical and interpersonal perspectives. Through continual investments in innovative technologies like automation and collaboration tools, as well as strengthening communication processes for a more unified workforce, teams will be better-suited for success in the new year.
Process Automation Capabilities Support Transitional Challenges
While the nature of this year remains transitional, it is important to consider that team members and team leaders may experience personal or professional implications beyond their own control. These setbacks can inevitably influence how daily duties are performed, and as a result, teams will need to retain the ability to adjust to evolving circumstances without disrupting organizational workflows.
Automation is a popular, cost-effective tool that caters to this problem, as it enables organizations to continue operations despite internal or external team challenges that may arise. Process automation capabilities improve overall operational efficiencies by removing the need for employees to complete repetitive or manual tasks, with predictable and consistent outcomes. This grants more time for teams to prioritize pressing items and provides greater flexibility for employees juggling multiple assignments.
In the past year alone, automation has come to the forefront of many workplace strategies and is anticipated to become omnipresent across organizations over time. According to a global survey by McKinsey, 66% of business leaders pivoted to automation solutions for at least one business process in 2020—up from 57% 2 years earlier. That same survey also found that nearly half of the respondents who did not adopt automation in the last year plan to do so moving forward. Additionally, recent technology predictions by Gartner indicate that organizations are expected to lean into a concept known as hyperautomation, the idea that anything that can be automated should be. These forecasts highlight how operational processes can and should be redesigned to automate in the new year.
Results-Oriented Information Technologies and Collaboration Tools Drive Growth
One of the most significant changes teams experienced in 2020 was the seemingly overnight shift to remote work. At the beginning of the pandemic, the majority of businesses transitioned to work-from-home routines out of caution, given the many unknown factors of COVID-19. Yet even now, as more information about the virus is known and individuals are receiving vaccinations, some teams are continuing to opt for long-term remote work lifestyles rather than returning to office settings. Therefore, as businesses update their policies with remote, hybrid, or in-person work options for current and prospective employees, teams will need proper collaboration tools and information technologies to support a dispersed workforce.
According to a survey by Spiceworks Ziff Davis, 64% of businesses enabled a remote workforce in 2020, and more than half of all companies plan to retain flexible work policies even after the pandemic ends. This will necessitate additional investments in technology, but with increased investments come an increased responsibility for team leaders to ensure new technologies are results-oriented.
When technologies and tools are indicative of team results, businesses can pinpoint areas of success or areas that require improvement. Additionally, results-oriented collaboration tools offer team leaders a glimpse into whether employees are struggling to meet their goals. By analyzing these data points, teams can ideate better growth strategies, as well as identify where employee support is needed, to enhance productivity. This process can unite teams toward a common goal while ensuring accountability and transparency across the organization.
Communication Needs to Bridge the Gap Between Desk-Based and Deskless Workers
Deskless workers make up about 80% of the global workforce today but are seldom factored into digital strategies, as they do not have traditional office setups with desks or desktop computers. In contrast, desk-based workers typically have access to traditional communication channels like company e-mails and intranets. This disparity in communications tools creates an uneven playing field for teams, and subsequently, many industries employing deskless workers experience high levels of turnover and low levels of engagement.
To overcome this imbalance, business leaders must work to bridge the gap between deskless workers and their desk-based counterparts. One way to achieve this can be through a mobile-first employee app, a platform that enables collaboration, streamlines communication efforts, and fosters employee engagement for all workers. Through an employee app, teams can communicate and receive important information via top-down broadcasts, group messages, or individual chats in one centralized location. This inclusivity diminishes barriers between desk-based and deskless workers and optimizes company culture.
A strong company culture means that team members are more likely to engage with one another and feel connected to their work, which can have a direct impact on a company’s fiscal standing. In fact, research by Gallup found that teams who rank in the top 20% in employee engagement efforts experience a 41% reduction in absenteeism and 59% less turnover. Ultimately, teams who prioritize a unified culture between desk-based and deskless workers will not only reap financial benefits but also inspire employees to show up to work with purpose and passion.
To Transform, Teams Should Expect the Unexpected
While teams have come a long way since the onset of the pandemic, one theme that remains constant moving forward is “expect the unexpected.” There is no guarantee as to how the future will unfold, but such uncertainty does not always have to be a bad thing. Instead, the unknown leaves room for teams to grow and innovate. By adopting new technologies and pivoting their strategies to support team operations at all levels of the hierarchy, businesses will be better-suited for successful transformations.
Praveen Kanyadi is the Cofounder and Vice President of Products at Groupe.io, a mobile communications and productivity platform that connects deskless workers and streamlines operations.