Workplace Changes: Prepping for the New Normal

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How COVID-19 Changes the Workplace

Organizations are beginning to reopen their offices to employees. In almost all cases, the workplace and company they left will be a far different place moving forward.

The differences will be evident in things like physical distancing between employees, the ubiquitous use of gloves and facemasks and a new etiquette that relates to common areas such as restrooms, kitchenettes and copy centers. But, there will be more profound differences as well. The nature of organizations will change and in some cases, change in very fundamental ways.

Value propositions, mission statements, products, services offered and marketing messages will likely be different from those of the past. These changes will undoubtedly affect who is recalled and who decides to return. They will also drive modification to the job profiles and preferred attributes for job candidates for new positions within the enterprise.

Re-staffing: the Good, the Bad and the Downright UGLY

Managers will effectively be re-staffing a different organization than the one that existed prior to the pandemic.

Management needs to consider three specific differentiators as they recall, re-hire or recruit workers for their organizations.

  1. How does the organization compare with the pre-pandemic organization?
  2. What products and services will be dropped, continued or added to the offerings of the company?
  3. How well will any previous employee respond to and embrace the changes required to ensure the success of the new organization?

The obvious good news is that there is a large pool of potential employees from which to choose. Regardless if you are looking at previous employees or new hires, the current environment is unique in that many high-quality individuals with experience are likely qualified and available for any positions you might be trying to fill.

That situation will change over the coming months as more and more jobs are filled and companies begin to grow again. But, for now, the hiring market looks pretty favorable for most HR departments that are looking to fill jobs.

The flip side of this reality is the liability of image. Most would expect companies to favor previous employees over new hires. No one wants their organization to be associated with abandoning loyal employees who were performing well enough to remain employed under the pre-pandemic reality.

Andrew Tan offers good advice that relates to this in his piece on stress testing your company recruitment and retention functions.

In the new reality, the most important attribute or candidate hiring criteria will be the capacity to embrace and thrive in a changing environment. Those who have sought out comfort and stability will not be happy in an atmosphere of constant change. Those who feel threatened by new technology, new markets, new messaging, new . . . anything are not likely to well serve the new organization going forward.

The ugly truth is that employees and employers have likely cast their collective fates already. The employee who remains unfired throughout the coming months will face closer and more exacting scrutiny related to these very issues. Why are you still available? The answer to that question will need to be convincing.

Employers will also face similar questions down the road. Prospective candidates will no doubt ask how the company might have responded to COVID-19. Was action quick and decisive? Was the welfare of the workforce an obvious element in the actions taken? How does the new “XYZ company” compare to the old?

Making Change

Loyalty will be a value discussed in hiring conversations and individual interviews for many years.

The old song may say, “Don’t go changing to try and please me,” but the reality is the capacity for change must become a quantifiable value for both companies and individual employees.

Employers must develop the ability to perceive the need for change earlier and the means to implement useful change quickly and decisively. This may require cultural evolution as well as the modification of the organization structure. Technology also plays a role in developing this facility.

For individual employees, the age of specialization may well be over. The more diverse your skill set, the more evidence you demonstrate for the capacity to change.

The vertical-oriented perception of success is abandoned in favor of the willingness to lead on one project and follow on another; to be an inspiring general one day but equally adept at being an effective foot soldier the next. Technology can aid both the organization and individual in equipping new hires, as well as existing employees with the skills and ability to tackle unfamiliar products, business models and markets.

High-quality employees, new or existing, have usually demonstrated the desire and ability to succeed when challenged. Moving into unfamiliar markets or product areas should not disqualify a competent salesperson who simply lacks knowledge, vocabulary and comfort associated with a new product, product line or market.

How the New Normal Prompts Changes for Sales and Marketing Teams

For sales and marketing teams, systems such as customer relationship management (CRM) systems can introduce new markets by selecting and filtering contact files with modified qualification criteria. Updated website content can be optimized for search to facilitate early engagement with new prospects.

CPQ systems can do the heavy lifting in terms of handling the technical areas associated with applying products to problems and pain points that customers identify.

Scripted interviews within the CPQ product will lead the unfamiliar salesperson through the assorted questions, options and vocabulary necessary to address an issue.

Instead of spending weeks in familiarization classes, sales teams can frequently spend a few days learning and becoming oriented in products and the market. With the aid of CPQ and CRM, they are able to approach and successfully engage with new customers and tackle new problems.

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