Harnessing the power of geographically diverse post-COVID workforces

Key trends to consider when planning your workforce recovery strategy

Harnessing the power of geographically diverse post-COVID workforces

Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, organisations have had to grapple with rethinking the traditional ways of working. Many are reviewing their strategies to build a future-ready workforce and ensure the effective engagement of their key asset – people. One of the challenges is bringing together globally dispersed team members against a backdrop of hybrid working arrangements to create a cohesive and productive workforce. Four key aspects to consider when addressing this issue are: building a collaborative culture, effective communication, how talent management is evolving, and looking beyond the traditional scope of candidates in the war for talent. 

Create a culture of collaboration

Creating a culture of community and connection, particularly in a digital world, is key. This creates a sense of belonging through bonding and the creation of personal connections. It supports building team connection through commonalities and shared experiences, which is often a contributing factor in creating higher levels of engagement.

Another important aspect in creating a culture of collaboration is having a clear customer value proposition. This creates alignment for employees in understanding the benefits the organisation delivers to the end customer and creates a sense of purpose for the greater good within an organisation.

In creating a collaborative culture, managers play a critical part in building high performing teams as hybrid work becomes increasingly common. The role of the manager is currently evolving as it becomes even more critical to create positive team dynamics. When managing a geographically diverse workforce, consistency in experience and level of connections across all team members is key to ensure inclusion.

Managers should also consider developing an approach to enable team members to balance priorities outside work, which varies from caring commitments to personal well-being. Engagement no longer means presentism and face time to many.

When teams do have the opportunity to gather in an office setting, managers need to be purposeful and create opportunities for group meetings such as collaborative brainstorming sessions. This extends beyond the team that each leader is directly responsible for. Leaders should look for opportunities to create cross-functional connections to facilitate collaboration and build competitive advantage for the organisation.

The increasing use of work-from-anywhere talent is driving demand for flexibility and customized compensation, according to experts.

Communication

Clear and consistent communication is a key factor for success. It is necessary to create teams who are able to connect, communicate and work effectively together, especially in a digital world. Technology such as messaging tools and team pages can help facilitate this.

It is also helpful for managers and employees to understand how communication styles can vary within the team to foster teamwork. People receive, digest and socialise information very differently. While some like to debate and brainstorm openly on the spot, others may prefer to be prepared in advance and share feedback in a more bespoke setting. It is important for every team member to have awareness of how these dynamics contribute to effective teamwork and prevent “group think.”

In a team that is spread across the globe, time zone and cultural differences often come into play. Team members need to be culturally aware to prevent any potential misinterpretation of behaviours that may be counterproductive to building effective communication channels.

Four out of 10 workers who quit during the pandemic are considering returning to their previous employers, with nearly one in five doing so, a study found.

Talent management

The process for hiring high-calibre employees is often time consuming and maintaining engagement levels with “superstar employees” can also be challenging. Whilst material offerings seem to be a commonly used approach to retain talent, their impact on employee retention tends to yield less favourable results. This reason being that it often means that the relationship between employer and employee is transaction focused. A way to counteract this is for managers and leaders to build loyalty through empathy and compassion.

Another factor is placing an emphasis on job design. This results in an interactive process to create a job scope that is challenging yet achievable, which yields a personal sense of satisfaction. Complementary to the concept of job design, career development is another important area organisations should invest in. Anticipating what future workforce skills will be necessary in an increasingly tech-enabled future plays an important feature in identifying how to support the current workforce in developing these skills. Instilling a curiosity and keenness for lifelong learning ensures that employees can adapt to future organisational needs. This creates a resilient and agile workforce that can respond quickly to potential disruptive change.

In addition, talent management is no longer only about recruitment, performance management, compensation, and retention. There is increased emphasis on how talent management processes contribute to the creation and maintenance of company values and positive cultures. For example, with the increased focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as giving back to the communities, how can organisations’ talent management systems and processes embed such values?

Remote work is here to stay and employers should invest in good benefit packages for the remote workforce.

Looking beyond traditional candidates to grow the talent pool

The option of remote working has resulted in geographic barriers being broken down at a faster rate due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For employers, this means that organisations are now able to consider candidates in a global talent pool, which helps to ease the burden in a highly competitive market. Many job applicants are also in favour of roles with flexible work arrangements. In bringing this together, organisations need to be mindful of the legal and regulatory considerations that come into play when adopting a global talent pool model. With the constant evolution in workplace models post-pandemic, it is imperative to adopt an effective risk management framework given the numerous considerations in managing a geographically diverse workforce. The risk framework and needs of an organisation’s workforce should also be reassessed regularly to ensure it is current.

The COVID-19 pandemic has driven the pace of change in rethinking the definition of a productive workforce. A well-thought-out strategy, coupled with effective execution, puts organisations on the path to success in navigating the post-pandemic environment to harness opportunity and transform the way workforces have traditionally been managed. It is truly an exciting time to be creating impactful change. 

Simon McConnell is Chair of the Asia Pacific Board and Partner in Clyde & Co’s Hong Kong office, Thomas Choo is Managing Partner of Clyde & Co’s Singapore office, and Ruby Cheuk is a senior associate with Clyde & Co in Hong Kong.

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