How did business continue to serve during the pandemic?
I spent much of the last year with a colleague in Morris County, focused on how businesses were serving, or thriving during COVID – paying particular attention to how their “human capital, aka, their people” were adding to or subtracting from the functioning of each business.
North Jersey Partners, a Northern NJ, Regional Workforce Collaborative, started a new project early 2019, committed to survey and talk with small businesses to find out how they found, on-boarded, trained, and retained their workforce. After getting feedback from round one of our survey, we began analyzing feedback from 75 businesses.
After spending my entire career as an observer of how people add to or subtract to the productivity of an organization, I was fascinated how people showed up and or stuck their heads in the sand during a global Pandemic, how people were led, and how organizations figured out how to get things done during a global shutdown.
Here’s what we found out sitting at the kitchen table, talking with business owners, and leaders in organizations with the magical use of technology … ZOOM.
- Businesses that could manage virtually with a hybrid workforce fared much better. They were able to get the most from their employees and could rely on them for innovative feedback on how to stay in business and get their jobs done.
- The pandemic, while challenging, offered business owners a chance to regroup, innovate and look at their business differently.
- The pandemic forced businesses into using technology quicker and more effectively than planned.
- Businesses that support their workforce have significantly increased the chance of employee retention.
- Telecommuting, hybrid work and technology can enhance performance and drive business initiatives…if done right.
- Training and cross training employees to do cross functional work is a good workforce strategy to enhance performance and morale.
- Business leaders who provided training for continuous work improvement gained benefits but were challenged when it came to encouraging employees to engage in training.
- Supporting the social, emotional and mental health needs of employees pays off.
- Communication on every level matters!
- The leaders who embraced technology, like Zoom and Teams, significantly increased connection with employees during COVID and found that focusing on outcomes vs. hours working at a desk in the office, paid off in productivity.
- Employers that got creative with job sharing vs. laying staff off fared better with their employee’s engagement.
Post Covid recommendations
- Finding skilled, high quality, employees is difficult.
- There were unintended consequences with the Stimulus money to individuals. One of which was a lack of engagement in the workforce by those who stayed home vs. worked.
- Legal and Policy issues are changing rapidly.
- Building new and maintaining current client relationships is challenging in a virtual environment. Using technology well can help bridge this gap.
- Childcare and parent care issues were challenging for many employees. Addressing these issues and finding accommodations for staff, while keeping the high standards of work was a strategy that helped businesses retain staff.
- A hybrid workforce opens up the employee pool of qualified candidates.
- Cyber Security is more important than ever with employees working in their homes – encrypting data and keeping information safe.
Here’s what we know for sure
It’s estimated that 25% of the NJ workforce will choose not to be vaccinated. This creates challenges in the workplace that when coupled with an organization’s obligation to meet OSHA requirements can lead to confusion and an unsafe work environment. Overall, the businesses that will focus on empowering and supporting their workforce will do better because a well-aligned and motivated workforce drives productivity and creativity.
The biggest take away
The nature of the workforce landscape is dramatically shifting both in terms of employer’s needs and employee’s needs. The organizations that will fare the best will be the organizations that understand how to invest time and focus on their employees, leverage the benefits of technology, and focus on the client experience.
Focusing on employee output and performance vs. hours an employee spends at their desk in an office can help a company increase productivity, because they measure an employee’s contributions measurable results vs. time spent moving a mouse.
Reaching out to the community for resources is critical. Organizations like local Chambers of Commerce, Economic Development entities, Small Business support organizations like SBDC and SCORE as well as Local Workforce Development Board can provide a vast range of knowledge, financing, and resources to help support a business’s growth and regrowth as we enter a new point in our economy.
Tammy Molinelli is the Executive Director of Bergen County Workforce Development Board. She can be reached at email@example.com or (201) 343-8830 x4004. For more information, feel free to visit Bergen WDB About | Bergen County Job Center (bergenjobcenter.com).