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Effective Leadership and Workforce Management during the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond

The coronavirus pandemic is forcing businesses and organizations, virtually all of whom have no previous similar experience as a point of reference, to adopt new measures for managing their workforce which has now been broken up into coronavirus-determined categories:

  • Employees who continue to work on-site
  • Employees who can work remotely and continue to do so
  • Non-remote employees who can work remotely with proper support
  • Employees who can no longer work for various reasons

Workforce Principles for the COVID-19 Pandemic, the whitepaper released by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in March 2020, identifies 5 guiding principles that organizations can work with to chart a responsible course of action that achieves the right balance between short-term pressures and medium- to longer-term organizational needs:

1. See this crisis as a defining leadership moment—and continue delivering the best possible outcomes for all stakeholders.

As trying as the time is, it is also an opportunity for organizations to strengthen or modify their leadership, as they soldier on with a view to be better positioned to deal with other crises in the future. It also requires everyone to stay true to the purpose, values, principles, and culture of an organization. Effective leadership can make the difference because it’s the kind that motivates and transforms people.

2. Adopt an agile and continuous learning mind-set to ensure a recalibrated response to the circumstances at hand.

The global scale of the crisis means modern-day business cannot escape its effects, in one aspect or another—a scenario that calls for leaders to respond quickly and to innovate, as well as adapt to rapid system and regulation changes.

3. Understand the perspectives of and engage all stakeholders (e.g., employees, shareholders, customers, suppliers, unions, healthcare providers, community) in decision making.

To ensure effective workforce management, leaders have to stay up-to-date on the shifting needs and priorities of all stakeholders and the evolving state of competitive and innovative practices.

4. Focus on the intersection of employee and company well-being.

With businesses’ seeing serious dips in their revenues, leaders are faced with the impossible demand of meeting shareholder needs while the well-being of employees, especially the most vulnerable ones, is under serious threat. Great workforce management, however, requires a clear view of how the risks to—and benefits of—employee well-being and company well-being align.

5. Make decisions and take actions that take into account medium-term needs and longer-term business objectives.

Leaders have to resist making quick decisions that seem perfect for the rapidly shifting and uncertain environment but don’t actually help lay the groundwork for the longer-term sustainability of the business.

WEC’s white paper also identifies 4 workforce management practices that would help organizations ride out the COVID-19 health crisis:

1. Prioritize planning, well-being and communication.

Companies need to put a premium on the following:

  • Clear articulation of key policies and procedures
  • Empowerment of local leaders and managers with tools and information
  • Prioritization of empathic and personalized communications


2. Focus on employee experience, engagement, and motivation.

Leaders need to focus on the following actions to help improve employee experience, engagement and motivation:

  • Leading with integrity and purpose
  • Being active with employee listening
  • Connecting employees using new technologies


3. Ensure responsible work redesign.

Organizations should consider the following action areas in relation to work design:

  • Sustainable management of the shift to flexible/remote working
  • Incorporating contingent labor in a responsible manner
  • Considering a cross-industry talent exchange as a means for “sharing” talent
  • Use of the opportunity afforded by coronavirus disruption to make progress toward the agenda of upskilling and reskilling for the long term


4. Balance short-term cost concerns with medium-term resilience and rebound.

The areas that should be considered for both businesses and their workers to be able to rebound after the crisis are as follows:

  • Protection of jobs and elements of total rewards
  • Focus on the financial well-being of the most vulnerable employees
  • Adaption of a segmented view of the workforce

Start rebuilding your workforce through inspiration and innovation in the face of crisis. We are here to offer workforce management solutions, including powerful recruiting and onboarding tools that can get you on your way. Let’s talk about what’s best for your business.

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This article provides general information and shouldn’t be construed as legal or HR advice. Since employment laws may change over time and can vary by location and industry, please consult a lawyer or HR expert for advice specific to your business. You can also contact Payroll Systems to inquire about our HR support services.