(Working) Together at Home – the digital workplace is upon us.

Posted: July 23, 2023

By Belinda Kovachi

Who knew that an international pandemic would plunge us into the future of work overnight? Global quarantines and national lockdowns have left many companies no option but to take the plunge into new ways of working. It seems that soon remote working and the digital workforce will become the new normal. How will your company continue to inspire, engage and retain your people during these extraordinary times?

We’ve been toying with the idea of a digital workplace for a while now. We’ve asked ourselves, as business leaders and HR professionals, all the usual questions. How do we keep remote workers engaged? How will we manage performance? What technology can we leverage? How do we upskill our people to prepare them to be engaged and productive in this new world? We’ve dipped our toes in the water, and in some cases paddled in the shallows and a few companies have had the temerity to jump right in and swim.

How do we start doing what we need to do to keep our businesses afloat and our people engaged? The answer is “it depends”. It depends entirely on your unique business – what you sell or produce, who you employ and how agile and flexible you are. There have been a wide range of responses by South African companies and those abroad. Trends emerging in South Africa are closely tied to the nationwide lockdown and associated restrictions on trade.

We’ve noticed 4 clear categories of workers emerging in the South African context. Embracing the new normal means finding opportunities to engage, upskill and manage people in new ways. Here are some ways you can use technology to engage and upskill your people:

Front line workers
People who are fully employed, whether in the public or private sector. These are the medical practitioners, supermarket workers, factory workers, law enforcement, farm workers etc. The people delivering essential services, keeping the peace and tending to the sick.

Deliver e Learning to their smartphones, and give them access to safety training, brand awareness, interaction skills and product knowledge in the palm of their hands. Make use of quick mobile surveys to gauge morale and engagement. Performance management, feedback and recognition can be delivered effectively online, using social media interfaces – allowing managers to communicate and motivate staff – wherever they are.

Remote workers
People who are able to work from home. Web developers, writers, designers, clerical workers, HR and finance professionals. People delivering support services and administrators that keep essential services moving.

Mobile and desktop performance management, recognition and assignment tracking open communication channels between managers and remote workers. Online recognition apps, customised communication platforms and pulse surveys will give you critical intelligence on how your people are feeling right now and make them feel less isolated. Keep their skills current and build new competence using online eLearning.

Idle workers
People who work in non-essential services who cannot perform their duties remotely and cannot work due to temporary closure of their employers. Included in this category are retail personnel in non-essential sectors, storekeepers, drivers, sales representatives and some call centre staff.

Many of these people are frustrated and worried and feeling stuck. Offering e Learning to build critical skills, communication platforms to stay in touch and to deliver company information, as well as re-skilling people to access opportunities for remote work, are some of the ways your company can keep your people engaged during lockdown or quarantine.

The unemployed
People who have either lost their jobs because of company closure or have not been able to secure employment because of lockdown regulations.

Grow your talent pipeline by engaging this expanding pool of potential new hires. If you were thinking of hiring before quarantine, now is the time to snap up some great talent. Online internships and creating work for unemployed graduates are ways that your company can contribute to building a stronger economy. Grow your talent pipeline by sourcing fresh talent online, and track succession and development of your current employees.

Speak to us today about how you can keep engaging your people during these extraordinary times.