The news is dominated by of long-lasting change to world of business in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Companies across the globe have made sweeping changes to the way they operate – and many of these may well become permanent. Twitter for example will allow all employees to work from home if they wish moving forward, and employees in the UK may soon have the legal right to work from home.

For HR, there’s a human challenge to overcome. Beyond managing the immediate people issues presented by the current situation, teams must make sure they keep a long-term view and do all they can to keep their people on board. After all, it’ll be these employees that secure long-term business success when the world settles into the new normal. This hinges on creating an engaging and personalised employee experience, one where development, wellbeing and relevance take priority. There are many ways to achieve this, but here are a few top tips:

1. Be clear on your commitment to wellbeing

Perhaps more than ever, supporting physical, mental and financial wellbeing has to be front and centre in these challenging times. Providing an easy way for employees to access this support when working remotely and clearly communicating what’s on offer will help them feel more appreciated and secure within their organisation. As we’ve seen, support can range from online exercise classes as a team, reimbursements on online shopping for wellbeing essentials, or access to virtual health advice – there are countless options out there that can make a difference and regular consultation with your people will help identify the most valuable.

2. Kick-start skills

Some businesses have had projects or company initiatives put on hold, in many cases reducing the day-to-day workload of those who have not been furloughed. This presents an ideal opportunity to invest in skills and prepare your organization for the future of work. Widespread remote working has highlighted the potential of technology to augment our roles, in fact it has thrown our reliance on it into sharp relief. So it makes sense to prepare for what’s to come.

Last year, Deloitte found that the most significant talent issue for US chief executives was transitioning to the ‘future of work’. What’s more a WEF report estimated that half (54%) of all employees will need significant upskilling within three years.[1]

Taking this time to provide virtual training sessions and online courses will mean employee development can continue and even advance throughout the period of disruption, preparing your organization and employees for the future of work.

3. Optimise remote working

Many now have the technology in place to facilitate remote working for their people. But beyond having the practical tools to achieve this, employees must have the emotional support they need to work from home productively.

Remote working is here to stay and that may mean adapting policies and benefits offerings to support those who choose to continue with it in the long-term. The approaches that worked for an office-based workforce is unlikely to work for a remote, decentralized one. That means giving people the tools and training they need to do their jobs from anywhere and providing benefits that help them stay connected to their organizations.

Duty of care is also changing for HR teams – with regular catch-ups and check-ins with employees via telephone or video now a standard aspect of the job. Encouraging all teams to check in with each other regularly will also help identify any issues and ensure that people feel supported

4. Make the most of data

HR teams have access to increasing amounts of data. Using benefits tech, they have the ability to see how people are interacting with their benefits, which are the most popular and which are being under-adopted. This helps HR teams stay agile, pivoting their strategy as needed to meet the fluctuations in demand of their workforce in the new normal. Taking such decisive action without insight will be difficult.

This current pandemic has brought new benefits complexities, as employers have to cater for segments of the workforce with different requirements. Employers will need a steady stream of data on how employees are using their benefits to make sure their offering stays relevant. More broadly, businesses are increasingly able to track how their people are working, from the time they spend logged on to company systems to how often they use specific apps or programmes. This can help with future planning as organizations build their long-term work from home strategies.

Investing in the future

The new world of remote and flexible working is still taking shape. HR teams that want to stay a step ahead and keep their people engaged must act now. Optimizing the employee experience, no matter the circumstance, will stand businesses in good stead and help them stay resilient in the face of future challenges.

[1] https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/focus/human-capital-trends/2019/reskilling-upskilling-the-future-of-learning-and-development.html