As the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic continues to push both the public and private sectors to embrace digital transformation, public institutions as well as companies are stepping up their game in innovative ways. These include investing in efficient network systems, cybersecurity programs, remote devices and automated health systems all of which aim to improve people experience.

With another quarantine lockdown in full swing in Metro Manila, work-from-home arrangements are predicted to be the norm for the rest of the year. Digital transformation has become a nonnegotiable for companies who wish to stay ahead. Some of the challenges addressed by innovation include those in communication, scheduling, employee performance management and maintenance of company culture.

How businesses have adjusted

According to Statista’s third quarter of 2020 research results, out of the world’s seven largest economies, the United Kingdom was the most negatively affected by the pandemic.

In the third quarter of 2020, the GDP (gross domestic product) growth rate of the United Kingdom stood at minus 9.6 percent compared to the previous year. In Asia, the GDP of India contracted by minus 7.5 percent. Only China experienced a positive GDP growth rate of 4.9 percent during the same period.

In the Philippines, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show that in the fourth quarter of 2020, the economy maintained its growth rate of minus 8.3 percent, while the annual growth rate of GDP for 2020 was revised downward from minus 9.5 percent to minus 9.6 percent. These numbers are dismal, but businesses remain to be positive as investments in innovation and digital solutions for human resource, retail, manufacturing, hospitality and travel continue to become more promising.

Several business models emerged from the effects of the pandemic, including maintaining a revenue stream, offering online services and remapping processes. While these strategies are being used to help business operations stay afloat, concerns on how companies are keeping their people satisfied arise.

Prioritizing employee welfare

As companies settle into the new normal, the focus must shift to people management. With employees in a work-from-home setup, human resource leaders must still strive to build a culture of trust and open communication. Now more than ever, there is a need to deepen connection ties with employees. Looking out for the safety of the workforce must be done through a direct, personal approach. Asking them about their current levels of satisfaction is clearly not enough. Connecting with employees must be done in a more in-depth, personal manner.

In a study by McKinsey, companies were found to be successful in transitioning to the new work arrangement in the first phase of the pandemic. Advances in psychological techniques, behavioral science, advanced analytics, two-way communication channels and other technologies can help leaders target specific aspects of the employee experience.

However, modes adopted to boost employee satisfaction vary across businesses. While the measures earlier cited are commendable, each employer must carefully consider the right set of measures it will undertake to improve the welfare of its employees, including issues on limited resources. In such cases, being transparent and articulating such issue to employees must be made.

The first way to keep employees satisfied is to listen to their needs while keeping their trust. Employees should be encouraged to participate in events where company leaders are present, like town halls, surveys and discussions. These can be spaces where employees can speak transparently. Through these discussions, companies can collate information that can be used to formulate strategies for effective leadership.

Furthermore, timely addressing employee concerns must be prioritized. This can be achieved by creating digital channels where staff and leaders can engage with each other directly. As concerns on health and safety become common issues, compromising situations must be acted upon immediately via two-way communication channels that can be monitored.

Another way to keep employees’ trust is to develop a plan aimed at implementing changes beyond the pandemic. Open-ended changes made to important parts of business operations must be communicated efficiently.

Company management must also be trained in coaching and training, as they should be attuned to the evolving needs of each team member. This practice builds motivation and trust and maintaining this trust is critical to employee engagement.

Keeping your people happy

Once the workforce returns to offices, companies must be prepared to welcome employees in various aspects. The common notion that the office is employees’ “second home” should be maintained. This is the vision that P&A Grant Thornton aspires to embody in all its undertakings making employees feel that the company is their second home.

As part of its initiatives to boost employee welfare, P&A has recently opened the doors of its new office in the 29-hectare business space of Vertis North. Because of its strategic location that is easily accessible via Quezon City’s main thoroughfares, employees residing in the North can have a hassle-free commute amid strict travel restrictions. As their travel time is considerably reduced, P&A employees can use extra time allotted for commute for their personal activities. They can have more time after work to spend with their families and friends; hence, employees can have a work-life balance. The setting up of a new office is also anticipated to reduce the firm’s contribution to carbon emissions and air pollution by letting employees with cars reduce their vehicle emissions when they travel to a nearer office location.

Business operations and stability are understandably the first concerns of business leaders.
However, boosting the satisfaction of people who operate the business, the company’s workforce should not take a backseat. The workforce is undoubtedly a company’s backbone. Employee satisfaction is not the concern of human resources alone. Improving employee engagement should be a firm-wide initiative.

With Labor Day in the Philippines just around the corner, business leaders must not forget the team of talent behind them. Cultivating a culture of trust and open communication is one step to show employees that they matter. During these times, employers must go beyond the expectations of employees as part of initiatives to help them adapt easily at work which can, in the long term, translate to increased work productivity.

Ramil Nañola is a partner of the Audit & Assurance division of P&A Grant Thornton. P&A Grant Thornton is one of the leading audit, tax, advisory and outsourcing firms in the Philippines with 23 Partners and more than 900 staff members. We’d like to hear from you! Tweet us: @GrantThorntonPH, like us on Facebook: P&A Grant Thornton, and email your comments to pagrantthornton@ph.gt.com. For more information, visit our website: www.grantthornton.com.ph

 

As published in The Manila Times, dated 28 April 2021