Adapting the Workforce to the New Normal

The impact of the global pandemic has caused many employees and businesses to ask what the future holds for the workforce. In this episode of Career Center, host Kim White, E.D. of the Career & Networking Center is joined by a panel of experts via Zoom to discuss how businesses are adapting the workforce for the future.

Kim’s guests include Kader Sakkaria, Vice President of Realogy, Janel O’Connor, Chief Human Resources Officer & Partner of Internal Human Capital at Sikich LLP, Shafeek Abubaker, Partner at OctawareUSA and President of the IL Muslim Chamber of Commerce, and Prasad Mavuduri, Chairman and Managing Director at The Emerging Tech Foundation.

Rethinking Work

The workforce will have to be different post COVID-19. There will be challenges with rethinking how work is done, but also opportunities to innovate.

“What COVID has done for us, as organizations, is not give us an option. It has actually mandated us to rethink and reimagine what the workspace is going to look like,” said Kader Sakkaria with Realogy. “This pandemic has actually forced all of us to break the norm and forced pretty much all the organizations to be more remote. What’s been very interesting is we’ve found so many organizations, or at least subdivisions within our organizations like operations, HR, business teams, legal teams, that are being forced to work from home. Even call centers. We’ve never thought that call centers could be done remotely from home. This pandemic has forced us to rethink and reimagine and actually try a lot of our workforce to work in a remote environment. Working from home changes how jobs are performed, and can affect the way employees view their jobs.”

The Employee Experience

As business is affected, so are employees.

“Employees of every industry are experiencing great loss,” said Janel O’Connor, Chief Human Resources Officer & Partner of Internal Human Capital at Sikich LLP. “This is the time now where you really want to exercise your safety, focus on your people, and really think about culture and engagement, really promoting programs. Even if you’re a small employer, just adopting a communication strategy for being in tune with your people.”

Having numerous support programs and human resources to help keep employees informed and connected is key when navigating workplace culture when the future isn’t quite clear.

The Big Effect on Small Businesses

While large corporations might have more resources to help while dealing with such an unprecedented situation, small businesses don’t always have the same options, and have had to approach the COVID-19 pandemic differently.

“The main categories which are being affected are those who are in personal services, hospitality, and retail businesses,” said Shafeek Abubaker, Partner at OctawareUSA. Businesses with 20 or less employees have been hit hard by COVID-19, because of their sensitivity to adaptability, not having as deep of financial pockets and even with letting employees go, as they commonly have more personal relationships with them.” As far as IT businesses, we are not considered an essential business but we are a productivity tool, helping the businesses to stay in businesses or improve their business and we are affected as well.”

Where New Normal Will Take US

As the situation and businesses evolve, so do the trends in everything from operations to best practice.

“We have now, remote education, everything remote,” said Prasad Mavuduri, Chairman and Managing Director at The Emerging Tech Foundation. “Right now the problem is very very acute, and we have to find ways to work remotely, learn remotely, do things remotely, and still be happy. Just as people have had to start working creatively, they’ve been fighting an invisible menace while trying to maintain steady work. Compared to the last financial crisis in 2008, unemployment in the workforce has reached a very sudden high. That is a real challenge in how to address that, how to lose people and then get them back. Usually what happens in this kind of situation is you lose a lot of people, but then you gain them back, but still some people will lose jobs but this is a situation that is totally impractical and nobody has ever really witnessed it.”

More About the Career & Networking Center

The Career & Networking Center began as The Community Career Center in 1996 to help individuals gain resources and tools to conduct a successful job search and find or return to work.  Since then, the not-for-profit organization, along with a group of human resource and other business professionals, has assisted area residents in setting goals and implementing strategies to accomplish those goals.  The center offers coaching appointments, which often include:  resume writing, interviewing skills, networking, job search strategies, career exploration, brand development and computer skills.  The center also has a free job bank where employers can post available positions and people seeking jobs can look there for a potential position.

For more career and networking tips, watch previous episodes of “Career Center” on-demand.

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