One thing is certain, and that is that the COVID-19 pandemic has shone an uncomfortable spotlight on how challenging it can be for businesses of every size, and across every industry, to continue with business during times of crisis.

“So much has happened over the last three months since we’ve been put in lockdown,” says Sandra Crous, Managing Director of payroll and human capital management software, PaySpace. “No one knew what to expect. At first everyone moved to home offices, but soon realised it is much bigger than that. It has exposed how important ensuring continuity of business operations really is.”

According to her, businesses need to future-proof themselves, to ensure they are able to perform mission-critical work under a wide range of circumstances. “It is about preparing your business for this, and other catastrophes.”

She cites the example of cloud payroll users, versus legacy hosted users. “Very few companies have truly merged to proper digital operations. COVID-19 has been a wakeup call for many businesses, in the payroll world, everything has to continue, and HR departments had very little policies in place that spoke to how remote employees would work, how to measure productivity, how leave policies would work, or how remote working would be managed.” 

While governments and health officials were doing their best to contain the spread of the virus, as well as mitigate its impact, organisations across the globe found themselves in various stages of preparedness, from scrambling to react, to semi-prepared, to proactively carrying on with business as usual.

Unfortunately, Crous says COVID-19 has shown many businesses how woefully unprepared they were to deal with such an unprecedented and global crisis. “Now that we’re in the throes of the crisis, we are seeing that the companies who were prepared and who were already agile and had digitised their offices, and are able to assure their staff of a brighter future.”

These are the organisations who are adaptable, who have broadened their employees’ skill sets, who have been able to carry on as usual, moving staff around to where they are needed within the business. “This is the new way of working, and forward-thinking companies are viewing this as an opportunity.”

The companies who were less prepared, she said, are now asking how to remain relevant, and upskill employees to enable them to be moved to different roles. “The unprepared are now faced with thinking about how to re-skill from scratch. These days it isn’t feasible to only use employees for a single task. Ensure they have a broader view, a wider set of skills, and more knowledge and apply their skillsets across the organisation.”

COVID-19 has highlighted the need for a truly agile workforce, and it has to be prioritised now, Crous says. “Businesses have to make sure they can deploy the right skills in different areas when times are tough, and this is true of every industry. Maintaining momentum has become critical, and key to business survival.”

Speaking of how HR will look after COVID-19, Crous says: “The pandemic has challenged us, and pushed us to be more creative. There’s no more business as usual. The only way to survive is to be more agile, adopt fluid teams, encourage broader skillsets, and have a very adaptable mindset. We have also seen cases where productivity went up, as people travelled less and increased working hours. That for me is phenomenal.”

No-one was really ‘ready’ for this, but we have seen a lot of businesses transforming, she ends. “For example, distillers which were once making craft gin or vodka, are now making hand sanitiser. Fashion labels are now making masks and other protective wear for essential service workers. When pushed out of a comfort zone, people will be more innovative.”

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