How has COVID-19 changed the Thriving at Work Sector, and New Directions for Thriving At Work Technology Companies To Consider
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a big impact on how many people work from home. Many more people are working from home, and those associated with the distributed work revolution feel that many may not end up returning to a traditional office. Additionally, COVID-19 has led to changes in laws regarding mandatory paid and unpaid time off; while they may currently be temporary, this still opens the door for ongoing discussions about employee need for paid time off.
These changes impact employers and workers in many ways. Some of the changes they may be struggling with include:
- Managing remotely vs in person
- Teaching/Training remotely vs in person
- Hiring, Interviewing, and Onboarding employees remotely vs in person
- Managing group projects with remote team members
- Asynchronous vs synchronous working, and how to adapt these work styles to the remote working environment
- Being supportive and/or adapting to different work/life balance considerations with kids underfoot and at home, personal or family illness, etc.
- Exacerbated symptoms for employees who were at risk for greater illness (mental or physical) prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and how to provide appropriate support systems, remotely.
- Developing or re-developing corporate emergency response plans, sustainability plans, employee handbooks, sick time policies, etc.
- Feeling alone
The COVID-19 pandemic has also forced many executives and managers who previously had primarily managed in-person, to manage remotely. These managers may not be trained in, or have the right technological tools to lead their team, remotely. LinkedIn is providing some free learning paths to address this.
Transformative technology companies working in the Thriving at Work Space may need to consider technological adaptation for those supporting Thriving at Work where their products interact with these groups. Transformative technology companies who focus on educating workplace leaders should consider the differences in communication and leadership styles between in-person and remote leadership, to help leaders learn to adapt to meet this changing workplace dynamic.
There are a number of ways that transformative technology companies in the Thriving at Work space could adapt products and messaging relative to the types of challenges I mentioned earlier. One direction I would love to see considered is in how technology can improve the quality of human to human interactions to deliver long-term, versus short-term benefits to the user.
I believe there are many opportunities to improve the quality of these interactions, across the entire “hire to fire” continuum. Most companies only touch on a part of this continuum (hiring software, onboarding software, employee assistance programs, etc.). While many of these softwares could be considered simplistic forms of AI intended to improve performance through increasing the speed of work, I believe that there is a significant, under-measured opportunity cost and possibly even an adverse impact on protected classes, where these softwares fall short.
As one example, consider technology related to hiring. Most of the statistics I see reported focus on the short-term benefits: time saved in hiring, how rapid onboarding is, etc. While harder to measure, what really matters to the company and new hire, for true thriving, are things like adaptability to change, ability to think fact and act appropriately under stress, productivity, tenure, loyalty, and job satisfaction.
I spoke to an employee who works at a SAS company in the division that works directly with customers. He has been there more than 15 years, so he represents the type of high quality, low turnover employee that all HR managers dream of hiring. I asked him about his hiring experience, then asked him about how the company is currently hiring. In his own hiring experience, he interviewed with humans, who realized he wasn’t the best fit for the job they’d interviewed him for, but that he had great potential for them, and found an alternative job for him. Today, hiring automation includes what he called “robo interviewing.” When I asked him if he thought he would be hired, if he had to apply through the company’s current hiring procedures. He said no. Unsurprisingly to me, he also told me that the “new” call center the company started that hires using these new methods has really high turnover. In order to harness the positive power of technology to improve thriving at work, companies can add value to the industry through thoughtful consideration not just of short-term benefits such as saved time on the front end of a process, but of long-term effects, such as demonstrated in this case.
The COVID-19 pandemic provides growth opportunities to transformative technology companies that can quickly adapt to increase offerings that support a remote workforce. Some of this growth is among companies that were already in the Thriving at Work space. Other growth is from new players who previously might not have been considered part of the Thriving at Work movement.
For companies who were already in this sector, this is an important time to increase marketing and outreach for how products help company leadership respond to COVID-19. For example, VERB did this by making a COVID-19 Leadership Response Pack. Companies who are marketing themselves effectively as supporters for employee mental health are being positively impacted with a greater demand for services. Headspace, which provides a mindfulness offering to employers, has published a blog about how to apply mindfulness in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Both Headspace and Lyra Health, which provides employee therapy offerings, recently announced partnerships with Starbucks to support employee wellbeing. Many other companies that provide online therapy are also seeing an increase in interest or demand for these online offerings.
Aside from employee mental health, many other product sectors are seeing new growth in offerings for employers, or finding new product niches in how their technology platforms can support employers and improve interactions with employees in response to COVID-19. Truework, a personal identity platform that previously focused on employment verification and background checks, recently announced that they are building a tool to help employers verify employee COVID-19 health status. With this project, Truework is seeking to help employers scale employee staffing as we come out of this pandemic in a safe manner. Salesforce launched SalesforceCare and is providing tools to help companies increase safety and wellness of employees while providing technological tools to increase timely collaboration between different stakeholder groups. Koru Kids launched a childcare service for parents working at home. Get Spiffy, which previously focused on cleaning cars, now offers disinfection for cards, offices, storefronts, and warehouses.
Finally, for those who may find themselves unemployed, Thriving at Work support means finding new employment options. Some great companies are tackling this need across the spectrum from recent graduates, those seeking career transitions, to more experienced employees. InternX is transitioning to virtual career fairs. For our technology-oriented workers, Experience Haus is now offering courses and workshops online including in UX & UI Design. Drafted has refocused their product offering to develop a network that can help those affected by layoffs find new jobs by connecting them through their networking platform.