Coronavirus: Prospering Through the Crisis: How organizations can respond.

Abdul-azeez Ayobami .October 26, 2020

The growing challenges posed by the global outbreak of COVID-19 present critical issues for individuals that organizations must assess and address. As organizations and their people confront the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing is becoming increasingly evident: the impact of the outbreak will endure. To manage and mitigate the impact on their workforce, businesses must take immediate action, start planning now for what comes next, and start thinking about what lies beyond.

The role of people and human resource functions in shaping the organization’s response cannot be overstated: the health and well-being of employees are crucial to the organization’s continuity, resilience and ability to rethink its future in the new normal.
“People and HR functions are the first line of workforce resilience during a crisis,” says Michael E. Bertolino, EY Global People Advisory Services Leader.
Organizations must follow an iterative life cycle of understanding and assessing the situation of people and movement, protecting and empowering individuals and teams. We have divided the necessary tasks into five people topics that cover the range of issues, challenges and risks that all organizations must manage.
As organizations focus on the immediate, they must take time to think about the consequences of their actions. “Short-term responses must be based on a clear understanding of impact,” says Bertolino.
Organizations must operate within a clearly defined framework at each stage of the crisis to achieve workforce resilience. The goal is to establish and align leadership capacity to assess, plan, decide and communicate people strategies. There are six steps:
Assess people’s exposures and risks
Conduct an end-to-end state-of-the-art risk assessment covering operational and geographic risks, health and safety impacts, implications for global travelers, customer implications, cyber security, taxes, payroll, and rewards The ultimate goal is a calculated risk index.
Defining crisis scenarios
Identify best-case and worst-case crisis scenarios designed to test your operation’s ability to manage disruption and assess the severity of the impact of current gaps using risk assessment findings and data.
Identify the shortcomings of the workforce
Identify essential business functions, high-value assets, essential jobs or functions, and critical elements within the supply chain. Activate existing crisis management policies and protocols for each disruption scenario to identify flaws within the current workforce model, including qualitative and quantitative impacts
Develop a potential response
Define possible triggers of the response to prevent the impact of the crisis or allow for an agile response to mitigate the impact taking into account factors related to people, processes and technology.
Test a potential response
Execute a simulation of crisis scenarios – in particular the massive distance work – to check the effectiveness of the potential responses defined to validate the effectiveness against the established success criteria.
Create an intervention business case
Develop a resilience intervention feasibility study to implement validated triggers for crisis response, including requirements, solutions and value proposition.
Given the increasing complexity and multiple factors involved in workforce strategy, a longer-term view of the likely impact of market volatility, in addition to the results of multiple intervention strategies, will require a more robust and quantitative approach to workforce planning.
In order to provide a comprehensive view of workforce resilience, the four fundamental pillars of workforce planning and optimization, namely capacity, cost, and composition (or the four C’s), must be considered.
Capacity of Workforce
Anticipating the size of the future workforce requires organizations to consider the potential impact of using digital technology, such as automation, on existing functions while strategically redistributing workers assigned to another location.
In order to remain competitive in the face of ongoing disruptions and generate value for the business, it is imperative to manage costs. It is critical to have the right mix and number of workers in the right place. Consider how the economic impact of the crisis can alter reward and retention policies.
Capacity of Workers
The best way to prepare the future workforce is to understand the future skill requirements of the organization. This is critical for today’s workers because as roles evolve, they will need to acquire new skills.
To achieve critical skills that can be quickly implemented across the enterprise, organizations must leverage the broader talent ecosystem. This is driven by skill shortages, the emergence of new talent platforms and changing generational expectations.
Finally, balancing the short-term cost, particularly in turbulent times, is critical to protecting the long-term strategy. The impact will be felt in terms of reduced revenue due to disruption of the supply chain and customer purchases, increased cost and loss of productivity due to absences, travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, workforce absences due to long-term school closures, and unexpected spikes in health care costs.

Micheal Bertolino – Forbes Council Member
Global Leader, EY People Advisory Services at EY
August 5, 2020.