Opportunities Ahead to Emerge Stronger
Plans for returning to the office tend to focus on ensuring the health and safety of employees, but the strategy for workplace recovery should also include strengthening and reskilling the workforce.
“Workers across industries must figure out how they can adapt to rapidly changing conditions, and companies have to learn how to match those workers to new roles and activities,” McKinsey says.
For midsize companies, closing the skills gap was already a concern before the pandemic. The coronavirus has accelerated that sense of urgency. And even though midsize companies are experiencing acute challenges related to the pandemic, the changed landscape also gives them advantages that weren’t available before.
For example, the wide adoption of remote work has empowered not just employees to continue to do their jobs amid shelter-in-place orders; it’s also lifted location-based obstacles that prevented midsize companies from recruiting the best talent to grow their business.
Because the pandemic accelerated the need for businesses and employees to quickly learn new ways of working, reskilling and upskilling are top of mind.
“The focus on skills is starting to come to the forefront,” says Matthew Gregory, associate partner and market leader for Distribution and Industrial Sectors in the IBM Workday Practice. “And I think what you're going to see is that it's going to become more of an expectation for all companies to go through that process of categorizing their skills and the jobs, and understanding where they have gaps.”
Path to Recovery: Investing in Data
For many midsize companies, the disruption confirmed the value of cloud-based technology as a critical tool to sustain the business, as highlighted in the SMB report, “Navigating a Path Forward: How Will SMBs Get to the Next Normal?”
But the value of cloud-based technology goes beyond helping companies survive the global crisis—the technology sets up businesses for future success. After all, times of uncertainty heighten the importance of making insights more accessible across an organization. And bringing together financial, workforce, and operational data will help organizations uncover ways to cope with the pandemic while building a future business model.
In other words, midsize companies that continue to invest in digital transformation put themselves in a stronger position to thrive in whatever the next “normal” looks like.
Investing may feel counterintuitive to midsize companies, especially since many are having to reduce their expenses as a result of lost business stemming from the pandemic. But, some midsize companies might still have an opportunity to create a future-proofed workforce plan by using data accessible through cloud-based technology.
Ferguson describes how it could work: “One of the things we find in medium-size firms is that knowing your people is not just knowing them because you're a smaller firm,” Ferguson said. “Knowing them is having the data that supports ‘do I know what job they have? What skills and competencies are associated with that job?’”
Those data-driven talent profiles can be used to identify skills gaps in the organization, helping companies make informed decisions that are aligned with long-term goals.
“All of that has to come from having the right data at hand to make sure that you're making very informed decisions,” she continues. “So when we get onto the other side of this, you're ultimately having a future-proofed workforce plan in place, which gets your organization out of that wave a lot faster than others who don't have the technology.”
When the economy picks up again and small and midsize companies need to turn to recruiting and retaining talent, it’s a fact that data helps midsize organizations identify opportunities to shape the workforce they need for the future.
“Coming out of this, there's going to be a lot of talent out there,” says IBM’s Gregory. “And being able to take stock of what you have within your organization, understand where your business is going, and upskill or reskill your talent aligned to that direction, is going to be a real game-changer for the companies that are able to absorb the data to make decisions. They'll be ahead of the curve.”