Remote Workforce Management: How to Adapt and Succeed

The increased shift to remote work that we thought would happen over time has instead happened almost overnight. As companies grapple with the resulting challenges, we share ideas for navigating this new territory.

Like many companies all over the United States and around the world, Workday has recently made an abrupt shift to remote work. We closed offices worldwide amidst the pandemic and instituted mandatory work-from-home guidelines for most of our workforce. With that move, we faced a lot of uncertainty. First and foremost, how could we help ensure the safety of our employees? Would they have the tools and information they needed to make the shift to work from home, and to do it successfully and productively? Would they be able to connect and collaborate easily? And, could we maintain the same pace of learning and development, especially if mandatory remote work remained in place longer than we expected?

“Around the globe, remote work is currently being tested at a scale never before imagined,” says Barbry McGann, executive director of the office of the CHRO for solution marketing at Workday. “This has been a particularly big change for organizations that had the majority of their workers based in offices. Our customers are facing these same challenges, so we've spent a lot of time engaging them in conversations. Because people use Workday in so many different ways, it’s important to connect and share what’s working to inspire and help each other.”

With that, let’s delve into how we and our customers overcame some of the challenges that resulted from switching to a suddenly remote workforce, and ideas for navigating this uncharted territory.

Maintaining Business Continuity, Safely 

One of the top concerns for us and our customers during this pandemic is making sure all employees are safe. Shifting as painlessly as possible to remote work has been a key part of maintaining business continuity. 

“With employee data at our fingertips, we’ve been able to get the right information to the right people at the right time to keep everyone as safe, productive, and informed as possible,” says McGann. “In the midst of uncertainty, timely information isn’t just appreciated, it’s essential. 

Workday Human Capital Management (HCM) holds information that’s critical for both the initial and ongoing steps of that effort, including employee contact information, remote work locations, emergency contacts, beneficiaries, absences, and so on. As conditions evolved and shelter-in-place mandates began, organizations knew which locations needed to switch to remote work immediately and how to reach all employees and workers in those locations. 

And, as cities and regions reopen all over the world, businesses will be able to employ the same technology to make data-driven decisions about workplace safety, and communicate with the affected workforce about any changes to remote work. For employees, self-service capabilities mean they can update their own information if they have relocated, so the company is aware of where they are as mandates change in various locations. 

Understanding where employees are, physically, during this crisis is critical. With Workday, a healthcare customer implemented several new policies and ways to track employees, including a new tag to track which employees are now working from home or on emergency leave. A non-profit customer is using Workday to assess and implement programs to better support their employees during the crisis, including identifying frontline workers at higher risk for contracting COVID-19 and moving them into new roles. 

At Workday, we also deployed functionality to track essential workers in Workday HCM and provide up-to-date reporting for our leaders.

Adapting Processes to Remote Work

Identifying and ensuring remote solutions are in place for critical processes, such as payroll and sick leave, have also been an essential part of maintaining business continuity. Across industries, customers have shared examples of changes they’ve made to adjust to the new normal.

A customer in the energy sector has used Workday to run payroll remotely, create a new time category to track COVID-19-related payroll costs, and send new work-from-home guidelines to all affected employees. A health insurance customer implemented several new programs and processes in a matter of days to ensure the well-being of its associates and frontline workers, including new paid time off plans, caregiver leave plans, hazard pay, and child care supplemental pay.

In the retail industry, one customer used Workday to quickly implement a safer time entry solution for warehouse employees. Now frontline employees can use Workday on their mobile devices to sign in for work and avoid congregating in the area where they usually clock in. Another retail customer is using Workday to set up a special compensation program to implement pay raises for frontline workers. This same customer is also using Workday to quickly roll out facemask training and to remotely process weekly payroll.

Workday HCM also provides a solution for essential workers who aren't working remotely. A customer’s employees were being sent home by law enforcement because they couldn’t prove they worked for a business deemed essential by local authorities. The customer solved this issue with a proof of employment document created in Workday that its employees could show on their mobile phone or print at home.

At Workday, we have automated the essential employee letter process in 14 countries. The process generates and distributes appropriately formatted and signed letters for employees by office location.

“Remote work has been a massive effort and major success for most companies, and has also pushed the topic of trust, transparency, and leadership support to impressive new levels.”

Josh Bersin HR Industry Analyst and Thought Leader

Collaborating, Connecting, and Supporting Each Other

A positive company culture is more important than ever as we support our colleagues through challenges created by the pandemic.

For continual employee outreach, Workday HCM has tools such as automated campaigns, notifications, an announcements feature (with video capabilities), and alerts to share information and safety measures and request a response to confirm employees are safe. For example, one of our retail customers is using the announcements feature to reach every employee and share critical safety alerts to its entire workforce immediately.

At Workday, says McGann, “we know that building trust and connection is crucial. We’ve created a contest to encourage anytime feedback—peer recognition in Workday HCM—to remind teams to give praise to colleagues who are doing great work right now. This is especially important as many people are juggling added caregiving responsibilities at home.”

A report from Mercer encourages companies to get timely feedback from their workforce on the operational effectiveness of the organization, something we’ve long believed in. “Employees and front line managers often have the clearest insights about the tools, technology, policies, and procedures that aren’t helpful,” the Mercer authors explain. “Now is a good time to streamline processes and remove hassles. Doing so will increase efficiency and probably boost employee engagement as well.”

We’ve been using our own Workday survey functionality to create and execute new surveys—one to gauge employee sentiment and another to survey our people leaders—to help us understand how employees are coping in the COVID-19 environment. Our long-running weekly Best Workday Survey also helps us assess and understand the employee experience and respond as quickly as possible, especially if that experience has shifted in the current climate.

A large part of supporting each other is supporting ourselves by continuing to learn and grow in our careers. As we shared in a recent post, more traditional uses of online learning, such as educational courses and compliance training, are more important than ever during this challenging time, but business leaders are also adapting and expanding virtual learning as a way to deliver personalized and relevant digital experiences to a remote workforce. Workday Learning is helping our customers and their employees not only develop, improve, and evolve skill sets, but also communicate and connect.

Succeeding with Remote Work

Navigating the shift to remote employee management has been a test of our collective agility. By and large, according to thought leader Josh Bersin, we’re succeeding. Research has shown, he says, that “remote work has been a massive effort and major success for most companies, and has also pushed the topic of trust, transparency, and leadership support to impressive new levels.”

To get additional support in this time of transition and rapid change, customers can visit Workday Community to glean best practices from other customers, and find content about navigating the challenges and aftermath of COVID-19 on our resources page. These are challenging times, but we have an opportunity to support the values that make our workplaces—whether remote or at home—better for all.

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