A report on the Future of Work After Covid, released by McKinsey in February 2021 identified that the pandemic accelerated existing trends in remote work, e-commerce and automation.
The report identified a number of considerations for employees and businesses alike.
Remote work and virtual meetings are likely to continue, albeit less intensely than at the pandemic’s peak.
COVID-19 may propel faster adoption of automation and AI
Companies and policymakers can help facilitate workforce transitions.
When considered from a B2B perspective, these trends each present challenges and opportunities for both marketers and their organizations.
Remote work and virtual meetings are likely to continue alongside a significant growth in e-commerce
LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends Report highlighted that 72% of talent professionals agree that workplace flexibility (the option for employees to work when and where they choose) is extremely important in shaping the future of recruiting and talent.
The most obvious impact on Covid on the labor market is the dramatic increase in employees working remotely – accelerating the findings from the LinkedIn report in 2019 faster than anyone could have imagined. Ledger Bennett have long advocated the increased agility and the efficiency of workforce planning provided by remote and flexible workers, as it’s a model we’d adopted and refined long before the pandemic.
However, the speed at which it’s happened might have left some businesses reeling, and it’s not a model that will suit every aspect of a B2B organization. Opportunities to be considered are the reduction in operational cost of office space and business travel, improved employee wellbeing through a better work life balance and the increased productivity associated.
These wins don’t come without their challenges. Business leaders will need to understand the difference between work that can technically be done remotely, but in reality is best done in person. These might include negotiations; critical business decision making; team brainstorming sessions; the provision of sensitive feedback and difficult conversations and new employee onboarding.
As regards opportunities around e-commerce, for those B2B organizations to whom it applies, the significant year-over-year growth of e-commerce is a huge opportunity as you can see below.
Covid-19 may propel faster adoption of automation and AI
In McKinsey’s 2020 global senior executive survey, two thirds said they were stepping up investment in automation and AI somewhat or significantly.
McKinsey cites that the deployment of automation was largely seen in warehouses, grocery stores, call centers and manufacturing plants with a view to reducing physical workplace density to shield workers from the virus and deal with surges in demand from the public during the numerous lockdown periods. In the case of B2B organizations, it’s likely the trend towards automation and AI will continue to grow as it was pre-pandemic, but at a faster pace, with some areas like sales, marketing and customer service more directly affected than others.
The challenge of turning the full buyer journey digital isn’t a new one, but it does now require sales, marketing and customer success teams to work more closely than ever before to streamline that journey and support each other to meet a new level of expectation from digital customer experience that they’ve not seen before. B2B buyers have rapidly become more savvy and the bar has been raised when it comes to quality experiences for all online.
Companies can help facilitate workforce transitions
“The scale of workforce transitions set off by COVID-19’s influence on labor trends increases the urgency for businesses to take steps to support additional training and education programs for workers”.
The trend that supports the shift towards remote work and a rebalance between office and remote based teams is focused on granular analysis of tasks that can be done remotely, as opposed to whole jobs.
This shift gives businesses the opportunity to increase efficiency by training or recruiting specific skills into the organization for shorter periods of time. This feeds into the trend towards internal mobility which has been placed firmly at the top of the agenda since the pandemic. By better identifying skills you already have in house that can be transferred from team to team, some may find a lot of the skills they need to move forward can already be found within their current workforce. Combined with a willingness to invest in further training, the asset that is your workforce could begin to drive even more value than pre-pandemic.
The challenges associated with internal mobility, training and flexible working can’t be ignored. Managers will require additional training on how to manage these more fluid teams. Disputes may become more commonplace if issues aren’t addressed quickly and workforce wellbeing will need to be monitored closely as teams become more disparate and hierarchical safety nets are removed.
However, the benefits of this new and more flexible approach far outweigh the challenges. According to McKinsey the reward of these efforts will be a more resilient, talented and equitable workforce.
For marketers facing these challenges, Ledger Bennett’s FluidTalent approach presents a malleable solution. Whether you need a high-functioning Revenue Team with an In-House Agency mindset, need to fill right-now skills gaps around a specific project, or need force-multipliers to augment internal headcounts, we have the individuals capable of meeting your challenge.