How prepared are businesses for a return to the workplace?

31 July 2020 3 min. read

Deloitte recently examined how prepared Canadian organizations are for a physical workplace reopening. The accounting and consulting firm asked 300+ business leaders to self-assess their readiness across five key “back-to-business” areas.

Businesses had a strong feeling of readiness in aligning to government guidelines; felt ready, but had more work to do in protecting employee health and wellbeing, effectively managing their workforce, and providing a safe physical workplace and ecosystem; and said they still needed considerable preparation in creating a cross-functional command centre.

Aligning to government guidelines – i.e. awareness of legislative requirements and confidence in measuring and monitoring compliance – averaged the highest readiness level across all organizations, at 88%.

In contrast, organizations weren’t as prepared to effectively manage their workforce. When asked if they had examined training options for new skills and requirements, respondents only felt 63% prepared. The drop-off in readiness to explore new training could indicate that organizations are focusing on the immediate challenges of reopening instead of investment in new technology.

Readiness to effectively manage organizations’ workforce by industry

Readiness to effectively manage the workforce fluctuated across industries, with government & public services at the top (87%) and energy & resources and consumer business & transportation at the bottom (67% and 66%, respectively).

Almost all industries had low levels of readiness in creating a cross-functional command centre, except for life sciences and healthcare organizations, which felt strongly prepared (64%). Energy & resources (42%), real estate (41%), and consumer business & transportation (34%) felt least prepared in this area.

A command centre can supply a company data, metrics, and KPIs to support monitoring and compliance during the pandemic, as well as help ensure preparedness and responsiveness in future waves. Deloitte says that it can also serve as a central hub to help organizations rebuild, restore, and recover on a national scale.

Readiness to create a cross-functional command centre by industry

Covid-19 has forced many companies to create a more symbiotic relationship between workers and technologies, with remote work allowing for a continuation of operations in many office-based workplaces. Deloitte says that organizations should increasingly cultivate a tech-savvy workforce while ensuring cybersecurity as operations digitalize.

The crisis presents an opportunity for investment in human capital and business processes. Companies that view recovery as a return to the recent past and old ways of working may be blindsided by competitors who have reimagined their workforce for the future, according to Deloitte.

“Organizations should now consider offering opportunities that allow workers to grow and adapt, rather than rely on their existing skills or certifications,” the report notes. With the nature of work evolving rapidly, workers will need to be lifelong learners who build new skills continuously. Online learning tools which have become popular during the pandemic are one avenue for workforce development.

CEOs in Canada, however, have a somewhat harsh and unenlightened approach to upskilling, according to a PwC survey from 2019. Forty-one percent said establishing a strong pipeline direct from education is the most important method to close a potential skills gap in their firm, while only 16% picked “significant retraining or upskilling.” The views of Canadian CEOs are completely inverted to those of global CEOs, of whom 17% chose a direct education pipeline, while 46% identified retraining and upskilling.