Three Cheers for the Post-COVID Workplace Reboot

“Understanding work activity and organizational capacity will be more important than ever moving forward. Likewise, being attentive to the quality of life for employees has never been more paramount, given the fact that many workers are under a great deal of stress”, says Brad Killinger, CEO, Sapience Analytics, in an exclusive interview with EnterpriseTalk.

ET Bureau: How are organizations coping with remote working?

Brad Killinger: Before the pandemic, many organizations offered employees some level of flexibility related to remote working, but beginning in March 2020, we have seen companies going “all in” on the remote working models, which are being pressure tested like never before. There’s a big difference between working from home and the management of a workforce that is working from home. This is ushering in a new management methodology that features a lot less “gut feel” and a lot more reliance on data and analytics.

In reality, there were operational and productivity “blind spots” in the pre-pandemic world of work. Now in the distributed all-digital workplace, we can understand work activity and make significant improvements.

Many companies realized that pandemic shelter-in-place considerations had not been anticipated in the construction of their disaster recovery/business continuity plans. As a result, many Board of Directors are now mandating that a certain percentage of personnel must remain working from home to help ensure business continuity/risk mitigation moving forward.

On the plus side, many organizations are seeing significant productivity improvements since March 2020.

ET Bureau: Is remote working a game-changer in the way it is shaping up the workspace now?

Brad Killinger: Prior to COVID, remote work adoption had been sluggish. According to research conducted by the consulting firm PwC, pre-COVID, 39% of firms surveyed said that most of their employees worked remotely at least one day a week. Post-COVID, that figure jumped to 70%. And moving forward, they predict that 55% will mostly opt to work remotely at least one day per week.

When surveyed, the employees working remotely had higher job satisfaction than those who did not work from home. Furthermore, the happier employers were 48% more likely to rate their job, on a scale of 1-10, as a 10 for “happiest.” PwC’s research also found that 86% of large company workers would like to work remotely one or more days a week, but only 26% do.

For the employee who can ditch a 30-minute commute each way, each day, 20 hours of their life are returned to them each month; a one-hour commute translates to 40 hours they don’t have to travel to work – time that can be devoted to work and/or family. What’s more, the job opportunity that was out of reach because of its geographic location suddenly is possible. It provides good reasons for employees to just be happier.

Today’s workplace is being rebooted. Not only is remote work being fully embraced, but it’s also being accelerated and improved with powerful technology such as machine learning and predictive analytics to usher in the new post-pandemic workforce. This is arguably one of the most significant overhauls of the workforce since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.

ET Bureau: What role do you think analytics plays in shaping up the post-pandemic workforce?

Brad Killinger: There are so many factors and considerations at play that organizations need powerful analytics (Descriptive, Predictive, and Prescriptive) to gain visibility into the effort and utilization of people, processes, and technology to provide fact-based insights critical to making decisions to navigate the post-pandemic workforce.

A recent C-suite poll of 150 C-level executives conducted by West Monroe Partners showed that 57% had invested in new data and analytics platforms in a six month period.

Understanding work activity and organizational capacity will be more important than ever moving forward. Likewise, being attentive to the quality of life for employees has never been more paramount, given the fact that many workers are under a great deal of stress.

In the pandemic era, employees are working longer, and burnout is a real danger. Companies cannot keep a team running at 150% capacity. If organizations do not have workforce data and analytics in place, they will not be able to take the necessary corrective actions for the long-term health of their employees and the organization itself.

ET Bureau: What are the challenges faced by companies managing a workforce right now, and how will it be in the future?

Brad Killinger:  Organizations that are no longer able to perform “line of sight” management need digital approaches. But, at the same time, there is an imperative to make work, work better.

The ability to understand work activity and capacity in the organization has never been more critical as companies need to navigate, shift and pivot to fine-tune operations to match the organizations’ work capacity and talent base with the work volume and business requirements.

Because workers are digitally connected, business work efforts are easy to track and monitor. A remote connected workforce is a de facto Internet of Things (IoT) network of people doing things. This makes tremendous amounts of data (mostly structured data) available. Such data can be aggregated and used to understand trends and predict and measure performance. Such data sets a landscape for artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning to be employed along with predictive analytics.

As a result, organizations can now measure productivity, time utilization, who’s working, where they’re working, and how they’re working. With visibility into work data trends, companies can assess where bottlenecks and employee frustrations lie, reallocate work as needed, and pinpoint training/coaching needs to resolve issues.

ET Bureau: Given the current situation, what is the commercial real estate footprint that companies should have in place post-pandemic?

Brad Killinger: Some employees will return to the office, but for many knowledge workers, remote work is a one-way trip. Over the next year or two, organizations will be looking at rationalizing their real estate footprint.

In a recent podcast, Ryan Nolan of the Investment Banking Division of Goldman Sachs says because of this real estate rationalization, dollars spent on office space can be applied to tech to support the remote workforce. This is good news for organizations and employees.

Which roles are best suited for remote working? Which personnel need to report back to the office? What is the post-pandemic commercial real estate footprint that companies should have in place?

The “right” hybrid workforce mix and corresponding commercial real estate footprint will be different for every company, but workforce analytics will allow them to put work under the microscope to help with this analysis and answer these questions.

In March 2018, Killinger was named CEO of Sapience Analytics, a leader in the workforce analytics space. Killinger is responsible for the execution of the company’s global strategy and growth. His leadership expertise has helped propel Sapience Analytics to achieve its growth goals of multifold in 20 months.

Prior to joining Sapience Analytics, Killinger served in several key global leadership roles at major technology companies, including IBM, Oracle, and Unisys.