9 important questions on agile and remote work readiness

Oracle's Rob Bothma says HR must lead the adoption of new ways of working.

‘Remote working’, ‘multi-modal working’ ‘agile working’ or ‘flexible working’ - whatever you prefer to call it, it’s something many organisations have grappled with for many years. I can recall numerous discussions, projects and predictions on this topic, some of which came to fruition – but just as often not. Covid-19 has brought such conversations into sharp focus.

With no time for projects or pilots, many organisations have been forced into operating with the majority of their employees fully remote and working from home. Employees are being given the flexibility to choose where and when to work, requiring them to balance personal circumstances, workload and the demands of the current situation. 

In a nationwide survey canvassing the opinions of several hundred employees through Level 4 of the lockdown, Giant Leap, one of South Africa’s largest workplace consultancies, found that most office workers worked from home in the interests of social distancing, with the survey showing that 86 percent of people want to go back to working in an office because people realised that their work-life balance was negatively affected.

According to a forecast by Global Workplace Analytics, remote working for US employees is predicted to rise from just 3.6 percent prior to the pandemic, with 25-30 percent of the workforce working at home on a multiple-days-a-week basis by the end of 2021.

There are even suggestions that companies who have already embraced remote working may go further, with most staff working in what can be termed a “hyper-virtual organisation”. KPMG has described it as “the future comes early”. Now that the working-from-home genie is out of the bottle, for many, there may be no going back

9 important questions

The current reality means it is highly likely that ‘agile working’ (employees splitting their time working between home and the office) will increase significantly. The crisis has proven that this can work for many organisations. 

Moving forward, the HR function and HR leaders will need to be at the forefront of addressing the adoption of these new ways of working.

Potential questions HR leaders may be asked – and may want to ask themselves – are:

1. What roles have been performed remotely? How can they continue to operate remotely? How do we measure success? How do we support employees working remotely? How do we collect feedback and monitor progress?

2. What would remote working look like for our organisation if we were to continue? How can we model this? What are the criteria for determining whether roles can be remote?

3. How will this affect our total cost of ownership for my workforce? Will there be a positive or negative business case?

4. How will this affect our sites and building capacity requirements?

5. What is the extent of the change?

6. What enablers would we need for such as a change to be successful? How should we implement the change?

7. What impact does this have on the terms, conditions and benefits of our staff?

8. How would a new organisation set-up affect our organisation design? How do we change our financial and resource planning?

9. Are our line managers fully equipped to manage all the various line HR functions required for keeping the workforce both motivated and engaged?

Planning and modelling such scenarios is not new for HR leaders. They typically work closely with Finance to undertake similar exercises, whether it be in the case of an acquisition, sale, new business venture or organisational change. Organisational planning and change management sit at the very heart of HR.

These process models are data-heavy and can be cumbersome and time-consuming to create. Data manipulation can be incredibly difficult without the correct tools, data integrity can be compromised, and doubt can be cast on the reliability of outputs.

Using Oracle HCM workforce-modelling tools, integrated within Oracle HCM solution, can be extremely powerful, removing doubts over data integrity and streamlining these processes, enabled by AI (artificial intelligence). This puts HR leaders working closely with Finance in a position to forecast a total cost of ownership and organisational impact with reliable and seamless analytics.

Consequence and impact of increased agile working

In the event that agile working does increase significantly, HR leaders may need to review a number of HR policies and practices to support the new normal. These may include:

1. Terms and conditions – Will employees’ contracted terms and conditions be affected by a change in the work location? If so, how will any changes and communications be managed?

2. Pay and benefits – Do the current pay and benefits policy and frameworks enable agile/remote working?

3. Training development and learning – How will staff receive learnings and skills development training remotely and digitally?

4. Health and safety – Are employees working safely, new policies governing homework and environmental factors.

5. Payroll, leave, absence management and other operational HR services – How are staff to be provided with basic HR services when they are working remotely?

6. Wellbeing – Staff working remotely should be able to access all wellbeing services. In some cases, due to the remoteness of their working, they may need more wellbeing support than office-based staff.

7. Employee Engagement – How can we remain connected to our employees? How do we maintain culture and compliance? How can employees gain insight into organizational change and opportunities without “water cooler” moments?

8. Management information – It is likely the roles of managers may also become subject to agile working. To effectively manage their teams, access to information will be needed.

9. Onboarding – New recruits and employees returning to the workplace will need to be educated on all the new policies and procedures related to working within an office environment to ensure health and safety compliance.

Oracle Cloud HCM has been developed to meet all these challenges and help organisations move to agile working. It can support the full gamut of HR services that are needed to be delivered remotely and digitally.

Employee experience and accessibility are key and are the cornerstones of the design philosophy at Oracle. Ease of adoption and compliance is supported through digital assistant (known as an intelligent adviser) and integrated help desk capability embedded in Oracle Cloud HCM.

In addition, managers can easily access the information they need, as well as the controls required to monitor day-to-day team operations.