Given the rapid changes that we are all now experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many trends that HR leaders have only been discussing or seeing in practice have been fast-forwarded. The future of work has been evolving at an unprecedented pace in front of our eyes.
The immediate impact
Discussions with my ServiceNow colleagues in March 2020 centred around how we could best support our EMEA employees: those who were already being impacted by the pandemic and to prepare in locations where the infection rates were still low but expected to rise.
We knew there were three aspects we had to get right: protecting the safety and wellbeing of everyone in our workforce; communicating with clarity; and enabling everyone to carry out their role as effectively as possible.
Internal, company-wide updates were important to set out our approach, but we found that taking the time for regular, informal communication really helped our employees adjust to the home office set-up.
We were all learning as we went along but I believe the empathy that we have collectively shown and the open discussions between colleagues and teams has brought us even closer together.
We actively made use of our own platform and new emergency response apps that our team rapidly developed to share information, understand the impact on our employees, and manage our situation.
We managed to effectively navigate this unique first phase of the pandemic while maintaining the safety of our employees and I've seen our customers launch some great initiatives too, like Washington State's Department of Health, which mobilised emergency response teams with a quick and bespoke solution on the Now platform.
Adapting to the new business-as-usual
A fast response was the first stage, but with the COVID-19 pandemic set to have a lasting impact, teams across the world were challenged to adapt to entirely new ways of carrying out ‘business-as-usual'.
At ServiceNow we already champion a work from anywhere approach, and this really helped us to transition smoothly to the new ‘work from home' reality. But with physical distancing enforced across EMEA, we also put a lot of emphasis on bringing our workforce together.
Our global ‘town hall' sessions, led by our CEO Bill McDermott, alongside regional and local sessions from our business leaders are providing the much-needed support, motivation, and assurance in this challenging time. Our Workplace Services team also moved quickly to launch a virtual programme of initiatives to underpin our culture of inclusion and belonging.
Recruitment has continued unabated, supported by fully-digitised HR processes, and we've pivoted from in-person onboarding to a 100% virtual experience, ensuring integration into ServiceNow from the point an offer letter is received.
We have also seen a significant shift towards virtual engagement between managers, team leaders, business leaders and their direct reports. Our virtual world is collaborative, supportive and empowering - and these changes are here to stay.
Return to - a new workplace reality
As we enter the third phase of the COVID-19 crisis as lockdown measures ease, we begin to plan how to bring employees back into the workplace.
New challenges are emerging that we must navigate. Health and safety will of course be front of mind for ServiceNow and organisations across the world, and our recently launched Safe Workplace Apps and Dashboard is playing a big role in helping us support our employees in the process of returning to the ‘new normal'.
Designed to help companies manage the essential steps for the safe return of employees to the workplace, this app suite will not only give data to assess workplace readiness but provide the insights we need as HR leaders to make the right decisions to reassure and support our employees.
In my view, the return to the office cannot be seen as a ‘given' but rather a matter of personal choice. Flexible working practices that have proved their value during the COVID-19 crisis will help to define the new workplace reality.
Most importantly, we need to place our employees at the centre of our decision-making process over the new workplace reality. In doing so, I'm confident we'll find the right path for our workforce, our customers and therefore our businesses.