Focus on Today's Workforce -- and Close the Gap to the Future - InformationWeek

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IoT
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IT Leadership // Team Building & Staffing
Commentary
10/2/2020
07:00 AM
David Sapin and Emily Stapf, Principals, PwC
David Sapin and Emily Stapf, Principals, PwC
Commentary
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Focus on Today’s Workforce -- and Close the Gap to the Future

To evolve for the workforce of the future amidst COVID-19, you need to build a strong digital infrastructure foundation now. Here's how to do it.

Many conversations center on what a collaborative workforce -- and workplace -- will look like when COVID-19 threats dissipate. It’s right to think about future operations. But focusing on positive short-term acceleration is equally important.

Today, tomorrow, and the next six to 12 months are the bridge to a better future workforce. While the trusses are forged from digital transformation, this now is the connective tissue between chaotic shutdowns and work’s evolution. And, for the first time, we’re openly talking about health status at work and how to best keep everyone safe.

Image: doomu - stock.adobe.com
Image: doomu - stock.adobe.com

Yet, the majority of employees (51%) worry about getting sick when they return. And only about 50% of companies had planned to bring employees back to worksites last month (September) -- even in places where the virus is seemingly under control.

Although we’re in the midst of the Information Age, a dearth of data holds many businesses back from making decisions. It’s the opposite of analysis paralysis but with the same effect. Technology is the only way to close the gap, and it can positively impact a company, its employees, and customers. The yellow-brick road to the future is doing business the right way and putting safety first. And it’s all underpinned by tech.

Without digitized, easily crunchable data forecasting countless scenarios -- from phased scheduling to full returns with distancing measures -- you’re flying blind. Companies can lean on digital infrastructure to build metrics and up-to-the-minute data to help ease concerns, make employees feel safer, and build confidence. Construct a stronger foundation now while evolving for the workforce of the future. Here’s how to do it:

Gather the data you need -- now

First, gather data and insights to be preventative: Understand real-time employee health and work status, and build in a digital health assessment and a mechanism to spot productivity blockers. Then, build trust and open communication while tallying capacity so you know when operations exceed safe limits. Many states, schools, and other facilities are already requiring such transparency.

Second, lean on privacy-backed automatic contact tracing. This tech will help you track illness among employees, prevent high-risk individuals from reporting to the workplace, and pinpoint the greatest risks. The tech should also support those who choose to work from home. Details across all stages and locations are vital. And tracing tech should be able to easily connect to systems you already use.

Above all, it should be easy to use and purposeful, providing a dashboard of interactive insights and recommended actions. This can help you plan, prevent, trace, and supply information needed to help make strategic, immediate, and long-term planning decisions -- even beyond threats of COVID-19. 

Quick, visual notifications are important, too. Focus on a view of the entire workforce’s status and on-the-ground insights needed for swift, precise action.

Take advantage of digital precision and speed

Most experts agree taming COVID-19 takes wide availability of rapid testing coupled with precise contact tracing. While the US ramped up testing, and many places are delivering speedier results, contact tracing is an essential piece of the recovery puzzle.

Contact tracing -- offering real-time, easily digitizable data -- works, and is critical to responding, bouncing back, and planning for the future. It’s also the reactive side of the equation that’s inevitable when preventative measures break down. Contact tracing was used to help battle 2013’s deadly Ebola epidemic. Epidemiologists looked to a real-time information system, a smartphone app that allowed rapid submission of surveillance data, which was filtered to an analytics and visualization software.

But, in the workplace, digital precision means more than tracing alone. Instituting digital health-status checks to prevent sick people from reporting to work, helping remote workers be as productive as possible, and setting up capacity alerts to curb crowds should be part of it, too. And it needs to be visual and in one place.

Accept that crisis recovery isn’t a straight line

Fully emerging from a global pandemic will take longer than we’d like. Crisis recovery isn’t one, finitely timed effort that prompts us to dust off our hands and pat ourselves on the back. This is how it goes with all recovery efforts. New Orleans took years to rebuild after the levees broke during Hurricane Katrina. Haiti is still on the mend after 2010’s powerful earthquake. Victoria, Australia recently declared a state of disaster following a steep spike in COVID-19 cases.

The World Health Organization warns even with a vaccine there might not be a silver bullet, no fix that eradicates COVID-19. This means a way to traverse uncharted waters without constantly switching gears is even more important. And it’s why you need to act on data by integrating it with existing systems, tools, and policies.

The relentless collection and examination of data: it’s critical to navigating the now while we imagine, and plan for, the future.

David Sapin brings over 30 years of experience to his role as the Chief Revenue and Risk Officer for PwC's Digital Products business. Sapin and PwC Digital help PwC's clients solve their most pressing business problems by leveraging IoT and other digital solutions.

Emily Stapf brings more than two decades of experience to her role as Integrated Solutions leader of PwC's Cybersecurity, Privacy and Forensics practice. Stapf specializes in incident & threat management, crisis management and cybersecurity strategy. She led the cybersecurity and privacy-first strategy for PwC’s Check-In tool.  

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