The workforce solutions ecosystem, as an industry, has pivoted, innovated and adjusted to operate successfully during the Covid-19 global pandemic.

But what happens next?

The arrival of the Delta variant means the industry hasn’t yet gotten to experience an expected “new normal,” says Dawn McCartney, VP of the CWS Council at SIA. She urged attendees at SIA’s CWS Symposium Live event, held this week in Phoenix, to instead prepare for a “never normal.”

In her keynote address, “Workforce Strategies for a New Tomorrow,” she went on to advise that companies for now adjust to a “never normal” environment that changes rapidly. McCartney addressed how the unprecedented changes brought by the pandemic have disrupted the critical elements of talent location, generational preferences, technology and more, impacting a worldwide workforce revolution.

“We all have to start to think differently about how we are going to attract, engage and retain talent,” she said.

Examining the Current State

A return to office is top-of-mind for workers as well as employers. Some can’t wait to return and some never want to — and it’s impossible to please everyone.

Additional challenges for employers include keeping them safe in an office setting, data privacy regarding vaccine or testing status, excessively large real estate footprints and rising costs.

But remember that your current workers also have their own struggles, McCartney advised.

“We have to remember that people who left the office in March 2020, although physically might be the same people, emotionally and mentally, they are not,” she said. “We have to be able to help and recognize and educate internally the managers and stakeholders who will be interacting with these individuals.” Prepare for “pandemic scars” such as exhaustion from increased workloads and family obligations, increased depression, and stress overloads.

“People are mentally and physically burned out,” McCartney said.

Providing mental and emotional support for these individuals can be a competitive differentiator in the war for talent. Therefore, educating managers on how to recognize when someone is struggling, encouraging workers to get help and providing appropriate benefits to allow them to seek such help can be a way to make your organization an employer of choice.

Generational Differences

Different workers have different needs, McCartney explained, and this will need to be considered in plans moving forward. The majority of baby boomers, as well as working mothers, want to remain remote. In contrast, millennials and Gen Zers want to be back in the office.

A poll found 40% of college students and recent grads prefer to fully be in-person for work. However, 60% also want feedback from managers to be given in-person rather than written or over Zoom. Thirty-three percent liked the office amenities such as snack and gym privileges, and 44% worry about not having access to a distraction-free workplace if they have to remain in a remote or hybrid work situation.

The Great Resignation

“The pandemic allowed folks to rethink their priorities,” McCartney said. “It also made them rethink where they spend a majority of their time, and a majority of their time is spent at work.”

A survey found one in four individuals is looking for a new career or a new job, and 34% of those looking for new employment are millennials. This means that potentially up to 25% of a company’s existing workforce may be leaving. “That puts a lot of stress on organizations,” McCartney said.

McCartney’s keynote touched on other trends including talent location, technology and potential legal and/or regulatory concerns. CWS 3.0 will cover her insights on those topics next week.

CWS Symposium Live concluded Tuesday. Collaboration in the Gig Economy takes place on Wednesday and Thursday. In addition, CWS Symposium On-Line will take place Oct. 20 and 21; it is an online event delivering content from the CWS Symposium Live and more.

For information on CWS Council membership, click here.