The future of the work environment

Flexible and remote working

COVID-19 has brought about some changes to employee expectations, particularly around work-life balance and flexible working. According to a salary survey of 2 0001 white-collar professionals conducted by Robert Walters, a global recruitment consultancy, around 40% of South Africa's senior professionals – people working in managerial positions across sectors such as operations, financial services and legal – want to move to full-time remote work and 27% wanted to work from home at least half of the time. In a survey conducted by Michael Page2, a specialist recruitment agency in Johannesburg, only 26% of respondents had the freedom to work from home before the crisis, with 79% of the respondents working remotely towards the end of 2020.

The benefits of hybrid working arrangements include reduced operating costs, increased productivity, wider access to talent and rebalancing of property portfolios. For employees there may be better work-life balance and less commuting stress; however, companies have also reported a rise in employee wellbeing challenges, including working longer hours, distractions in the home environment and feelings of isolation, among others. In addition, leaders report challenges in instilling workplace culture when teams work remotely.

Transitioning to a hybrid workforce model impacts a number of HR processes from new organisational structures, new technology and clearly defined degrees of flexibility to new recruiting strategies, health and wellbeing initiatives that support remote and flexible working, virtual learning solutions and updated talent management practices. A flexible workforce model requires a clear business case and risk assessment to define the tangible benefits, mitigate concerns and understand the expected outcomes.

COVID-19 has brought about shifts in two key human capital management areas: the hybrid workforce model and the need for more dynamic skills and talent planning.

Dynamic skills and talent planning

COVID-19 has highlighted a need to give momentum to reskilling the workforce to adapt to new ways of working and digitisation, which means job roles now typically require more frequent changes in skills. Businesses must therefore adapt their talent management approaches to be agile in the skills and workforce planning process. In addition, programmes are required to upskill and retrain lower skilled employees to ensure they are also able to adapt to the changes brought about by technology and automation, supporting their continued employment and enhancing their prospects of securing quality jobs.

What we are doing

We have been able to quickly mobilise flexible working and remote working arrangements from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic for Financial Services and certain administration functions. However, the majority of our workforce (dealership personnel and technicians) are required on-site with very limited opportunity for remote working. Nevertheless, we will investigate whether and how certain aspects of a hybrid workforce model may apply to our working environment.

We are strengthening our Talent for Growth Framework to give momentum to reskilling the workforce and ensure that we have the right skills available in the right place and at the right time, see talent management and mobility. In F2021, we piloted a Digital Enablement Programme in South Africa to help employees become digitally astute. The programme teaches employees how to confidently navigate digitisation and use it to work more productively and effectively. The programme is being developed for wider roll out.