Oct 2020

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The future of workforce management beyond COVID-19

Source: Middle East Insurance Review | Aug 2020

Companies that can better adapt their people management practices and create a stronger, more skilled workforce will drive greater efficiency and superior customer outcomes.
Walter Jopp, CEO, Zurich International Life Ltd, Middle East
COVID-19 has fundamentally changed how we work, and its impacts are set to be long-lasting. We have been catapulted five to 10 years into the future, fast-tracking trends such as automation, digitalisation, robotics and AI. 
As we lead our organisations into a post-pandemic world, we will need to put as much focus into digitising relationships with employees as we do with customers. Those companies that can better adapt their people management practices and create a stronger, more skilled workforce post-COVID-19 will drive greater efficiency and superior customer outcomes. At Zurich, we are applying some guiding principles to develop our workforce now and for the future.
Rapid reskilling 
Adopting new technologies quickly has created a greater need to nurture a learning mindset – to reskill and upskill our people.  Zurich’s work sustainability commitment gives precedence to the development of our workforce. We are also focusing on reprioritising resource allocation across the business, exploring ways to move people into departments and roles which are critical for the successful future of our organisation.
According to the ‘COVID-19 Risk Outlook’ report published by the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with Zurich, high levels of structural unemployment, particularly among the young is a key concern for senior risk experts across the globe. In light of this, Zurich is increasingly focused on retraining and reskilling our younger employees.
Culture of trust, transparency and openness
During this new normal, we are building more adaptive teams that can work together remotely. Our people are learning to get results with far less oversight, they are collaborating through virtual ways of working and striving to strike the right balance between work and home with less separation between the two. Our teams are more consistently in touch with each other and are ‘connected with purpose’.
With continued focus on this new way of working and flexible approach, our organisational culture also continues to evolve. With less control in day-to-day management, leadership must demonstrate greater trust in employees. We must come together as a community and create a culture of empowerment and openness.
Anxieties surrounding the pandemic, shifting work practices, and the blurred lines between home and work put pressure on our workforce, creating serious concerns about employee well-being. The impacts are being felt around the globe. The WHO reported that the instance of depression in Ethiopia trebled in April while alcohol intake has increased among one fifth of 15-to 49-year-old Canadians. 
Zurich’s holistic global well-being framework, developed prior to COVID-19, has become an even more important tool for leading our organisation into the post-COVID-19 world. Based on four pillars: mental, physical, financial, and social, we focus on providing support, learning and resources for all employees and managers focusing on remote working, managing stress and anxiety, and collaboration. 
Agile working
Moving our organisation to an entirely remote working environment in a matter of days demonstrated how quickly we can adapt and how agile we can be. This realisation will drive the pace and scale of innovation in our workplace pushing us to find better, simpler, less expensive and faster ways to operate.
Cultural shifts, agile practices, refocusing and prioritising our workforce among developing new technology, solutions and processes for a better customer experience will demand the very best leadership from our executives. While there is no blueprint for what business leaders are facing, we know that human empathy and social responsibility are fundamental for success post-COVID-19. M 
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