Harvard Business Review
This article originally appeared in Harvard Business Review.
Technology was already changing the nature of work before Covid-19 took hold. Innovations were redefining the basis of competition in most industries and, consequently, the talent companies need to win over the long term. The pandemic sidelined the efforts of most companies to address these challenges and close critical capability gaps. Many had to lay off 15% or more of their workforce. Covid-19 required that the search for new talent—with new capabilities—take a back seat to economic survival.
But as businesses rebuild in the aftermath of the global pandemic, those that take the opportunity to remake and future-proof their workforce will pull far ahead of rivals. Even before working from home became widespread, digital technology was transforming how and where work gets done and how many people are needed to do it. Consumer products companies, to take just one example, have traditionally employed hundreds of people to monitor purchases and inventory to ensure that the right products get to the right places at the right time. Predictive analytics—fueled by real-time point-of-sale, manufacturing, and logistics data—is changing that, reducing the number of employees required for the work, changing the skills they need to be successful in their new, technology-enabled roles, and allowing more and more of them to work remotely.
So how should companies rebuild? In the following pages we draw on research by Bain & Company involving more than 300 large companies worldwide and every facet of the global economy, from manufacturing to retail to health care to technology. Half of those companies are headquartered in North America or Western Europe and the rest in South America, Asia Pacific, the Middle East, or Africa. We have identified a select group of the companies that are already building technology-enabled workforces. No matter their sector or geography, they all seem to adhere to six practices in the course of assembling and managing their teams. In the following pages we offer those practices for companies to follow as they regroup and reorganize for the inevitable recovery.
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