The COVID-19 pandemic has made the term remote work more popular than ever. It has also made everyone see telecommuting or teleworking in a new light–something that is not just an option but a necessity for business activities to continue.
Considering the health and economic crises the world is struggling to deal with, it’s worth exploring the state of the global workforce. Without a doubt, the pandemic has disrupted the operations of global businesses. It has become considerably more challenging to operate branches, subsidiaries, or affiliates overseas as governments tighten their travel regulations.
Has the pandemic enhanced the concept of a global workforce, or is it just a temporary disruption?
Defining a truly global workforce
What does a global workforce mean? It is essentially about employees and workers performing their tasks in different parts of the world and reporting to their respective headquarters online or through other efficient means. It entails a crisscrossing of people, processes, workplaces, and protocols to complete tasks on time and in line with the allocated resources.
Globalized operations behave as if they are localized. Multinational corporations no longer need to establish branches or subsidiaries and go through complicated management hierarchies and redundant positions. Workplaces may be separated by vast distances, but they work together seamlessly and employees report to their superiors directly across national borders. Red tape is virtually eliminated or significantly minimized. The distance and differences in time zones become unsubstantial issues.
Some companies have already achieved this kind of workforce globalization. Such organizations have shifted from a structure characterized by a central HQ and smaller divisions worldwide toward one where key competencies and divisions are only set up where the knowledge and talent are.
“As an example, we’ve opened a financial shared services center in Budapest because the knowledge base for that is strong there. And, we have a water technology center in Fresno, USA, because the area is key for industry research and development, as well as for networking and business opportunities. It’s all about being where the knowledge is” says Lisbet Thyge Frandsen, a Group Senior VP of People and Strategy at Grundfos in an interview with CNN.
The need for an efficient setup
Maintaining a global workforce that fits the features discussed above is far from easy. A paper published on The Academy of Management Executive points out three practical challenges: deployment, knowledge and innovation dissemination, and talent identification and development.
Deployment is a particularly critical concern as it requires not only good management skills. It also necessitates the right platform or software suite. In the digital and internet age, software is as important as the competence of managers. It will be extremely difficult to achieve efficiency without having a suitable platform to support data collection and processing, task management, communication, monitoring, and reporting.
Take the case of payroll. It presents various obstacles that can determine the success or failure of global human resource management. “Paying a global workforce is one of the many unseen challenges that expanding businesses face,” writes one insightful piece on Global Payroll, the official magazine of the Global Payroll Management Institute. Organizations must deal with issues of compliance, workplace trends, the use of tech solutions, the rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning, and attracting and retaining talent.
Payroll solutions like Papaya Global address these challenges encountered by multinational companies in the current business and geopolitical landscape. Well-designed payroll systems facilitate automation, eliminate errors, reduce processing times, and facilitate convenient cross-border payments.
Moreover, to achieve efficient virtual communication and interactions among global employees and managers, it is important to utilize the right technologies. Internet connection should be fast and reliable. The faster deployment of 5G networks will be a boon for efficient global workforce management, as considerably faster connection speeds and lower latencies help create more engaging virtual interactions among employees and managers. It is also advisable to use cloud solutions to ensure convenient access to information, applications, and services from anywhere.
An Oracle whitepaper on global HR management emphasizes the need for efficiency: “To sufficiently help a global business thrive, a company’s HCM system must balance centralized management and local considerations.” Accordingly, the system “should provide accurate and actionable analytics for managers, create an engaging user experience, and possess flexibility to support all kinds of initiatives.”
So how has COVID-19 impacted global workforce management in the past several months? Many sources say that the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation. The World Economic Forum, for one, published an article that discusses the hastened growth of tech-driven solutions such as digital and contactless payments, remote work, 5G and information and communications technology (ICT), distance learning, and supply chain 4.0.
These solutions coincide with the need to achieve efficient global workforce management. Fast digital payment solutions including the use of digital currencies is advantageous for the payment of salaries or wages. Faster internet with 5G as well as ICT solutions guarantee that virtual meetings and interactions will be more engaging.
These technologies are set to eliminate pestering online communication issues such as freezing videos, delays, bad audio, and difficulties in sharing and collaboratively working on files. Additionally, enhanced distance learning platforms enable better remote employee training while supply chain 4.0 improves the movement of physical objects required in completing tasks, obtaining materials for manufacturing, and delivering products to customers.
It is not inaccurate to say that the pandemic has created the circumstances that forced businesses and governments worldwide to support the concept of a truly global workforce. The need for physical distancing and online/remote ways of doing business has shown the world that it is possible to get things done through the internet. It is not easy, but it is doable with the right technologies, competent
management, and some degree of mentality change.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.