With the COVID-19 pandemic slowing its tracks, more and more people are returning to the workforce each day. However, along with stepping back into the office, they’re also stepping into a “new normal.” The pandemic has certainly shifted how the work world operates, and has almost made it feel as if everyone is starting over regardless of how long any employee has worked at any given company.
The Center of Workforce Innovations (CWI) hosted a breakfast on Thursday, April 21, at Avalon Manor Banquet Hall in Merrillville to help guide businesspeople in Northwest Indiana through this new normal, which included special presentations from both CWI President and CEO Lisa Daugherty and keynote speaker Sophie Wade, author and founder and workforce Innovation specialist at Flexcel Network, who reigns from the United Kingdom.
Wade was asked to speak at this event by CWI Communications Manager Barbara (Barb) Grimsgard after learning of Wade’s amazing credentials.
“We interviewed the speakers that we have, because we wanted to make sure that they were going to bring great new perspectives and advice to the employers, and I think Barb nailed it with Sophie,” Daugherty said.
The theme around the event, unofficially deemed “shift happens,” covered the changes the workforce is enduring as a result of the pandemic. This event was part of their Workplace Innovation Series, which invites different presenters to give speeches on various topics involving the workforce.
“Change is necessary, but it doesn't have to be dramatic and it doesn't have to be costly,” Daugherty said. “There are some really smart, small, and no cost changes that they can make. And some of the best ideas for that change can come from them.”
A lot of these changes she mentioned that are needed to move forward are people-centered. Anyone can have the greatest product or service out there, but at the end of the day, it's the people themselves that make the company strong. Daugherty has been with CWI for around a year, and has found flexibility is key to keep a happy and healthy staff and customer base.
“I knew that we needed to continue offering remote work where appropriate and for positions, because as much as I didn't think it would work ahead of COVID I was totally proven wrong,” she said. “It was actually very productive. Giving employees that flexibility can make all the difference in the world, especially those with young children. Flexibility, whether that be remote work or schedules, which actually a change in schedule can benefit customers as well, because then we're available in the evening and Saturdays.”
Wade also agreed that being flexible is extremely beneficial not just for the people around us, but ourselves as well.
“What we saw that we have learned we actually can be better leaders, managers and teammates as a result, because we're understanding more than mentioned,” she said.
Within these changes also lies a key component: communication, and it looks much different now than it did just a few years ago. In her speech, Wade mentioned that living in a digital world has been the main catalyst in changing how we connect and talk with one another. Technology has made it possible to work remotely, work outside of normal business hours, and for consumers to engage with businesses in numerous new ways, all at a much faster pace.
Following her speech in a question and answer session, Wade had the chance to expand on these topics and interact with the audience, answering their questions on topics such as working with various age groups, education, burnout, and more.
When it comes to taking the next steps, Wade said it’s up to us to find out the best way to move forward.
“When it comes down to what’s next, the rest is up to you,” she said.
Wade’s new book, “Empathy Works,” is set to hit shelves in May and she encourages everyone to check it out for more insight on the ever changing workforce.
On a more local level, Daugherty said CWI is also here to help people with their businesses and careers through this unfamiliar territory.
“There are, in my opinion, still too many employers that don't know our work and how we can be of assistance to them,” she said. “We are publicly funded, so this is not a fee for service or any kind of monetary commitment that they have to make until after training. We are here to help them get through this challenge that we're going to have, quite frankly, for a few years.”
For more information on Center of Workforce Innovations, please visit cwicorp.com.