This whitepaper has been prepared based on the report The Role of Soft Competencies in Enhancing Work Productivity: A comparative study of productivity based on working from office and remote working environments
Ananya K S, Merin Koshy, Aparna K H, Vartika Aggarwal, Sharanya Raja R K
Despite the misnomer, soft skills have always been crucial to professional success. By the year 2030, two-thirds of all jobs will rely on soft skills. While the talent management team needs to measure and nurture them, the ongoing repercussions of COVID-19 on an increasingly remote workforce have called for a renewed emphasis on cultivating these skills.
Soft skills like communication, collaboration, and empathy are more in demand than ever. Our psychology team conducted an internal review of our Applications, Engineering, Braindesk, Research, and Sales & Marketing teams. Below are a few highlights from the full report, “The Role of Soft Competencies in Enhancing Work Productivity.”
The widespread pivot to remote work is perhaps the most dramatic transition in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Talent management teams made an overnight shift from in-person meetings to Slack messages and Zoom calls, and this transition has been more or less successful so far.
There have been instances of communication breakdowns when instant messaging and emails became the primary modes of communication. Communicating effectively, be it virtual or physical interactions, is a necessity.
In the instance that communication is happening virtually, over-communicating is always appreciated. Over-communication aligns teams and prevents tasks and requests from getting lost in the mix.
The pandemic has forced at least 40% of employees into remote working, a talent management challenge. For those working onsite, collaborating remotely and social distancing have drastically transformed the working experience.
It is tough to estimate the disruption to work that has taken place over the past several months. Though surveys show an increase in productivity due to the elimination of commute times, isolation has impacted productivity.
Remarkably, instead of business functions collapsing, our research reveals the contrary. Our employees perceive that their productivity has predominantly stayed the same or improved.
While this is subjective, many of our employees said they could maintain or improve productivity on individual tasks (such as data analysis, report writing, and executing administrative tasks). On collaborative tasks (exchanges with coworkers, teamwork, and client interactions), the number is lower, but still, the number is at more than half of the respondents.
Mental and Physical Health
There is a correlation between mental health and productivity. People who have experienced better mental health during the pandemic than before it is two times likely to maintain or improve their productivity on collaborative tasks than those who have experienced worse mental health.
On the other hand, physical health has been the driver of productivity, reducing absenteeism and creating a more focused and high-performing workforce. It is provided that employees maintaining better physical health during the pandemic have maintained or improved their productivity on collaborative tasks, highlighting the need for sleep, exercise, and nutrition into the new work routines.
Empathy & Emotional Intelligence
Many employees have lost loved ones to the virus, and many have lost their jobs. Some people have been displaced, and social distancing is causing millions of people across the world to feel isolated. US CDC’s study has shown that over 40% of Americans reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse during the pandemic.
We are still in the throes of a global pandemic. Governments worldwide are scrambling to vaccinate everyone so that they can get back to their offices. While this is the case, empathy and emotional intelligence are a must for both employees and employers.
Besides, placing yourself in some’s shoes will make you a better member of the workforce. It strengthens bonds among teams and reinforces the notion that we’re all in this together, something the talent management team must inculcate in the company’s practice.
Self-Motivation & Time-Management
When ‘work’ and ‘life’ happen in the same place, work-life balance is slightly skewed. Hitting the ‘snooze’ button and taking long lunches becomes much easier. Employees are finding it difficult to distinguish between professional and personal time, as it seems like companies are moving beyond the confines of ‘9:30 – 6:30,’ which will be of paramount importance.
The above graph shows that time management has seen a significant uptrend across all teams due to the reduced commute time. Incidentally, the commute time is used to finish tasks, a significant benefit of a work-from-home environment. It seems to have decreased for our research time alone, attributed to the involvement in multiple cross-departmental projects with tight deadlines.
In a hybrid or a remote environment that most employees will work in, individuals must assess themselves and decide when they’re the most productive and motivated. It will help them ensure projects are finished and deadlines are met without sacrificing crucial family time in the process, making the talent management task easy. Productivity and time management tools can come to the rescue of employees on tight deadlines.
Rethinking People & Performance for Post-Pandemic Success
Change in employee aspirations has impacted performance metrics. There are efforts to build a smarter and efficient workforce by simplifying mundane tasks and eliminating inadequacies. This can be achieved by designing systems minimizing human intervention and using cognitive technologies.
Talent management means encouraging employees to cultivate critical skills that open multiple opportunities for their career development, allowing them to spend time and talent on higher-level tasks. The ‘new’ workplace will gravitate towards a more fluid workforce where employee policies, compensation, benefits, rewards, and other aspects are recalibrated.
Talent management teams must provide employees with technology and tools to work in a remote and hybrid environment without limitations.
As workplaces are preparing to open offices with increased vaccinations, the talent management team must enhance health and employee safety, rethink flexibility and facilitate work from home.
Many employees will come back to work with modified beliefs, updated skill sets, elevated aspirations, and evolved work ethics. Organizations must transform their culture, enable flexible working with technology and processes, create a culture of openness and empathy, and assume a societal and environmental responsibility.
Finally, organizations must empower their talent management to derive talent insights using talent intelligence tools to predict attrition rates, reduce employee churn by revealing behavioral patterns, or help employees upskill.
Towards a New World of Work
We believe that a hybrid work model would be the likely model of working choice for many employers. Elements are proving 100% remote is unsustainable. A survey suggests that about 40% of their employees follow a remote-working model in the future.
Draup conducted an internal study where measured the impact of remote working had on our employee productivity. We wanted insights on the role of soft competencies in enhancing productivity and identify the difference between top soft competencies that ensure productivity in the office and remote working environment.
Our research helped us identify the differences in the top soft competencies across our teams and analyzed the role of varied key result areas in bringing out differences across our teams’ top soft competencies.
The result of this survey underscored the fact that listening and responding to employee expectations are essential to a company’s success, including the ability to conduct successful talent management.
Draup’s AI-driven talent intelligence platform performs talent intelligence tasks automatically. The talent management team is presented with talent data on niche skills analysis, emerging location talent discovery, competitor talent ecosystem, talent diversity analysis, and compensation metrics, enabling talent management and HR leaders to implement talent acquisition strategies into their pipeline.