As much of the world moved to remote work in 2020, organization structures were challenged. Many companies with agile systems set up found it easier to transition to remote working than more traditional, in-person, hierarchical companies. It is difficult to predict what organizational structures will look like in the future. It is, however, safe to say that as economies, companies and people worldwide attempt to return to a different normal, a tide of changes will be seen globally when it comes to how companies operate and are structured.
As an organization obsessed with unlocking professional potential for companies and candidates, our clients have been posing this question to us over the past few months.
We don’t have a crystal ball (and even if we did, in 2020 it’s likely it would malfunction…), but we will share our predictions on what companies will look like in a post-pandemic world.
This is by no means written in stone, given the ever-changing nature of the business environment, as evidenced by COVID-19, but we hope it will give you some ideas and questions to think about as you think about planning for 2021 and beyond.
Five Predictions for 2021: What does a post-COVID organization look like?
Though there is no one-size-fits-all approach to organizational structures, the changing and uncertain environment means being agile, responsive and flexible will be an essential skill for every organization to cultivate.
Companies need to think creatively and innovatively to align their employees to the new normal and prepare them to work capably and fast in the ever-changing environment.
(1) Organizations will opt for flatter structures designed for agile teams
Rigid, hierarchical organizational structures impede speedy decision-making and execution. Leaner, flatter structures that allow organizations to respond quickly to emerging challenges and opportunities are the need of the day.
Post pandemic companies will work on reimagining structure, not in terms of hierarchy but in terms of dynamic cross-functional, project-based teams, to foster faster response time and collaboration.
However, with these flatter structures and cross-functional teams, the number of people reporting to a single manager will increase, even if the scope of reporting will be specific and contextual. Keep an eye on managers, who might have a more challenging time balancing everything, especially if you continue to work from home.
Overall, the organization of the tomorrow will be structured to sustain speed that will not only ensure business success and continuity but also employee engagement.
We have already started to see companies embrace technology more wholeheartedly to create effective, agile organizations and expect that trend to continue. Tools like Zoom, Forecast, Notion, Slack and Frame help companies communicate across teams – what technology will be next?
(2) We’ll see more cross-functional teams often staffed with part-time or project-based resources
Some of the biggest learnings from the pandemic have been the importance of operational efficiency, business effectiveness and collaboration across teams. The new normal demands the same and that we go one step further to ensure that.
The traditional way of structuring a company into several departments (divided by function/area/product/service/country) may be on its way out. Especially for companies that had to go through downsizing this year, flexibility in growth is key. Companies will push for the formation of temporary, project-driven, cross-functional teams that are more result-oriented, to become more agile and relevant.
(3) Job roles will be re-designed and many more will become remote
As the world changed this year, many companies also changed. Some grew exponentially. Others downsized or disappeared altogether. Some companies rolled out new products or services and others stayed the course. Many started to think about offering roles remotely, opening up much broader talent pools from other communities or countries.
The post-pandemic environment is going to prompt companies to do a thorough re-think of the current roles in the organization. Some roles will change, becoming more expansive stretching across functions. Some roles may become more specific and focused based on team needs or resource availability.
(4) Hybrid work will become the norm
As the pandemic unfolded most companies shifted their teams into home offices (or bedrooms, or living rooms) and many employees were working remotely. While some companies have started returning to the office, some have given theirs up entirely. Many organizations will prefer a ‘hybrid’ approach – offering both remote and on-site work arrangements to their employees. This way of working has significant benefits – happier, satisfied employees to reduced overheads, and increased productivity.
However, to reap the benefits of this kind of arrangement, organizations will have to balance offices’ safety and digitally-enabled remote working and find ways to engage with their employees even when they are remote.
(5) Need for flexible, agile leadership
As companies faced unprecedented circumstances, leaders were pushed into the spotlight as they exhibited empathy, humility, and care (like the CEO of Airbnb), or struggled to find their footing. Throughout the course of this year, company leaders have also had to be crisis communicators, strategic thinkers, new business line creators, and shoulders to lean on as their teams dealt with outside stressors.
And, as office chats and company town halls became a thing of the past, most leaders had to re-think their approach to communicating with their employee base. Employee engagement and health became more important than ever, so regular communication was also at the forefront.
Post pandemic, organizations will be keen on leaders who are not merely capable decision-makers, but also flexible, adaptable doers, capable of building and leading agile, winning teams.
COVID-19 has been the biggest global challenge of our times.
We can’t go back to the old ‘business as usual,’ a different normal is settling in. Companies should take this time to re-imagine and re-invent themselves, and to come back stronger. The future will be bright for the bold, agile and responsive companies.
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