It’s no understatement to say the way we work has changed forever. COVID-19 has thrown whole industries into disarray – hospitality, the arts and travel all but ceased trading in 2020. Millions of people still remain on furlough in the UK despite the easing of lockdown restrictions, and the scheme is now set to extend through to September.

Undoubtedly, for those in office-based roles, hybrid working is here to stay. Lockdown proved it can act as a powerful force for increased productivity, inclusion and expanding the pool of talent businesses can reach.

But as the last year has highlighted, it’s never been more important for businesses to have a strong, engaged workforce that is resilient to change. This requires a culture of change itself – one that not only strengthens the workforce but understands that not all roles are the same as they were pre-pandemic. As the world starts to open up again, the question every HR team needs to answer is how to strengthen their workforce and create this culture of change.

Understand people and teams equally

Strengthening the workforce is not just about individuals. It is about strengthening the team as a whole. This requires fully understanding how a team, or teams, work together and manage their day-to-day.

Typically, we rely on gut feel to understand team dynamics. But using science-backed psychometric testing and behaviour profiling assessments is one of the most reliable ways to understand people’s varied working and leadership styles. They can help HR leaders manage employee development programmes and best prepare staff who are ready to rise through the ranks.

Insights such as how each team behaves and interacts as a collective, can help identify different approaches that could prevent teams from becoming unproductive and strengthen high performing ones. They can also be used to create an environment of understanding and enable effective team working that benefits all team members.

Provide the right training

Training is another key component of strengthening a workforce. All employees need to have the right training and development programmes in place to help them build on their current and emerging skill sets. This will not only help bring out the best version of themselves, but also bring new capabilities to the business – a win-win for everyone.

This should extend to include those currently on furlough who may have lost crucial skills from having spent so long out of the workplace. HR leaders must help their furloughed workforce re-identify their existing skills through training – which could even help them discover new skills they never knew they had.

To build the most effective personal development programmes for existing – and emerging – talent pools, HR leaders need to understand how quickly someone learns new information and adapts to change. Harnessing aptitude assessments such as mental agility – including problem-solving and adaptability – can provide the insight needed to do so. And can also help predict future success and how quickly an individual will get to grips with a new role or regime.

Drive employee engagement

Every organisation’s success is built upon the foundation of its people. Engaged employees have a positive attitude towards work, are willing to put extra effort into their work, feel enthusiastic, proud and inspired in their jobs. They are also more likely to remain in their role and ultimately perform better than their non-engaged colleagues. Get this part right and companies will have a motivated workforce and a successful business overall.

But getting it wrong can lead to low morale, poor levels of motivation and productivity, and higher levels of absence and employee turnover. This is why HR leaders must make sure employee engagement is top of the list of priorities.

For instance, employees who have high emotional management traits are often good at influencing and can even encourage peers to have higher levels of engagement. Equally, employees with strong self-motivation skills are intrinsically motivated by meaningful work, which means they are more dedicated in their tasks and feel fully engaged and in the zone.

With this information, HR leaders can ensure they are tailoring their employee engagement initiatives to not only boost morale and decrease job stress, but to inspire everyone in the workforce to achieve their goals.

The fundamental traits that enable employees to succeed today will always be relevant to any business. HR leaders must be able to paint a full picture of all their employees – both in a team setting and as an individual. Without this insight, it is much more difficult to provide the right training or drive and maintain employee engagement. A strong workforce is not a nice to have. It’s essential for any business looking to thrive in a post-Covid world.