Kelly Olsen, Chief Operating Officer at SThree, explains why investment in people and technologies will fuel a post COVID-19 recovery.

With COVID-19 creating an unprecedented challenge for the globalised economy, no two industries will be facing the same challenges.

The pandemic has forced organisations to accelerate business transformations at incredible speed whereby technological development and workforce behaviour has revolutionised as a matter of urgency, emphasising demand for specific IT skills across industries and sectors.

  1. Transformations are hard; digital ones are harder

The current rate of technological transformation has been exponential. For organisations worldwide, keeping up with the pace of change is vital in order to remain competitive; embracing in new technology and modes of working will be fundamental to the future success of any organisation.

Mobilisation of the workforce within this period of change is cited as a top concern among businesses – insight from our global client base shows that 43% of employers concerned about either enabling remote working and collaboration or keeping staff safe in the workplace and/or remotely.

Almost all of SThree’s clients have implemented home working to mobilise their teams, causing huge demand on IT infrastructure. We are witnessing companies throw the full weight of their resources at digitalisation – clearly driven by the transition to remote working and the adoption of cloud-based platforms. In some cases, digital transformation plans around technology architecture that had lead times of 18-months are now being turned around in just one month. It seems that now, finally, tech is seen as a revolutionary force within the workplace by those who control budgets.

  1. So there’s a tech revolution… but is it the resolution?

Every business has been required to become more tech-enabled than ever before and with business continuity being the top priority, companies who will thrive in a recovering economy will be those that have reimagined their business model with the tech revolution in mind.

In practice, that means prioritising employee and customer journeys from a digital-first point of view. Virtual will become the new physical on a permanent basis, and that means work itself will change. Yes, remote working is now here to stay, but also work will need to correspond to demand surges – meaning that the need for contract workers to be recruited at short notice and onboarded quickly into a company will rapidly grow.

But not every industry can operate remotely. Manufacturing and engineering, for example, rely on physical components being delivered and finished goods being created in a plant or factory.  That is where previous buzzwords like IoT, AI, and automation come into play. For example, machines can fill the physical space between workers, allowing social distancing to take place while not sacrificing the efficiency of the production line and enabling people to work on more meaningful tasks within a production plant. 

  1. Powered by the people

People have rightfully been the immediate priority, reacting in record time to changing working conditions and unprecedented business continuity challenges. COVID-19 has highlighted the absolute imperative to move faster on digital transformation and talent will be a key differentiator as organisations build the future.

Some employers expect that they will have significant talent gaps to fill when the economy experiences a sudden recovery and may use the shift to remote working to widen their talent pools. There is already an underlying demand for STEM skills as organisations struggle with the operational challenges of remote working and need new talent. In the UK, for example, the number of professionals in the Data Science, Salesforce, and DevOps fields has grown by 10-12% – even during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To succeed, organisations must forward plan like never before and be ready to recruit this kind of STEM talent. That means embracing from the outset the idea of ‘telecommuting’ – eradicating the old thinking of working from home being a ‘nice to have’ and enabling talent to enter the business on a flexible basis who in turn enable an entire workforce.

Conclusion: the new normal was always coming…

In reality, the growth of remote working and of machinery taking on more tasks were trends we were already seeing long before COVID. All that the pandemic has done is accelerate them tenfold – meaning that the new normal has come around faster than we ever expected.

About the author

Kelly Olsen is the Chief Operating Officer at SThree plc, the only global pure-play STEM recruitment company. She oversees the global IT and Operations functions at SThree, having joined the company from global professional services firm RPS, where she worked as Chief Information Officer (CIO). She has also held senior roles at NHS Property Services Ltd, Cushman & Wakefield, Capgemini, and Towry Law.