The pandemic shifted the needs of many organizations, which might require employees to take on new roles, or expand roles that might have been smaller in the past.
It’s no surprise that things are different now. But there’s a practical consequence of the pandemic that’s easy to overlook: As the logistics of work shift significantly, job descriptions may need to shift too.
Tony Lee, the vice president of editorial for the Society for Human Resource Management, points to two specific types of tasks that associations will need to account for, either in hiring or in allocating responsibilities to current employees:
Managing an organization’s remote work strategy. The pandemic took remote work to a new level at warp speed. The challenge now is to manage it at an organizational level. “You need to make sure [your staff has] the tools they need, the flexibility, and schedule technology that they need, and they have the support and guidance that they need,” Lee says. He adds that this responsibility is an imperative: The pandemic led many to work significant amounts of time outside of standard work hours, so designating someone to shepherd remote work isn’t just about tech support—it’s about managing overwork. “We’ve had a lot of employees coming out of this and looking around, finding job opportunities that can be there for them,” he says. “Hanging on to your best folks becomes an even bigger challenge.”
Keeping facilities clean and safe. Lee says that those in charge of maintaining, organizing, and tidying the workplace are likely to gain additional responsibilities regarding social distancing and cleanliness. This could mean anything from reorganizing desks and creating distance among coworkers to setting up and maintaining hand sanitizer hubs throughout the office. This role existed in some form before the pandemic, but the assigned responsibilities will expand as the need does. (“That’s the person on the team who’s now making sure that signage is put up,” Lee says.) Beyond facilities, the role may extend to the IT department, especially where logistics and new equipment are involved. But the role depends on the shape of your organization: If you’ve decided to go fully remote or to limit the use of your existing space, this role might be more casual—or nonexistent.
Lee says other roles have also emerged over the past 18 months that are less directly related to the pandemic, such as the rise of the chief diversity officer in many organizations.
Hire, Outsource, or Invest?
One of the key discussion points about these new responsibilities is whether it makes sense to hire for those roles. In many cases, these new responsibilities may simply be added to job descriptions of current employees. But Lee notes that organizations may want to consider scale when deciding whether to specifically hire for an added task.
“If you’re big enough—if you have 100 employees, for example, and everyone’s working remotely—you want someone who’s overseeing them,” he says.
But it may be more common for organizations to fill positions that existed before the pandemic with an eye toward dedicated skill sets that make sense in the new environment. As an example, Lee points to the shifting needs in events staff.
“A lot of associations started looking into virtual conferences and seminars, and I think most of them have transitioned,” he says. “But they’ve also found that it’s an interesting model. So they are looking for people for their events who have that expertise.”
If you’re already outsourcing some labor in areas that are less central to your association’s mission—such as IT help desks and facilities management—there’s no reason to stop doing so now.
“If you’re outsourcing the cleaning of your office, you were probably outsourcing that before the pandemic,” Lee says.
Vendors who specialize in these areas are the ones with the expertise and tools to keep up with COVID-19 protocols, so you can turn to them with questions and concerns.
In other cases, bringing in technology tools might be the correct play. A good example of this is hoteling, or booking out locations as needed. This isn’t a new concept—if you’ve ever had to book a meeting room, for example, you’ve likely already done it. But associations looking to manage smaller workspaces may find using a hoteling approach appealing in lieu of requiring people to go to the office every day. It’s a combination of outsourcing and investing: outsourcing the space and resources required, and investing in a relationship with a vendor that can give your association what it needs to thrive in today’s world.