While no one could have predicted the magnitude of the pandemic or how long we would be dealing with its repercussions, some companies were better able to quickly respond to the challenges it presented to maintain business continuity.

The companies that most successfully dealt with the changes were able to easily shift roles and responsibilities among their employees to minimize a disruption to business. To do this, employers must consider cross-training employees before an urgent need arises and provide talent sharing opportunities that encourage engagement, reduce attrition and attract new talent so that the organization can also maintain its success.

Change Management

Including cross-training as a part of a change management plan is a no-brainer. But too many organizations keep a plan without putting this important part of it into action. When change happens, the ability to quickly shift responsibilities is essential to keep going. So just how prepared should employees be to take on new responsibilities? How will organizations manage engagement and retention and how will they deal with future business disruptions?

Employees can be faced with a multitude of challenges during a crisis, the least of which could be learning how to do a colleague’s job. By creating a process by which employees are trained on each other’s roles and responsibilities, which may include online coursework, employees can feel empowered to act when needed and feel less overwhelmed when they are asked to step in. It’s important to emphasize to employees that cross-skilling will also help their career development and their ability to contribute to the organization.

Employee Engagement

Adjusting to a new way of working, juggling personal and family responsibilities with work, and fighting burnout are just a few challenges faced by employees. But remote work has allowed employees more flexibility around work schedules — without the stresses of long commutes — and provides greater work-life balance. With the shift to new work models, companies have been forced to rethink how to keep employees engaged when they aren’t in the office.

As a result of these changes, employees have been more productive, engaged and satisfied with their jobs. However, many companies plan to have their employees return to the office without a strategy to maintain the gains achieved through remote and hybrid work. If there’s no choice but to bring them back to the workplace, employers must find a way to keep employees engaged, or risk not only the financial cost of attrition, but also the time and effort spent recruiting and training new employees. You can see just how big a chunk of your budget could go to waste as a result of disengagement by using

The best way to keep employees engaged is to recognize the value they provide the organization by nurturing their careers with opportunities to expand existing skill sets and gain new ones, as well as to discover new interests that can benefit the company, while developing a strategy for career development within. As a result, employees can stay stimulated and motivated.

Talent Retention and Acquisition

By doing nothing to maintain engagement, an organization risks not only an unmotivated workforce but a disloyal one as well. Retention has been a common problem in recent months and talent acquisition is equally challenging. The expectation that employees will return to work and performance will be the same as it was pre-pandemic is likely an unrealistic one. Employees have more choice about how and where they work. If a company doesn’t provide flexibility, they can choose to work elsewhere, and the former employer will not only lose an employee but will likely struggle to backfill the role. Opportunities for learning and skill-building can help prevent these problems by increasing knowledge and experience of the internal talent pool, while keeping them interested and invested in the success of the organization and motivated to be a part of it.

According to , “87% of employees and 71% of HR directors agree that providing [career roadmaps] will be important in terms of recruiting and retaining the best talent.” Offering an upskilling program to employees will also help to attract talent, as they can apply knowing they will have the ability to grow with your organization.

Succession Planning and Leadership Development

Succession planning is a best practice of change management. Selecting individuals for leadership opportunities and properly training them is necessary to carry forth when an executive needs to leave. Planning means having the resources in place so that those on a leadership path can gain the skills necessary to succeed in an executive role.

However, providing leadership development isn’t only important in the case of a crisis. It also helps with engagement and retention. As employees spend years working for you, they can take their knowledge and use it to help another organization succeed, or they can plan to continue to grow with you, using the experiences specific to your company that will give them a distinct advantage in leading others on your team.

Putting Training Programs into Action

While providing professional development to employees used to be a costly consideration, as well as a time-intensive one, established and respected educational content providers now offer online learning for a manageable price. And without the need to take time away from the office for learning, employees can more easily take advantage of courses, mentorships, and other resources that can help them — and their employer — as they increase their value to the organization by gaining the skills that allow them to take on additional or different roles and responsibilities while remaining with the organization.