The future of supply chain holds a place for a permanent hybrid work model for its frontline workers, a new Gartner study has found. Gartner, Inc. unveiled in its latest survey that 61 per cent of supply chain leaders expect a transformation towards a permanent hybrid work model for employees, even at the frontline.
Suzie Petrusic, director of research with the Gartner Supply Chain practice, said that this shift will be marked by an increase in employee expectations:
“In an environment of talent and labor shortage, supply chain leaders anticipate employee expectations to become more demanding and feel that they must prepare to meet those expectations – or lose to competitors that do,” Petrusic said. She continued that 57 per cent of respondents believe that those intensified employee expectations will also increase the costs of attracting, hiring, and retaining talent. So how do you remain competitive?
First, let’s look at how a hybrid work model works.
Hybrid working is the blending of in-person and remote work, which may involve an employee dividing their time between the different work methods. There are a few different types of hybrid work models: A flexible model means that employees can choose their location based on their priorities, whereas a fixed model is where the organization sets the days and times the employee will work remotely/on site. Companies may also implement on-site/remote- first work models where employees will stick to one option for most of the time but have some flexibility to switch.
The idea of working from home typically involves an employee (who normally works in an office) sitting at a desk using their laptop or computer, working as they usually would, but instead using business communication platforms such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams to have virtual meetings. However, it is not one size fits all since many people don’t have office-based jobs. So how can companies implement a flexible work model to support supply chain frontline staff?
Gartner believes that to remain competitive, supply chain leaders should transform their company from a location-centric to a human-centric work design. This involves three main strategic changes.
1. Provide flexible work experiences
Traditionally, operational, and frontline staff in the supply chain are required to be physically present to perform their tasks. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic accelerating remote work, this is no longer the case. Instead, the ability to provide flexible work experiences is now a key factor for winning the talent competition of the future.
“Supply chain leaders can invest in technology to reduce their reliance on humans for frontline operational execution, where work is most inflexible, and they can find ways to increase frontline worker flexibility,” Petrusic said.
While only a small number of respondents are taking the technology route, she said that 56 per cent are investing to design work primarily for flexibility.
This means that the supply chain future will be characterized by flexible workplaces and work schedules, such as part-time shifts and employees having the ability to schedule and trade their own shifts.
2. Enable Intentional Collaboration
A key driver for a human-centric model in the supply chain is enabling intentional collaboration.
Gartner revealed that 62% of leaders are currently investing in providing policy and communication tools for seamless in-person and remote work relationships. Thus, supply chain organizations must be prepared for agile workspaces, collaboration between remote and in-person employees, and collaboration-based training and upskilling programs.
3. Use Empathy-Based Management
The human-centric model demands that supply chain leaders and managers be accountable for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and employee well-being, including protection against discrimination.
The survey found that about three-quarters of respondents are investing to enforce equitable employment practices and provide employees with meaningful, purpose-driven initiatives in their work.
“With shifting employment models already being explored, supply chain leaders will want to ensure they can drive empathy for these nontraditional employees,” Petrusic mentioned.
Leaders will then need the proper organizational structure, including focused leadership roles, such as directors of remote work or robotics.
Is hybrid working here to stay?
Although it can be rather complicated, implementing a successful hybrid work model can have many benefits overall. Even frontline supply chain workers can now make the most of hybrid working, and the flexibility, collaboration and learning that comes with it. So yes, the hybrid work model is here to stay with the use of technology as its way forward.