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This has been a watershed year for workplaces, and it will mark the beginning of many firsts in the way we work now and in the future. Issues such as diversity, inclusion, and how employers demonstrate care for workers while ensuring workplace safety have become primary concerns for employees and employer brands. It is safe to say that many of us have tackled challenges we had never contemplated before, and now we’re thinking about what the new normal will look like for the time being.

As companies navigate these changing business dynamics, however, attracting and retaining key talent remain top priorities. In that regard, not only is building a diverse and inclusive workplace the right thing to do, but it’s also a source of competitive advantage. In a recent study we conducted at DailyPay, 65 percent of those surveyed said that diverse workforces help companies better relate to customers, while 60 percent said diversity in company leadership is important when deciding where to apply for a job.

Today, candidates and consumers are assessing organizations by what they say and even more by what they do, so accountability and follow-through are essential when it comes to recruiting top talent and enabling them to be successful in our companies.

People Work Better When They Work From Home

Flexibility is also at the forefront of the cultural conversation, especially as it pertains to remote work arrangements. As lockdown orders ease up, millions of Americans face the prospect of returning to their physical workplaces and all that entails — including dealing with crowded mass transit options and dramatically changed office environments. Employees’ concerns about workplace health and safety are, understandably, more intense than ever before. Until there is a vaccine, many workers will feel major apprehension about heading back into a shared office space. Employers that creatively and compassionately support the diverse needs of their workforces — while continuing to deliver results to their customers — will attract and retain the best talent in the current market.

Put simply, remote work is no longer a nice occasional perk, but a permanent must-have option for many. In the DailyPay study referenced earlier, 66 percent of respondents said they would work remotely if given the chance, and 56 percent said companies that offer the ability to work remotely are more attractive to them when they’re looking for work.

This is actually great news for employers: In the DailyPay study, respondents expressed that they work more productively when working remotely. Forty-eight percent of respondents said they are more effective working from home, and a third said they work an additional eight or more hours per week when working remotely, for a total of 400+ more work hours per year. These results should contradict the prevalent notion that people who work from home treat the privilege as a vacation day.

The Power of Digital-First Experiences for Candidates and Employees

Another major shift in the workplace has been digital acceleration. The global health crisis has spurred a dramatic increase in the need for contactless technology, evident in a wide range of applications from telehealth and insurance claim scanning to contact-free payments. Organizations today must take this into account and offer employees and customers alike safe, innovative, convenient experiences.

The key is to make sure employees feel empowered and cared for as they navigate these new digital experiences. Companies are now digitally sharing critical information with employees and creatively finding ways to build culture, collaboration, and engagement in their workforces. We can expect those who do this particularly well to have an advantage in attracting and retaining talent.

In some industries, staffing will be a challenge as companies struggle to keep up with skyrocketing consumer demand. For example, supermarkets are rushing to hire more employees as people eat out less and cook for themselves more. The DailyPay Rehire America Index reports the supermarket industry has experienced a 63 percent increase in hiring levels since January.

To compete in this talent market, businesses will have to offer perks that are mutually beneficial to the employer and employee. On-demand pay could be one such benefit, as DailyPay research shows it can lead to significant decreases in average turnover.

In the new normal, HR and talent leaders have to write the playbook for hiring success in real time. Forward thinkers will be able to weather the storm and come out thriving by paying close attention to and meeting the ever-changing expectations of the workforce. It’s a challenge, but more importantly, it’s an exciting opportunity to lead.

Irene Hendricks is a human resources consultant at DailyPay.

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