Guest: Jonas Prising – Chairman & CEO of ManpowerGroup on the global response to COVID-19 and how to do a smart economic re-start.
Key takeaways: Manpower applies global lessons locally
Prising provided perspectives and insights from a company with offices in 80 countries around the world – and lessons that can be applied locally:
How people react to and interpret varying levels of lockdown have been major factors in countries’ abilities to stem the tide of Covid-19. Prising pointed to Sweden, his native country, where there are no severe closures, and schools and restaurants remain open, but the population is heeding the call for strict social distancing: “In the end, it’s what the population does with the information it has – listening to facts and science.”
In China, citizens and businesses are returning to a new normal, but everyone wears facemasks, restaurants are operating at 50% of capacity, companies are taking the temperatures of their employees several times a day, and employees work different shifts in different parts of the building.
As droves of employees adjust to working at home, employers will likely respond with more flexible work arrangements. Said Prising: “The greatest driver of societal change is not what tech can do but what people want it to do.”
Working together as a business community with health care experts and government leaders has enabled Wisconsin to rank in the top 10 in the nation for flattening the curve. “We should do well based on how we’ve handled last four weeks,” said Prising.
Steps toward re-opening the economy
Health care data will dictate when the time is right. Prising believes many people will want Personal Protective Equipment such as masks and gloves to feel safe. Many companies will likely stagger shifts and create distance between workstations. “Manpower will refrain from bringing everybody back at once because we can operate remotely – so we are part of the solution. We can (institute) limited contact so other employers that can’t do that can begin operations.”
He advised planning now: “We need to be ready to go.”
Thoughts on travel, schools and the labor force:
- Most of the spread that is recurring is due to travelers coming in. Reality: many countries will hold onto travel restrictions longer than anything else.
- In Europe, one of the first things to reopen were the schools and daycares to free up working parents. But we need to be clear that if someone is ill, they must stay home from school and work, and employers need to provide this flexibility.
- Looking at supply chains, there may be more re-shoring and nearshoring of supplies, which could mean more manufacturing in the U.S. Right now, more individuals are seeking new skills and once the economy re-bounds we will see a resurgence of talent shortages.
“In the end, we will need a vaccine. Until then, we are living in a new normal,” said Prising. “As employers, we shoulder a disproportionate share of responsibility as to whether coming out of this situation is successful. We will need to collaborate in many and new ways to get back to work in the best and fastest way possible.”