Lockheed readies for new, post-pandemic workforce construct

By Marjorie Censer / May 10, 2021

Lockheed Martin has prepared a plan to move a large percentage of its workforce to a hybrid in-person and telework approach as the pandemic appears to be easing.

In an interview with Inside Defense, Greg Karol, the contractor's chief human resources officer, said the company moved 70% of its employees to telework when the pandemic hit nearly 14 months ago.

The remaining roughly 30% were employees who had to come into their worksites, whether because of security requirements or because they were in manufacturing roles.

Lockheed previously had only about 6% of employees teleworking.

"We really challenged our IT community; we challenged our leaders," Karol said.

The company moved to new virtual tools, like Zoom, and trained executives on how to use them. It helped employees buy desks and printers to equip their home offices and offered help with childcare, he said.

Later in the year, Lockheed put together a team, dubbed the LM Forward team, to assess how the company would operate after the pandemic.

"We did an analysis of everyone's job to see who could telework after the pandemic," he said. "We ended up with well over 40% of our employees that won't be necessarily coming back to the office full-time; they might be doing part-time, and almost 10% of our employees that will go full-time telework."

Now, he said the company has trained its executives on how to manage a hybrid workforce and informed employees of how roles will be shifted.

Lockheed, he added, is simply waiting to implement the plan.

"We're just watching vaccination rates, infection rates, trying to think when is the right time to do that," Karol said. "We're ready to go."

He said the contractor has also been focused on getting employees vaccinated. Lockheed has held more than 50 vaccination events at its facilities.

"We actually have a system where [employees] voluntarily notify the company that they've been vaccinated," Karol said. Just over 30% of employees have been fully vaccinated, while nearly half have had one shot.

He noted that some roles, such as at customer sites or international locations, will require the vaccine.

"Employees won't lose their job if they don't get vaccinated, but they may not be able to do those jobs," Karol said. "We're in an encouragement mode."

He said Lockheed sees part-time telework as a way for employees to maintain personal relationships and networks.

"One of the biggest concerns I've had and the senior team has had is will people lose connection with the workplace, the mission with the customers," Karol said. "We're going to be really focused on training how to do that even more efficiently."

"When you bring people into the workplace, how do you make those interactions more efficient than they've ever been?" he added, noting the company is still weighing how to manage new employees.

"If you go to this hybrid design, would you want to -- for at least a period of time initially -- have the person come into the workplace every day to kind of acclimate to the culture . . . and feel part of the company before you send them out?" Karol said. "We're toying with that."

Lockheed is also considering how to rearrange its facilities to adapt to the new approach.

"Part of LM Forward has been let's look at our facilities," he said. "Can you reduce the footprint you have? . . . Teleworkers don't need an office anymore so you'd use that as hoteling space."

Additionally, Karol continued, "conferencing space is going to be really, really important."

'We've got a whole team that's reconfiguring the workplaces. It's actually already started," he said. "We think we'll take out millions of square feet over the next several years by doing this process."

Karol said Lockheed has also decided to move to completely virtual hiring. The company previously did about 20% to 25% of its hiring this way.

"We felt it was a big challenge to do -- and it was -- but once we got in the mode of doing it and that became our standard operation, it became very good and it was very much a cost saver for us because you're not flying people in," he said. "The reality is as we go forward a lot of these jobs will be virtual . . . at least part-time."

Karol noted, however, the company may continue to use in-person hiring practices for senior-level executive jobs.

He told Inside Defense the virtual approach to hiring coupled with remote work has "opened up talent avenues that we never expected," such as allowing some employees to move within the company without having to relocate.

However, Karol acknowledged the increased flexibility of almost all companies is creating more competition.

"If another company's doing the same thing, [employees] never have to leave their desk at home [and] they can go to another place," he said. "That'll be an interesting frontier the next couple years on employees' mobility."