Changing Role of HR in Building a Resilient Workforce

The pandemic has also put the spotlight squarely on the human resources function to reimagine how people collaborate and stay connected now and in the future. In many cases, human resource professionals have the additional responsibility to reskill the workforce for new roles and prepare it to respond with agility and innovation.


One of the significant challenges facing the human resources function amid the COVID19 pandemic is the need to keep the workforce up and running as an economic and social organization. Four months of social distancing and the need to stay protected within the four walls of our homes have exposed the limitations of the brick and mortar workplace and an offline workflow that many of us have continued to carry as a piece of historical baggage. The pandemic has also put the spotlight squarely on the human resources function to reimagine how people collaborate and stay connected now and in the future. In many cases, human resource professionals have the additional responsibility to reskill the workforce for new roles and prepare it to respond with agility and innovation.

In the ensuing phase of the COVID19 pandemic, human resources have transformed in the following ways:

● Innovate and Transform Employee Engagement Models for Work

One of the most significant challenges facing human resources leaders in the face of the pandemic is the major disruption to employee engagement due to social distancing. The need to stay at home to steer clear of the communicable health risks has made it difficult for enterprises to keep their team and workforce intact. For the human resources function in enterprises to resolve these challenges, they need to be more innovative and stretch the boundaries of their imagination to ensure that employee engagement is maintained. Some enterprises that have been proactive in leveraging the benefits of technology have been able to shift the course of their employee engagement models in no time with minimum marginal investments, costs, and efforts. Endeavors like online town hall meetings, virtual activities for fun at the workplace including online gaming, fitness programs, quizzes, and online huddle sessions continue to fill the voids created by the near conspicuous absence of the coffee breaks and corridor chats that people enjoyed at the workplace to take a quick breather and dive back into work.

● Address Burnout Issues Emanating from Restricted Social Exchanges

Another significant challenge that has emerged and grown during the ensuing pandemic is the sequestered lifestyle of people. In the face of the new normal of remote working and work from home, human resource leaders must address the burnout issues emanating from the restricted social exchanges by adding a higher personal touch to communication processes for work. What makes the issue a critical one is that people are often unwilling to share their agonies and pain points openly due to fears of social rejection at the workplace. The general apathy to demonstrating vulnerability makes it hard for human resource leaders to identify individuals who may be succumbing to clinical depression, insomnia, and fear factors related to the health and economic risks of the pandemic from within and provide necessary support mechanisms to lean on.

● Switch to objective, continuous and clear written feedback

The COVID19 pandemic has adversely affected conversations on performance feedback at work by effectively ruling out the scope of direct interaction between human resource leaders and the workforce. Under such circumstances, human resource leaders and functional heads need to explore new ways of feedback conversations to ensure that employees continue to deliver high performance through the pandemic and beyond. One of the new ways of making performance and feedback conversations possible is through written communication that explicitly defines KRAs, is agile and continuous. The new challenges to performance conversations require human resource leaders to regularly follow up on the performance of individuals in the workforce and appreciate high performance amidst these trying conditions. There is enough empirical evidence to suggest that written communication on performance can go a long way in zeroing down the gaps of recognition at the workplace and boost employee morale.

● Rethink Hiring with Newfound Options like Remote Working

The digital transformation of the workforce and the workplace has opened up new avenues for human resource leaders to leverage talent across diverse geographies, thanks to the available remote working options. Doing so will not only allow enterprises to unlock new talent across various business functions. It will also create new models of employment generation that have been successful in mature markets but are in stages of infancy in emerging markets like India. Some of these new models of hiring and employment generation, like contracting, can be especially helpful in bringing forth previously untapped talent in remote locations far from the metropolitan cities in the country to the mainstream market. Verticals in the technology domain can especially look forward to exploring new hiring options and creating virtual teams that align with the remote working requirements and work from home.

● Benefits May Need to Include Conveniences for Work from Home

Benefits and compensation are the other aspects of the human resources management function to undergo a significant transformation. The need for social distancing and freeze on mobility during lockdowns has sharply brought the importance of commuting to work into focus. Human resources leaders are now looking to alter the benefits to employees by replacing compensation and allowances for employees' expenses on fuel, driver's salary, and travel reimbursements with work from home kits that can foster digital connectivity and enhance collaboration among individuals and teams. Collaboration tools, catalog-based procurement applications, supplier management applications, project management applications, and contract management solutions built on contemporary technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning, can enable employees to be more efficient, productive, and accurate at tasks that require continuous track and trace.

The Digital Workforce is Already Here: Technology Enablement at Work is Here to Stay

While short term challenges to working from home will continue to evolve and require human resource leaders to explore innovative solutions to keep their enterprises afloat, the long term direction is rather stable and visible. Technology enablement of the workforce will likely assume greater relevance and top the agenda of human resource leaders in the future. The lessons from the ongoing problem are loud and clear. Enterprises will have to continuously focus on improving the digital preparedness of their workforce and workflow to proactively steer clear of the risks of the next disruption.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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Role of HR Resilient Workforce Sandeep Goel Moglix


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