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Crucial Role of HR and Leaders Pre-COVID and Post-COVID
All organizations, big or small, relied heavily on their HR and IT teams to ensure the wellbeing of their people while they deliver on business-critical projects from home.
In the last 5 years, technology-enabled talent platforms started accelerating the digital HR disruption and began creating a new age where people have more control over how they work, what a better balance between work and home means, deciding to pick passion-driven projects or being their own boss.
Just as things were starting to fall into place, COVID-19 struck and started disrupting human routine, lifestyle, businesses and the global economy. The overall economic impact of the outbreak will overshadow operations for years to come.
Yet, in so much of chaos, one aspect that stood out was the ability of HR functions across the globe to hold all ends together and fix gaps quickly to ensure continuity of their businesses.
Since mid-February 2020, 'This is Our Moment' unequivocally and rightfully so because this crisis put the HR function in the radar of importance, visibility, and influence. HR functions have become the most sought-after for their ability to control the damage, come up with contingency plans, control the endless complexity of people management; all this while keeping the spirit of the organization and togetherness intact.
Amongst all the drastic changes, the biggest efforts have gone into the immediate shift to 'work from home.' All organizations, big or small, relied heavily on their HR and IT teams to ensure the wellbeing of their people while they deliver on business-critical projects from home.
When COVID started to spread rapidly, crisis response became the top priority for HR –
CEOs, CIOs, CHROs of the big multi-national organizations agree that their HR team's crisis response was successful to an extent in addressing three important aspects – communication, remote work, and prompt reporting. If not done already, organizations must develop a global response team and create a set of channels for communication (intranet, social media, emails etc.), efficient tools for remote work, and daily reporting capabilities on the status of COVID-19 and information about work at home.
I believe that, when these measures are executed correctly, organizations can address many of the most pressing concerns of the employees while making the transition to a remote workplace effective for business.
For instance, daily crisis reporting has been providing regular, stable, and in-time updates to employees as they worry about their future. This has also been helpful in clarifying their roles and responsibilities currently. Also, efficient reporting capabilities using emails, SMS, internal and external social media and intranet have allowed the companies to pivot to meet critical needs as productivity and absenteeism shifted unpredictably.
Taking it a step further, secure and remote-friendly tools made employees’ lives easier and their work more productive as they work from home.
We can't be sure of when the lockdown will be lifted, but there’s no denying that we have now entered an unchartered paradigm… space where ‘surviving against odds’ becomes the new norm.
How To Deal With The shift
In the future, HR organization’s response will fall into four important areas:
1. Physical health and wellbeing
2. Remote Work
3. Issues related to jobs and work continuity
4. An urgent need for mental health, resilience, family support, and dealing with uncertainty.
Hence, HR organizations must expand the support they provide to employees –
Mental Health Will Come to the Fore
Constantly staying at home will take its toll on mental health. With a potential increase in mental health issues, there is an increasing appreciation for its importance and how organizations can provide solutions, employment benefits and programming to help employees.
Employees Will Get More Comfortable with Technology
Learning to use a new system, communication software or a tool can get challenging, and it worsens when one can't get immediate support in person. But this lockdown will teach us to figure out a way to deal with these challenges and I'm confident that most of the employees will expand their comfort, capability and confidence with all-things tech
Relationship With Teammates Will Improve
Most of us are probably missing our offices for one reason – in-person interactions with our work buddies. But now our virtual conversations include repartee about family life, culinary skills, home workouts, the fun antics of kids and more.
Now, our colleagues understand how we orchestrate our personal life; from cooking to teaching kids. They will have a refreshed level of appreciation for the importance family and friends have for happiness and in life.
As we continue to have such conversations, connect more virtually for work, and get through this situation together, we will have new levels of connection with our colleagues.
Diversity Will Be Seen In New Light
The jobs that we might have considered insignificant at some point have become the most important during this pandemic. Soon, companies will realize that including different perspectives and having people with different capabilities will contribute a great deal to the organization. As a result, we will see an improved perception of how people can bring their best to work—through inclusive design, new policies and practices, and new approaches to teamwork that support different ways of working.
Work Will Become More Flexible.
Companies have put greater technology systems and support in place to facilitate mobile working. Teams are figuring out how to collaborate at a distance and leaders are improving their ability to manage based on outcomes and objectives rather than presence.
Workspace Will Get Neater
Fumigation, social distancing, disinfecting, pest control, hand sanitizers, clean floors etc. will become more significant. Organizations will go the extra mile and consider enhanced cleaning techniques, more distancing and increased choices for employees across a campus (providing places for focus, collaboration, learning, socializing, and respite).
Organizations will also consider enhancing their workspace by installing things employees loved about being home. Things like comfortable places to relax between meetings or personalized desks will be treated as a new way to enhance the associate experience more than anything else.
Your Company’s Approach Will Change
Getting things done virtually was new to someone a month ago. Today, that is the norm. We don’t know for how long we will have to work remotely. Hence, the best alternative will be to learn efficient ways of connecting with team members. This improved efficiency will have a direct impact on the speed at which things get done. This will also reduce the bureaucracy because leaders will delegate decision making to enhance speed—resulting in increased empowerment for employees. Be it the HR systems, customer-response systems, development systems or manufacturing systems, I believe that the ability to respond promptly will have a positive effect on the workforce of tomorrow.
Innovation will flourish
Our current COVID-19 challenges create unwarranted obstacles to business as usual. But the good thing is that today’s struggles and pain are forcing new ways of thinking, better approaches, and fresh perspectives on problems. At the end of this, I wouldn't be surprised if I see some great innovations in HR Technology.
This situation has forced organizations to shift the fundamentals of jobs and the way they’re designed, thus creating more career opportunities. When the economy comes back, there will be great requirements for employees that can catch up quickly, act, and put motivation behind efforts that make things happen for organizations. Whether internal or external or gig work, people will need people for their brand.
Now, it is difficult to stay positive for tomorrow. But I'm confident that the current crisis will eventually pass and a new normal will emerge, and there will be several reasons to believe that the future will be bright.
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