“There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.” Nothing is truer than these words by Lenin who mentioned this more than 100 years back, probably in a completely different context. At this moment the world has come at a standstill as the entire human race gets gripped by a deadly pandemic. In the span of a few months, citizens are requested to confine themselves at home to prevent the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus. In just a few weeks, individuals and businesses are compelled to grapple with the basic question of survival. Organizations are suddenly required to scramble for ways to maintain business continuity in the face of such a life-threatening crisis. However, these are also testing times for everyone on how quickly we adapt, how differently we can think and plan which will determine how strongly we emerge from this adversity.
The coronavirus outbreak that started in China’s Wuhan district late last year throws several unprecedented challenges. The last one in the recent memory that came close to such a situation, at least on the projected impact on a large scale, was the global financial crisis in 2008. Even though the current crisis is biological and sociological, it does pose several challenges for business. The International Labour Organisation (ILO), has estimated job losses to run over 25 million as a result of COVID-19. Unlike some of the events in the past, the current crisis brings forth human fragility. There are many pertinent questions with no clear answers and none of us are equipped to face this unique challenge.
In the last major crisis i.e. the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) the entire world faced between 2007-09, most of the organizations turned to corporate finance for survival but the COVID-19 pandemic is a human crisis that brings the need for Human resources (HR) to be at the forefront of ensuring success in sailing through the crisis. Thus, HR needs to redefine employee engagement in such challenging times.
- Share leadership vision and direction transparently
- Equip managers in meeting the basic emotional needs of their teams
- Facilitate frequent conversations and touch bases
Furthermore, a tried and tested 3R approach - Reset, Relearn, and Rejuvenate, may help set a new course of employee engagement in the upcoming weeks to come.
To Reset means pressing the reboot button on how our people were used to working before this crisis. It is a completely new world with newer interfaces and the intent here is to create novel ways of working which will help them not just during the crisis but also in the post-COVID-19 world. This could involve the utilization of cloud technology platforms that can help to create a quick efficient virtual connectivity with the employees who are spread across India. For instance, leverage on investments made on various platforms like Workplace by Facebook which is a social collaboration tool, adoption of the entire O365 ecosystem for smooth connectivity, Skype, and virtual people management platform.
Every adversity brings with itself a hidden opportunity. Due to the COVID-19 lockdown business are compelled to shut down physical offices and people are home-bound with some time in hand. Organizations should tap this situation in their people’s favor by making available a plethora of learning avenues. Thus, in Relearning, an organization can commit itself to create a space to transform the current Work from Home (WFH) scenarios into high engaging Learn from Home (LFH) scenarios. This can be made possible by conducting some of the following activities:
- Consistent Knowledge Sharing session between inter/intra teams
- Byte size Lockdown learning sessions on a wide variety of topics related to personal and professional enhancements
- Industry expert sessions
- Need-based e-learning module
By Resetting and Relearning, organizations can mitigate professional risks that staffs undergo, however as HRs we need to emphasize on mitigating the personal risk faced by each one of us. This is where the need to Rejuvenate comes to play. By Rejuvenate we are weighing on the need of the body, mind, and soul to unite, revitalize, and feel at ease during this crisis. Companies could introduce a wide range of programs to facilitate this very need by including not only the employees but their beloved family members as well and encourage the staff to showcase their hidden talents and share with the organization. As a result, employees move an inch closer to each other and can relate with their team members on a whole new level.
Another idea would be to introduce daily morning wellness sessions that may include Yoga, Pranayam, Home Strength Training, and High-Intensity Training. These sessions can be conducted by fellow employees. Certain activities can be scheduled on a particular day of the week, preferably a light-day like Friday. Casual engagements like cooking classes, cocktail making workshops, and musical evenings can be hosted by select employees to continue the momentum of employee engagement.
To help support people through these challenging times, organizations can share a host of guided meditations that employees can practice from the comfort of their homes. Staff members who feel distressed can also be provided with a Tele counseling service with the help of an appointed expert in the field who can help them cope with stresses that these times induce.
There are hard times for each of us but a little harder for those struggling to make ends meet. Organizations can ideate and launch their CSR initiatives in collaboration with renowned NGOs. For instance, the initiative can consider providing daily use and essential items to the daily wage earners across various states as an effort to support the hardest-hit communities during this pandemic.
With all these efforts HR teams can foster an attitude of resilience and build an anti-fragile organization. As Nassim Nicholas Taleb said: “Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.”