For centuries, the human race has worked towards growth, continuing to evolve. We have lived through constant movement across boundaries, shifted out of home and built better external environments. Simply said, for everyone on the planet, moving in and out of homes and offices was a primary need. But then COVID-19 joined our livelihood. This has been such an unprecedented curveball, that many of us are still struggling to adapt to the new normal. Unfortunately, this is a reality now and one has had to build lives around this pandemic.
Since the initial months of 2020, everything seems to have undergone a paradigm shift. We had to alter the way we operated, lived, and EVEN breathed (literally)! Covid – 19 has been a great leveler, in the sense that impacted one and all, across – the strata of the society, different races and ethnicities and age-groups. One of the visible and undeniable impacts was on our professional livelihoods, as well. And let me tell you, this wasn’t easy for anyone – the employee and the employer. The whole industry had to undergo a sea-change in how we worked on acquiring, engaging and retaining talent, all these years. What got us here, wasn’t going to take us ahead.
The HR fraternity had to traverse beyond limits for the requisite change in effective people management. No one could have prepared us for this situation – this was absolutely unknown. This kind of crises never made rounds in any of our MBA course material, nor was there a precedent to fall back on or learn from. And that is what makes it interesting, challenging and I dare say – “exciting” at the same time. Exciting in the sense that how do we respond (and not react), how do we adapt and how do we survive in this new “Normal”!
New Best Practices
The last 12 months witnessed immense acceptance of changes in Business and People practices. However, there is a silver lining here as well, just as newer avenues opened up. With the pandemic, as we moved indoors and began working remotely, it opened up opportunities to hire talent, beyond restricted geographies. No more was there a rule for talent to be in the same city as the organisation. One could be sitting out of the metros of Mumbai or Bangalore, and yet hire talent from markets other than the metros. This could be a rockstar software developer sitting out of any part of the world!
While it is great that one could hire talent based out of anywhere (all they needed was a laptop and an Internet connectivity!), one question was looming over us - how do you invoke a sense of belongingness to your firm? Physical spaces do have the ability to get people closer, to help employees absorb the culture of the organization and to build better working relationships with your co-workers. The remote working setup definitely turned out to be an impediment in making this possible. And we were constantly donning our thinking hats with one single concern - How do you get new joiners to believe in the brand ethos and relate to the mission and vision of what the organization is striving to achieve?
Technology is the secret-sauce
In my opinion the paramount solution to a lot of the problem statements that the HR teams face today, is simply the adoption of technology. The pace at which one is able to implement tech-driven solutions to solve people problems, the faster the ability to enhance productivity and efficiency. HR and Technology teams have had to collaborate to create better solutions (build or buy) that equip employees to operate seamlessly in today’s virtual world. Few of them are on the lines of:
- Online assessment tools assisting in hiring talent
- Virtual Onboarding solutions help to integrate better with organisations
- Collaboration tools and virtual meeting applications help teams, across geographies to connect and interact better
- AI powered bots are attempting to gauge the level of engagement with employees
- Numerous Learning solutions are great solutions to train and upskill employees
- The common thread being efficient deployment of Technology.
- Building a better work environment
- Another extremely crucial milestone that the HR fraternity needs to adopt is the Ability to TRUST their employees.
Pre-Covid, everyone had apprehensions about ‘Work from Home’ setups and its impact on productivity. The pandemic bust this myth, and how. Infact, productivity levels during lockdowns were significantly higher. Employees have shown tremendous commitment to their roles and responsibilities. Hence, we need to trust that our employees will do the right thing. So rather than racking our brains to find complex engagement methods, lets instead ask employees - what will help them feel more connected to their jobs and the organisations at large. Build a two-way communication model, sustainable for any future challenges too. Listen in more carefully to your employees and evaluate ‘what and how’ cuts through the noise the deliver the appropriate message.
Staying agile, now and for the future
We need to imbibe AGILITY as part of our professional lives, it's important. HR processes and People practices need to be agile to suit the ever-changing business requirements. We need to throw away the age-old rulebook and embrace the changed reality. The workforce today is very different and they want to be challenged. Organisations are evaluating to pivot their business models, external environmental and economic factors impact our businesses on a consistent basis. Hence the need for HR to be flexible and agile to design and define progressive People strategies. We need to align with this change and evolve without being too rigid. The proverbial “one shoe” does not fit all anymore!
The HR fraternity can be a strong change-agent and we should be geared up to leverage this position, so that organisations can survive and thrive!