We live in uncertain times and for many of us the last few months have been particularly hard with the second wave of pandemic surging beyond our wildest imagination. Wave two of the pandemic has caught everyone off -guard creating a dent in human lives, business and economy. With the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, lockdown and night curfews, the situation seems to be back to square one. While dealing with the second wave, the slow speed of vaccination and the probability of the third wave, is leading to stress and uncertainty. One question that organizations are grappling with is how to strategically recoup the business from the second wave & also protect and provide safety to its employees and take care of their wellbeing.
Standing up through the storm
The second wave has deepened into an unprecedented crisis. What is a crisis ? It is an ‘unprecedented or extraordinary event or situation that threatens an organization and requires a strategic, adaptive and timely response, in order to preserve its viability and integrity.’ Every crisis is also an opportunity. It opens the doors to big changes and realignments that might have been impossible before the crisis hit. If we seize this opportunity, we can turn the moment of crisis in our favour and then accelerate to make our organizations more resilient. Crisis is the driving force behind any significant change.
When global pandemic unfolded last year, there were a few organizations and institutions that were very well prepared for the sudden disruption. There were many who weren’t and faltered. What made some of these organizations thrive? If organizations do not invest appropriately to test and challenge their mindset towards handling resilience, they are in the danger of being ill-prepared for the crisis coming their way. Truly effective way of handling a crisis is beyond reactive and simply protecting the existing value. Learning of the past year must be utilized and the opportunities must be converted into necessary capabilities for business sustainability and safety of employees.
Approach resilience holistically
One factor that has made organizations survive and thrive in the first wave is ability to rapidly assess the new situation, adjust its course and then accelerate. Some companies have built this discipline quite well. It’s in fact, the heart of Resilience – ability to quickly adapt to the new situation and then bounce back.
The role of HR has been critical and experts believe that it is also the pandemic of ‘crisis’ in HR, whether we like it or not. It's an immense opportunity to lead our organization through it while levelling up our collective resilience. One essential way to do this is discovering how to turn a crisis into an opportunity, especially while we are still in it. For those of us in HR, our work puts us at the intersection of many facets of business. From this unique position, the human resource function is particularly equipped to lead the organization through this journey. HR has to first of all, accept and embrace this role in accelerating transformation and levelling up organizational resilience.
“HR had to build a crisis response muscle … We’ve been working on transformation programs quite intensely for the last few years. Now it’s the time to make it all real”– Josh Bersin.
We do not become resilient by accident, neither do organizations. As challenging as periods of change and uncertainty are, they can provide unparalleled opportunities to consider how we can make our organizations more resilient. There are four critical areas where organizations can focus and make the transformation impactful:
- Focus on people and culture: The way through this unpredictable crisis is not clear, we are learning each day. Keeping the people at the core of whatever organizations do is the best strategy. At a time when an uncertain future can easily fill us with anxiety, our organization can be a beacon of comfort and stability only if we make a concerted effort to foster trust. We also need to be mindful that the needs of the people will change over time. It is tricky to predict how the culture of the organization will change, as we continue to work remotely for the unforeseeable future. If we wish to unlock the power of people, our culture requires more than just fighting the same battle. To do that we need to focus on what’s working, what’s not and why.
- Technology as an enabler: It is difficult to imagine the world of work without technology. We now have to rely on tools to an extent we have never done before and also learn new ones. Also, examine how technology is helping ( or not) in collaborating in new and better ways with an eye towards inclusivity, increasing psychological safety and reimagining the workplace.
- Relooking the existing policies and processes: In a crisis, the existing processes can become irrelevant, outdated and downright unhelpful. There is a need for an adaptive policy making process that increases our capacity to be agile, responsive and adaptive no matter what’s going on around us. High performing organizations have increased their organizational resilience through crafting policies that emphasize flexibility, adaptiveness and agility.
- Leadership and Learning: We have a chance to reassess how our approach to leadership and learning can help our organization become more resilient. Pandemic has been a massive learning opportunity for organizations. As we have continued our way through the crisis, what can we learn about the way we learn ? And how can we plan our future learning strategy? The biggest challenge we are facing is not just figuring out how to make it through this crisis. It's about coming out of it better than we were going into it and finding ways to continuously replicate that progress. But that won't happen on its own. We need to be intentional and continuously learn how to keep moving in the right direction.
To summarize, the pandemic that we are fighting today is no less than a war. As Sri Aurobindo is believed to have once said “You have to be more persistent than the difficulties. There are no other means.” These are tough times, but as the famous saying goes , tough times don’t last , but tough people do . This too shall pass through collective effort. Keep safe!