The economic downturn that took place few years ago clearly highlighted the importance of ‘preparedness’ for crisis with respect to HR. A host of people-related issues such as: employment cost cutting, high rates of attrition, attracting and retaining key talent, up skilling of managers, sustainability of manpower came up during this time. It became a challenge for Management to protect their employees while continuing operations and keeping revenues flowing in as well.
HR Continuity Planning intends to position functions such as talent acquisition, payroll and benefits, employee engagement, employee communication, HRMS etc. in a manner such that HR can support operations even in critical economic scenarios. It adds to the continuity planning measures that organizations require to adopt today in order to keep their operations afloat in face of crisis such as natural disasters, economic downturn etc. – the difference being that HR needs to keep up the planning at all times and be ‘prepared’.
Acquisition of talent needs to be a strategic activity instead of a routine job of filling up a vacancy. For this, it is important that the Recruitment team functions in tandem with the growth and operational objectives of the organization as a whole. The number of people to be hired, the kind of talent the organization needs and the key new positions likely to be created should be identified much in advance by participating in the annual business plan. Examples of other factors that impact recruiting decisions can be launching of new products, diversifying into new areas of operation, acquiring new businesses. These decisions require people with varied skills, knowledge and the abilities to execute these plans. Similarly, decisions such as discontinuation of offices, shut down of certain plants etc. also impact hiring decisions.
Risks like- sudden exit of leaders and movement of key personnel out of the organization, unavailability of critical skills due to employees retiring from their positions or loss of talented employees to competitors- can pose a challenge to smooth operations. Succession planning helps solve problems like these. It helps organizations keep the essential skills and knowledge within the organization and also to retain employees. This also helps the employee get a fair idea of what responsibilities the next level entails, gives them sufficient time to learn those and also gives existing employees an opportunity to grow professionally. For succession planning to be a success, the internal resource pipeline needs to be strong so as to provide the necessary support during shortage of skilled resources during trying times. Also, there should be a skill repository for all positions and employees in order to map the skills requirement with the availability of skills.
Training & Development
In corollary to succession planning, every organization should adopt a strong system to identify employees with potential and develop them internally to fill strategic positions. A system of maintaining clear cut job responsibilities, robust performance management system, ample opportunities for training and development and a strong data base help to develop employees for assuming positions of higher responsibility. Some organizations are known to identify a ‘back up’ resource, which is trained over a period of time to learn the skills required to perform at the next level. Providing ‘on the job training’ to their subordinates should be a key responsibility area for all supervisors and managers. Job rotation and cross training also helps in creating all-rounders who can pitch in during crisis times.
Rewards and Benefits
Organizations should keep abreast with the industry / market compensation data, the kind of benefits drawn by the employees of competitor companies and other changing trends. Internal benchmarking is also as important, in order to do away with internal disparities in compensation. The employee value proposition should be strong and backed by market data in order to ward off talent issues due to attrition. Revamping the compensation structure and focusing on certain strategic aspects can be a key to sustaining operations in crisis. For example, linking pay with performance has in the past helped organizations emphasize on performance based culture and has also helped differentiate performance at all levels.
Organizations must put in place employee friendly practices and policies that keep employees happy and engaged in their work. However, in times of crisis, the sentiment in organizations is not so positive and the morale is not so high either. In such situations, motivating employees to put in even regular efforts can be an uphill task. However, with communication as a strong tool and Management roped in, organizations must try to alleviate this environment of low energy. These measures need to be taken not only during trying times but at all times as these do not impact employees overnight. Right from the start of an employee’s journey, it should be ensured that he feels aligned with the organization’s values and operating imperatives.
‘Business as usual’ in the face of disruption should be the motto behind continuity measures. Policies and procedures need to be carefully formulated and constantly innovated for organizations to grow and sustain at all times. Employees– the strength of the organization, should be the focus and HR as a function should adopt practices which align the mission of the organization with that of its employees.