Human beings crave social association and sense of belongingness to a community, be it at work or beyond. Nobel laureate Prof. Amartya Sen had placed a premium on the “recognition aspect” in addition to the productivity and income aspects of work. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic and the best antidote to its transmission as of now; social distancing, strike at the very roots of employee engagement and emotional wellbeing. In the face of these unprecedented disruptions to our collaboration, workflow, and social transactions, businesses have a task beyond doing business: keep up employee motivation and support mental health. While there is no death of new initiatives to quote, these are the best practices that human resource leaders across businesses can do to navigate to the new normal.
Redefine Internal Communication Strategy by Leveraging Technology
Mobility is integral to the way employees communicate with one another, collaborate, and keep work going. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses are exploring innovative ways to redefine their internal communication strategy by pivoting on technology. Whether working from home, remote locations, or the workplace, digitization has now become integral to the way we communicate. While businesses differ in terms of their digital maturity, all businesses are now realizing the value of online workflow platforms like cloud-based spreadsheet applications, instant messaging platforms, chatting platforms, and social media more than ever before. A year before, there were businesses that still had unshakable faith in doing business offline. But the pandemic has changed that forever. Digitization is the first step towards staying connected and possibly also towards business continuity.
Create Low-Touch Processes to Reinforce Safety and Create Trust
Across the different stages of the COVID-19 pandemic from a wholesale lockdown to different localized lockdowns and finally the gradual unlocking of the economy, businesses are now exploring ways to create low-touch processes to reinforce safety. If keeping people behind closed doors was a challenge during the initial phase of the lockdown, motivating people to come outdoors is a challenge now that we are unlocking the economy. Several businesses are switching to low-touch processes for a wide diversity of their business processes by adopting digital transformation. Significant examples include mobile apps for attendance, productivity management, workload allocation and progress monitoring. Businesses that were already ahead of their peers in terms of digital maturity before the pandemic, have now gone further and are exploring sales & distribution through B2B commerce, supply chain automation and new age capabilities like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and analytics.
Redesign Reporting Systems and Organizational Structures
Pivoting to digital transformation requires a cultural change in addition to technology adoption. Manu human resource leaders are therefore partnering with team leaders across functions and geographies to reimagine reporting systems and organizational structures for the virtual workplace. It is now commonplace for businesses to have flat and fluid organizational structures that are better equipped to respond to market dynamics with agility. Such cultural changes have necessitated businesses to switch to new reporting systems with distinctive layers of feedbacks for assignments and performance on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. There is a greater emphasis on written modes of communication, email based feedback, and data of record for metrics like costs, volumes, turnaround time, lead time, expected time of arrival, etc. The shift towards analytics is ushering in a renewed focus on data-driven decision making.
Get Team Members to Engage and Interact More Than Usual
Working from home for extended periods can lead to anxiety, stress, and fear in the event of a lack of a vent for emotions. Human resource leaders are recognizing the potent outcomes of such drastic change in the affective aspects of employee engagement and encouraging them to engage and interact with one another more often than usual. Employees are unlikely to bump into new people and explore new opportunities through chance encounters at the workplace or while commuting to work. Therefore, businesses are asking people to be proactive and go a step further than they would under normal circumstances to connect with the community through initiatives like virtual parties, online gaming sessions, online meditation, and dance classes. This is allowing employees to regain their sense of belonging to the organization.
Encourage Employees to Speak Out on Psychological Issues without Fear
A good development from remote working is that people are now more open to talking about their psychological issues. Managers encourage employees to break free from the fears of being ostracized and being made fun of for sharing their woes with the community. Human resource leaders are piloting a positive change by ensuring that employees do not have to suffer silently. Many enterprises have hired psychologists to address people's woes and facilitate online counseling sessions for employees to seek expert assistance on emotional wellbeing.
As work-life boundaries have blurred with work from home becoming the norm, the scope of responsibilities for human resource leaders has also grown beyond the office. HR functions must enable employees to navigate this turbulent time and create a new work-life integration that encourages productivity and wellbeing. HR leaders have to embrace a digital-first approach, using technology as a tool to sustain and grow a culture of empathy and flexibility.