Experts across the nations compare the current pandemic to a black swan event, an event that has significantly and permanently changed the present and future of work. Digital transformation that was expected to happen steadily over a period of time, happened in just two months. Covid-19 has easily managed to disrupt the status quo in the corporate world, while providing exciting and challenging opportunities to accelerate growth into new ways of working. Companies have been left with little choice but to accept, adapt, embrace the change and move on. While as individuals we continue to learn to manage the ‘new’ way of living and working, we are also hopeful of getting back to some form of normalcy carrying the lessons learnt with us. But what is the new normal? Do we know yet?
The HR function has become the focus of every organization. The human impact of COVID-19 has resulted in HR becoming a more strategic function for CEOs around the world, who are looking for innovative and new ways of helping their people understand the new normal. Was HR ready with all the answers? Did we have the right processes, benefits and policies and how agile were we to adapt to the change? Have we taken enough time to understand the changes in employees’ psychological approach to work? We are now being asked to isolate, and move away from our human nature of being part of a group. Humans need interaction, and the mindset change that comes with dealing with a virtual environment without human interaction has, and will have, a profound effect on how we will thrive going forward. After all, we are human.
The emphasis as always had to be on taking care of our most important asset; our people. It is now time to gain some perspective and plan for new beginnings in 2021. I believe that the HR leaders need to be prepared to witness a transformation and make a paradigm shift in how we provide for our human assets, so we can better align to the new realities across the key areas of People, Processes and Technology.
- People: They have experienced and survived a global pandemic and have emerged as a far more resilient and versatile workforce. This workforce has learnt a few important life lessons, possibly the hard way, through conservation, gratitude, and change management, to arrive at their transformed version. This transformation is the single most important lesson learnt and outcome from this crisis. Few were able to navigate through it smoothly, and some still struggle to cope but there is no going back. HR will need to recognize their diverse workforce and inculcate the maturity to deal with different personas. The effectiveness lies in playing on individual strengths without diluting team work.
- Processes: They have evolved and organizations have realized that digitization is an imperative and no longer a choice. Companies that invested in technology earlier were better prepared to handle the crisis, while others were caught off guard. We now need to take a step back and improvise further. The immediate need is to automate, to cut off the unnecessary processes and make our digital operations secure and watertight. The HR team can then stay focused on providing insights on strategic decision making, solving business problems and giving priority to being future ready.
- Technology: Emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Language (ML) and Robotic Process Automation (RPO) have led to a vast disruption in the HR domain. They have made available a variety of tools that specialize in different processes, subsequently freeing HR from everyday tasks. The need of the hour is to identify the right set of tools that work for your organization. Greater efficiency lies in focusing on the value chain and building a digital roadmap with a practical implementation plan. Emphasis will continue to be on the employees’ digital experience, simplification through automation and doing so in the most secure way.
With 2020 being the year of transformation, we should be ready to keep evolving in 2021 as well. While our fundamentals may not change, we need to be ready for operational changes. The importance of people connect will stay, but the dependency on a particular HR partner may go away. Employee engagement and recruitment will remain one of the top focus areas for HR, along with retention and culture management. Our benefits will need to be aligned to our diverse workforce as one size may not fit all. Recruitment may pose newer challenges, as both cost and time effectiveness will be the dominant factors.
In all this, the key success factor for the HR function will be its ability to consciously stay agile in serving the ever changing needs of our people. The measure of success will be in ensuring these changes do not affect the EQ(Emotional Quotient), CQ(Compassion Quotient) and DQ(Digital Quotient) of the existing and prospective workforce. Organizations that strike this balance will succeed and manage to build a sustainable and resilient future state.