Every crisis brings to the fore a new breed of heroes who navigate the world out of it. In the world of business, the COVID pandemic has brought to the fore an unlikely set of heroes - the HR fraternity – who has emerged as the pivot in navigating organizations through these trying times. From the most basic responsibility of ensuring employee safety to harnessing the full potential of its people, HR leaders across organizations are donning several roles, and silently changing the face of the workplace as we know it. In this article, I will examine some of the key priorities HR managers are dealing with.
Ensuring employee safety
As HR leaders, our topmost priority during this pandemic is to ensure the safety of employees, protecting them from the infection. From spreading awareness about precautions, laying down guidelines over the different phases of the lockdown, enforcing them, and providing safe work environments, HR teams have displayed commendable agility and commitment during this crisis. All decisions regarding whether an office will function, if yes, how many employees should come, who needs to come and who doesn’t, how many people can get into the elevator at once, etc – have all been taken keeping the safety of employees at the heart of it.
Employee morale and work productivity
As the web of the coronavirus infection spread, the HR leadership in every organization had to quickly respond to the twin exigencies of employee welfare and ensuring smooth workflow through this crisis. Work from home has clearly emerged as the big game-changer.
For manufacturing organizations, running a plant requires physical presence, and employees have to agree to come to the plant in spite of life-threatening fear. Employee loyalty plays a big role in this time when they decide to come for work, overcoming personal constraints. HR made sure the new guidelines of social distancing and hygiene were communicated effectively and also ensured proper adherence of them.
Embracing the culture shift
As the lockdowns kept getting extended, the biggest fear was not to lose the employee morale. Readiness to work from home, especially in manufacturing was never even imagined. HR had to train staff to swiftly acclimatize themselves with the new norms of social distancing – whether at a desk or while boarding the bus or sitting down for lunch in the canteen or briefing the team for a meeting.
Working from home is easier said than done. It does not just require new skills of handling video calls, online reporting while balancing domestic chores, it also requires a certain overcoming of mental conditioning. HR quickly reached out to employees, discussed the challenges and helped them navigate these.
Employees only adhere to the new guidelines and adapt to this new ecosystem if they truly trust the employer. All this would not be possible without having a solid foundation of employee-oriented policies. HR has played a big role in keeping the spirit of the employees intact.
HR has initiated many training programs to utilize this bonus time on hand. L&D teams have reached out to several subject matter experts and organized numerous webinars to upgrade the critical and behavioral skills of employees.
We had never imagined that a large group of people make decisions through e-meetings. Circumstances have forced us to adopt new technologies in no time and employees have shown learnings in no time. The organization’s overall appetite for technology has gone up multiple times.
During times of adversity, it is the engagement quotient of employees that determines organizational resilience. HR teams are the champions of ensuring employee engagement in every organization and they are the real warriors in spearheading the war against such unprecedented crises. HR has been quick to take special measures to ensure the safety and well-being of contract labor, outsourced staff, etc. They mobilized employees to contribute a small portion of their salary towards various initiatives to combat the impact of the deadly virus. HR reached out to the communities around to support people in need.
Beyond the pandemic
I see this pandemic as a great opportunity to invest in the safety, security, and well-being of our people capital. How you treat employees during difficult times goes a long way in making them feel respected and valued. When things revert to normal, which it inevitably will, the enduring feeling will pay back significantly more.