“Has your number of meetings increased? You seem to be on calls all the time. You had restricted my screen time, but you seem to have very less of no-screen time”, the voice of a 10-year-old boy distracted the parent who was an HR professional in a global organization. Disturbed by the voice and the content delivered, the HR professional looked at the time and realized that it was 9 pm. A quick apology followed by some work in the kitchen for dinner did not mean that the work was done for the day. “There is still lots to do”, is what was running in the HR professional’s mind.
This scenario has been the same for many HR professionals across the hierarchy pyramid globally. The two busiest functions during Corona times are IT and HR.
The Global and Inclusive Corona
Corona has been universal, it is global. It was looked at as a challenge by many and for some, it looked like a great opportunity to correct some mistakes that had happened. For environmentalists, this was a change that they could not have seen with even a million campaigns. Pollution disappeared for a while. Air was fresh like never before.
In the battle between the value of human life and the global economy, the value of human life won. Countries announced complete lockdown only enabling essential services to continue with their supply chain. Medical professionals experienced never before emergencies and rush seeking their attention. For any human being living now, this is an unprecedented experience.
Inclusion is a lesson we could learn from Corona. It did not see any difference in people, it treated everyone fair and square. It also drove collaboration between people, teams, and countries.
Digital Transformation driven by Corona
In Hindi, a language spoken widely in India, "Karo na" means "Do it". Amidst all the chaos, advisories and fear, Corona is driving digital transformation at a pace faster than we could imagine and this includes Virtual workspace adoption. There were organizations that did not think working remotely was a possibility due to several reasons, the main one being information security. With corona and the lock downs associated with it, this has been a forced adoption for organizations across the globe. Not just an organization but also educational institutions.
Role transformation driven by Corona
HR teams in organizations scaled up instantaneously to support Business and Employees. If we have to summarize what HR did, we could probably say that they:
- Realigned: From representing different functions in HR, all professionals realigned to play common role in HR
- Collaborated: The lines that existed between business teams and HR teams blurred, lines that existed between Geography teams blurred and collaboration was a natural process that was flowing in the HR function
- Scaled Up: HR professionals scaled up instantaneously leading crisis situations, making quick decisions and taking things to closure.
- Connected: Communication became a key in this situation and whether it is enabling leadership communication or enabling new technologies for remote working or staying touch with employees, HR played a key role as connectors.
The key focus areas that HR was engaged in can be classified largely into two major categories:
- Business Continuity Planning
- Crisis Management
On the one had they were supporting business units to enable business continuity and on the other hand teams were set to engage with employees, be a listening board and take necessary actions to support them. This mainly included providing support to the most vulnerable employees and families.
As leaders and HR professionals made employees comfortable and move them into the “Business As Usual” (BAU), there were also employees and families who were informing of getting infected with Covid-19 and were quarantined.
Specialized counselling and regular communication helplines were set up for interactions with those who needed it the most. Virtual Engagement sessions on well being was part of this new normal to help employees cope with remote working and enable a good work life balance.
Communication platforms were launched newly for work or social collaboration or those that were existing already was being used extensively. HR teams were influencers in this and were engaging with associates for quicker adoption of these channels.
Role of HR post covid-19
One lesson that has been learnt is that organizations need to be prepared for any such situations that could re-occur. HR in organizations have a key role to play both in drawing long-term and short-term plans for building effectiveness and efficiency of people and business.
Back to basics
The biggest challenge that Human Resources professionals are likely to face is getting all employees back into office post this Covid crisis. A simple question raised in a social media platform on the expected percentage of employees who would come back to work on Day1 of resumption clearly showcases that more that 99% of respondents state that it would be less than 50% due to several reasons.
The biggest challenge that HR might face is to build the trust amongst employees and make them feel safe getting back to work place coupled with job security questions that employees may hold. It is important for HR to get back to basics and work specifically on the physiological, safety, core and belonging needs, that are in the bottom of the pyramid in Maslow’s theory of needs.
Well being as the core
Support to employees well being and policies to reflect the same would be a key differentiator in building that optimistic workforce again globally. Counselling support, health insurance schemes, leave policies will build employee morale that would be most needed. organization’s ability to being responsive at any point of time to employee queries in an agile and transparent manner will be a key to build trust.
Cutting off ambiguity
Performance Management, Increments, Promotions related decisions have to be communicated upfront with justifications to cut off any ambiguity that could arise out of it. Travel policies that need change and processes around those with FAQs could cut off ambiguity for frequent travellers in organizations. There are several other process and policy changes that could be thought of and communicated clearly for employees’ consumption.
With more and more organizations that might plan for remote working options, a policy and process around it would be key. Businesses would have basic requirements to track activities which may require monitor activities in official systems used by employees. While Hacking was a negative terminology, it completely changes its meaning when Ethical is added to it making it Ethical Hacking. Tracking activities of employees in official systems might be critically looked at as Stalking but it needs to communicated to employees clearly on why it is essential must be done clearly to employees to make them understand the purpose and cooperate. This also important to build the trust.
Non-stop exhaustive learning opportunities
Providing a variety of learning opportunities more than ever to enable employees to stay relevant would be one of the critical priorities of HR. This would be essential more than ever and it is an important role of HR to inspire associates to take up maximum learning possible as per the business requirements and aspirations.
Bringing teams together and keeping connections intact between employees with events that highlight positive memories could become a key differentiator in the speed at which the normalcy could be brought back in organizations
Customizing starting points
To summarise, the HR plans could be long-term or short-term, but it is important to determine the starting point of where the business is, in the current situation and draw the plans according to that. On the one side, there are sectors like Travel and Tourism where there is a steep downfall and on the other side, we have few others like Pharma and Healthcare who are seeing a rise. Even within manufacturing the essentials manufacturers and their subsidiaries are at a peak while there are others which have come to a standstill. HR has a key role in the resumption bringing out the Human side and the resourcefulness to beat all odds and support businesses to resume normalcy.