2020 has been a year defined by a devastating global pandemic which became the accelerator for one of the greatest workplace transformations of our lifetime. Dramatic changes caused by the virus had unprecedented implications on work and influenced human resources profoundly. In this article, we learn how HR leaders can navigate the unforeseeable future and develop crisis management plans and elaborate new policies for remote as well as hybrid working systems as a response to the current crisis that might play out in 2021 and beyond.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, continuing business operations and managing employees became a massive challenge, as nobody had faced something like this before. However, HR leaders played a key role in handling this unpredictable situation by devising a response that was rapid and robust, implementing proper policies and revamping the functions to maintain continuity in the face of uncertain times.
We are all witness to drastic changes in our personal and professional life due to COVID-19 this year and there is no denying the fact that its reflection of impact will continue in coming years too. The pandemic has negatively impacted the careers and businesses of many of us, still, during this hard time we have also discovered alternate options to continue business and found ways to work from home in the best possible manner.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, continuing business operations and managing employees became a massive challenge, as nobody had faced something like this before. However, HR leaders played a key role in handling this unpredictable situation by devising a response that was rapid and robust, implementing proper policies and revamping the functions to maintain continuity in the face of uncertain times. HR managers were most engaged during this period to keep their organization’s goal achievable and employees motivated. While managing business operating activities and those things which ran parallel to it were explored and modified/ revamped as and when required, expectations or motivation factors of employees, technology change, working infrastructure, etc were also addressed.
Previously, it was hard to imagine that desk work can be done and managed from home, but now it seems feasible and organizations are planning strategies and processes to continue the same as it is cost-effective and spares space in the office which can be utilized for business expansion or for that workforce whose nature of work requires their presence in office premises. By adopting this new culture, organizations can shrink their expenses in managing their staff without procuring new space for business operations.
In this new normal, we have seen many changes in our ideology and business practices on the personal and professional front. During this period, organizations have experienced scenarios where business operations were almost inactive and for some organizations, they were completely dormant due to lockdowns like manufacturing units, plants, and other non-IT sectors. This pandemic has shaken our understanding of the business world, be it work, technology, or employees.
Organizations are now ready to implement technology into their system to avoid further such losses in a similar kind of situation, which was earlier just a matter of discussion at board meetings but was never given due importance considering such activities being an unnecessary cost to the company.
Similarly, now employees are saving their income sincerely for the future and showing an inclination towards contribution in government-sponsored welfare schemes like EPF and ESIC for securing their future. It was seen in general practices that most of the employees used to focus on higher in-hand salary and for that, they were ready to opt-out from government-sponsored welfare schemes. During this pandemic period, the government has extended its support to its contributors by allowing withdrawal of EPF contributions made by the employer and the employee to run their normal life. All these factors have changed the mindset of most of the employees.
In April 2021 a new labour code is going to be implemented which is expected to bring significant changes in our HR practices. As an organization, employer, and employee, we must prepare ourselves for those changes and their effects on our professional practices.
So, let us discuss the changes we can implement, or we can see in the coming time in our different processes in certain HR domains.
Waiting for the right time to learn new things can land working professionals in hot water. With disruptions intensifying, this theory won’t work anymore. Now, HR leaders will focus on those employees who are agile, active, and tech-savvy. Such employees will be an asset to the organization, and they will be able to survive in tough periods like we had this year in 2020. Such skills give them flexibility in adapting to new changes in this VUCA world. Such employees reduce the cost of training if they are already tech-savvy or have a skill set which makes them adaptive for upcoming changes.
The role of the recruitment team also becomes important here, as we all know that the COVID-19 is still with us and we need to use all precautionary actions to protect our organization and employees. HR leaders need to use cloud-based recruitment tools and techniques to perform end to end recruitment process to avoid human interactions in the initial stages of an interview with any candidate.
The recruitment team must ensure that if someone is coming to the office for the final round of interview or the completion of joining formalities should have one day or max two days prior the COVID test report and Antigen report with them as per requirement. Such practice will certainly reduce the possibilities of the spread of infection. We should have a separate cabin for those hiring, in which human interactions are required and technology cannot be used specifically in blue color hiring to avoid the spread of infection to others. We should keep stationery and official documents in other locations or the same cabin in the locker to avoid unnecessary interaction of other staff with those items to restrict spread. If we carefully notice our daily routine of the work process, we can implement many things which can be beneficial in these circumstances.A well-executed inclusion strategy makes a happy workforce, attracts qualified employees, brings job satisfaction and ROI of employees. Click To Tweet
A well-executed inclusion strategy makes a happy workforce, attracts qualified employees, brings job satisfaction and ROI of employees. HR leaders need to ensure that everyone gets an equal opportunity to grow within the organization irrespective of their diverse factors and inclusion policy should nurture and empower employees so that they feel included irrespective of who they are or what they identify themselves as.
Diversity and Inclusion
Diversity and inclusion policies were earlier limited to the HR handbook for many organizations but now most of the organizations are exploring this practice to cut down their financial loads in manpower hiring and in other departments to make their recruitment strategies more effective. From a business perspective, diversity in the workplace helps the business unit to understand their stakeholder and customer insight for doing well and provides data to meet the needs of stakeholders or customers as well. A well-executed inclusion strategy makes a happy workforce, attracts qualified employees, brings job satisfaction and increases the ROI of employees. HR leaders need to ensure that everyone gets an equal opportunity to grow within the organization irrespective of their diverse factors and inclusion policy should nurture and empower employees so that they feel included irrespective of who they are or what they identify themselves as.
HR leaders need to prepare proper diversity strategies as it differs from industry to industry. For instance, hospitality diversity factors will be different from the real estate or IT sector. Without proper policy and strategy, the execution of the D&I policy will be inconceivable. This is the time to implement THE RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES ACT, 2016 to interpret the real meaning of D&I and to name CDI (Corporate Disability Inclusion).
That is an unemployment rate of more than 70%. Similarly, we have a proficient female workforce who have to leave their running job due to motherhood and could not get a better job or job opportunities post-maternity. However, this COVID-19 pandemic situation has proved that work from home can be done easily and is manageable, as employees are ready to manage things as earlier they used to do it from the office. We have an opportunity to find ways to incorporate our talent search with these professionals who are out of the mainstream of the working environment due to fewer opportunities. Reach of the recruiter will enhance with the inclusion of these two manpower segments for which we need to frame proper work policies and monitoring system.
We all have seen a drastic change in our working methods and working culture in the last year. Top to down working culture and its functionality got changed to some extent and additional job responsibilities were incorporated to some positions without defining proper job roles. Such action is understood as it was an ad hoc situation, but now when things are getting normal and everyone is coming back to the office to resume their routine jobs, HR leaders need to redefine job responsibilities, KRAs and goal setting for every employee to avoid conflicts in the workplace especially in the post-COVID -19 scenario.
Clear objectives for organization, team and individual are the need of the hour as they help everyone succeed. Leaders should be more agile in connecting with their peers and team members to motivate them. Setting clear expectations will help leaders to mould themselves and the team with new goals. A gap in communication may hamper organizational goals. Employees should also be given the opportunity to opt for their KRAs and goals to perform better. The platform should be given where employees can discuss their goal’s performance with peers to improve their output and to relate to the organization’s goal. Employee surveys should be conducted for knowing ESI (Employee Satisfaction Index). ESI analysis will provide desired information and clarity on redefining the organization’s policies as per the need of the amendment in the respective policy. Such surveys help HR leaders to draft proper factor comparison, skill competencies, employee wellness programs, and R&R policies, etc. which are required to keep employees motivated. Organizational structure revamping should stand on a plinth of equality where each employee classification will get an equal opportunity to grow and one who is working from home or remote areas is not treated as a less performer/less required compared to those who are working from the office. The performance assessment process should be the same for each employee within the organization. A better organizational design and structure in this new normal will help everyone to understand their role and their alignment with the organization’s goal.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a lot of fuss for HR leaders when it comes to PMS (Performance Management System). HR leaders must share the organization’s expectations from individuals or teams for the coming period. For the previous year, the HR leader must take a performance review according to goals achieved by the individual or whole team during this pandemic situation and the ROI of their efforts. HR leaders should not forget to appraise individual’s/ team’s best efforts during this pandemic situation. Recognition of one’s efforts is more important for keeping them motivated. Employees and their respective team leaders must have proper communication which will bring clarity of goals and expectations as clear goals and expectations to motivate employees to perform better. HR leaders should ensure that team leaders are well connected between their regular office team and remote team to avoid communication gaps. Organizations should use Performance Management tools which help to narrate accurate job profiles and expectations, create relevant objectives that align with the company’s goals and mission, document performance, and write the appraisals.
During the pandemic situation, we have understood well that social distancing is key to save ourselves from infection. Joining a remote location will depend upon your travelling to the reporting office then moving to the joining location. Employees coming for joining may spread infections in visiting places unknowingly, hence to avoid such instances, we can conduct online onboarding with the help of various joining tools in the market. Web-orientation can be done, and team interaction can happen online, which will be a safe process of joining. HR leaders must introduce and adopt technologies to enable online onboarding, induction and joining process end to end to make the entire process paperless and safe without human interactions, in future, it will also reduce the travelling cost per hire.
Learning & Development Process
HR leaders need to restructure L&D policies to give equal opportunity for learning and development to remote employees like regular employees who are working from an office or work location. L&D specialists should be focused to align employee’s goals and performance with that of the organization’s. Identification of skill gaps among employees (employees working from the office or remote employees) will help to develop and deliver proper training to bridge the gaps. Facilitating employees with L&D will help to attract, retain, motivate, and engage employees and create a value-based environment. L&D team needs to collaborate with the IT team to create a platform for providing online learning space along with regular employees to keep each team member on the same page of learning.
Employee Engagement Program
Remote employees were existing earlier, but post COVID-19, the number of remote employees has increased drastically and every passing day it’s rising. Recognition is something which has become more valuable than any monetary benefits. HR leaders should define processes for regular interaction with remote employees virtually so that they feel engaged and connected with the team working from the office. They should be invited online for celebrating any office event or occasion. For appreciating the contribution or efforts of the remote team, HR can send local gift cards which can be redeemed later by employees.
Remote employees can be given the opportunity to learn online through platforms like Udemy, LinkedIn Learning and Vskills by providing discounted or free online courses which will help them to grow professionally in a time where they might feel stagnant. HR leaders should define proper standard operative processes for developing proper systems and execution methods.
To conclude, in this new normal HR Leaders need to prepare and implement those human resource policies which should be one size fits all considering all factors and areas of the human resources department. Attentiveness is very much required as we all have entered that era where few team members are coming to the office and some are working from home, but better HR policies can erase the difference between these employee classifications.