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COVID-19 Pandemic: what is working out for the top HR Leader?

by Pradip Mohapatra 11 months ago in advice

Top HR Leader

When 2008 global financial crisis rocked the world, companies across the globe turned to their chiefs of Finance to steer them through. This crisis is about HR leaders. A good human resource head can save a company, and a bad one has the power to push company’s growth back by years.

Managing COVID-19 response primarily fell on the talent managers and HR professionals, and most of them also rose to the occasion. The response of HRs fell under four categories:

• Employee health and well-being

• Remote work dynamics

• Threats around work continuity

• Other uncertainties (mental health, family support, etc.)

What were the results of their actions?

Now as the reality dawns that the emergency response undertaken during the crisis will continue for long, and may very well stay in the future, it is time for the businesses to understand if the actions taken by HR leaders worked. And more importantly, what didn’t work. Let’s begin by recapitulating the first response.

3 HR Challenges: Communication, Remote Work and Reporting

Most organizations diverted their focus on these three aspects as an immediate response to the coronavirus. They included:

• Establishing channels of communication,

• Zeroing in the tools of remote working, and

• Outlining daily reporting process flow to keep in touch with work-from-home status and provide regular reports to employees worried about their future and clarifying the roles they must play in this new-normal.

Here’s now a quick assessment of what changed.

Remote work and trust: Busting Old management philosophies

Many old-style managements are still of the belief that remote workers can’t be trusted with the work. However, new age online tools and techniques have proved otherwise. A shift to remote work made most teams (whose work can be managed remotely) better connected and more productive. HR leaders around the globe agree that this crisis was the biggest test of remote working, and it proved more or less successful.

Before the crisis, less than 50% companies had instituted teleworking. And, it was about absent in the financial world, where companies never let their employees work from home. However today, even the top financial services firms like Goldman Sachs and Bank of America are rushing to build stronger remote working strategies.

Even after the threat of COVID-19 passes, the chances are remote working could stay for several departments who can manage with reduced visits to the office premises.

Increased job movement

For roles not compatible with remote working, many HR leaders proposed diversifying those talents for other job roles, which could use their knowledge and more resources.

Soon as the businesses were shut down, companies tried to move people to more demanding business areas that were still functioning.

Other than job movement between roles, some outlier companies also ramped up their hiring, such as Novartis and other pharma brands. However, the numbers of companies hiring new talent are lesser.

What’s worrying?

For employees as well as HR professionals, the number one issue worrying them is ‘job security’. Because of the spike in unemployment rates, people are now concerned about their pay and job security.

After job security is health and well-being. Family issues and competence to do a job are the last, but worrying aspects for the professionals.

It is not surprising for HR leaders that financial issues are primary and rank much higher in priority than anything else. The behavior is perhaps driven by rising unemployment rate, higher volatility in financial market, and uncertainty around the health crisis.

A focus on mental health, issues of social isolation, and managing personal finance, was always needed, but their urgency has been acerbated with COVID-19 crisis. Many talent managers and companies are working together to help employees in dealing with these problems through online coaches, counselors, and some are even organizing online comedy shows.

What is working? – Designed for agility

As the business world was thrown into coronavirus crisis, more than 70% of the organizations and HR leaders readjusted their HR priorities, diverting their focus on communication, remote work and health (as stated above).

Organizations and businesses have realized the importance of designing HR teams for agility. Usually, HR teams are considered as service delivery unit, instead of a department that will be the first to respond to a crisis and will need to empower all other units in the organization. The crisis reiterated the importance of agile HR teams. As a result, organizations in the future will prefer to hire continuous learners in HR departments, as agility is what works for them. Thus, it’s also the right time to opt for certifications for HR professionals to learn new-age nuts and bolts of managing an HR department.

In the world facing a black swan event, these are the aspects that worked for top HR teams:

• A focus on agility

• Focus on people first, and economics second approach.

• Rapid response teams.

• Remote reporting system to encourage coordination.

• Remote/Online learning programs to educate and train employees.

• Flexible work hours to respond to changing conditions.

• Quick assessment of job roles and realigning people toward roles that are working for the business.

• Communicating and staying positive.

Crisis standup requires knowledge of global norms and agility to deliver what the business needs. Internationally accepted, top HR and talent management certification programs can prepare professionals for their increasing role in managing their organizations.

Are you prepared to take your business through to the new normal?

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Pradip Mohapatra
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