04 May 2021

I have been in the HR Profession for more than 3 decades. During this journey I have witnessed few business slowdowns and under all these circumstances, the businesses were able to bounce back and come to normalcy. However, the current Covid 19 situation is taking much longer time for its revival. It has impacted the business, the mental health and well being of employees in a big way.

When India went into one of the toughest lockdowns in last March, the slowdown was so severe that the economy went into recession. The nationwide lockdown had inflicted heavy losses on across sectors and made the businesses to face upheaval. The pandemic has also led to severe health and humanitarian crisis. Many employees had to encounter and experience high level of anxiety, worry, instability, shocks, distress etc.

India, like most of the world, was caught unaware when the pandemic erupted.

Takeaways from First wave:

The outbreak of pandemic has made the business to embrace inevitable change. It has opened the door for new way of working. It opened opportunities for Companies to rethink about their business model and helped them to relook into inequalities and make changes in the existing system. Remote working was made necessity for continuity of business. Many sectors that traditionally did not prioritize to work remotely have started adopting to implement ‘Work from Home’ strategy.  Now Work from Home has become the integral part of work culture.

Remote working could bring greater flexibility and cost-savings for the White Collared job. But men in blue collars have been trudging around in their boots working to keep organizations running and moving. The two important takeaways from the First Wave were:

  1. Focus on Mental Health, Wellbeing and Safety of employees
  2. Leveraging Technology as ‘Nice to have” to technology as ‘Transformational driver’ for business success

Second Wave shock 

It’s more than a year now. The scars left by the first wave of the pandemic have barely healed. .  As a first step, many businesses have revised their emergency preparedness plan. Secondly, they have started herculean mission towards recovery, reconstruction and rejuvenation.

Even as we grapple with the anxieties and uncertainties of the first wave, suddenly, the country is now gripping with the “Second wave” of Covid 19 challenges. The resurgence of Covid cases has posed major challenge to the battered economy that has hardly recovered.  Certainly, there is a delay in business normalization in the country. 

Can battered business withstand Second Wave shock?

It’s too early to measure the impact of Second Wave. Learning from the first wave, the businesses would have already started taking adequate measures to protect themselves from any potential crash. Successful control of the pandemic through vaccination program can pull the economy out of the woods. 

Building Resilient Workforce:

The impact of virus is expected to remain for a while. Building resilient Workforce is very important during this crisis time. Senior Leaders should facilitate this process and embed in the work culture. This encourages and restores confidence among employees. Needless to say, that HR needs to be in the forefront in building Resilient Workforce.

Role of HR in building Resilient Workforce:

  • Be a Role Model and demonstrate a feeling of “Trust”
  • Build and maintain connection and be the Voice of the Organization
  • Communicate frequently, provide updates and solicit feedback
  • Strengthen the Emotional connect
  • Provide right tools and offer necessary training to perform effectively
  • Build employees dreams
  • Provide one-on-one coaching sessions
  • Provide opportunity to think out of box to unleash potential 

Ways to manage and strengthen Resilience

To manage and strengthen resiliency, HR should understand the implications, issues, and challenges that are impacting employees during this crisis. Most important, is that HR should have the self-reliance, confidence, positive attitude and commitment to bounce back to cope up with the disruption. The key focus for HR during this challenging time should be as follows:

Organization Dimensions Challenges  and concerns to be addressed by HR
Social and Psychological  Factors ·         What could be the impact on unemployment?

·         What are some of the mental health challenges that may recur?

·         Will future job demands with reduced resources are likely to cause more stress?

·          How do you foster good social interactions within the teams?

Workplace Practices ·         Will Work from Home Policies have impact on the attitudes and behaviors of employees?

·         How to strengthen emotional insight of Virtual teams?

·         How to ensure consistent flow of information and get the right feedback

Leadership Style ·         With Work from Home, becoming unavoidable, how does HR ensure leadership effectiveness?
Organization Culture ·         How does HR foster the culture of innovation more effectively when people are working remotely?

·         How does HR manage the Cultural Norms that needs to be stronger, but flexible?

Learning and Development ·         How does HR  re-skill and Up-skill employees across to make sure that they are relevant and able to meet Customers demand

 

Building Resilience is all about creating trust:

In the last three decades of my experience I have found that the focal point of any organization is the emotional well being of employees. It is more so during the current crisis. Giving personal touch will indeed motivate employees and will create trust. When employees feel that they are valued and that their well-being is addressed, they will go out of way to support the organization.

Just as we trust a boat man to cross the river to reach the other side, similar should be the role of HR – creating trust and demonstrate the principle of “Being there at their need”.

Prescription

So “don’t throw people in the water and see how well they swim.” Create an environment where people can be heard and can participate. Just as customer loyalty is critical to the long-term success of your business, so too is the employee loyalty. Companies that are investing in employees’ emotional well-being can mean a healthier bottom line”.

By Girinarayan G

Authors bio:

Title: Senior Partner with ‘Your HR Buddy’ a Human Capital Management Consulting and Training & Research firm.

Organization: NIPM

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