Organizations around the world have faced a tectonic shift that has redefined the constraints and more importantly the possibilities in doing business. No business can say it was ready for the scale, intensity, and disruption brought about by the pandemic of COVID-19. Unlike other major business transformations, this org-wide response must be spearheaded by HR because the implications of key interventions from business model innovation to workplace redesign are human problems at their core.
During any crisis, it is only human for most of us to look for a person or leader who seems to know the answers and can lead the way into the unknown. This stems from our inherent need to be reassured that we can get to the other side and we are getting there. Even the most obvious solutions can falter without leadership, clear communication, empathy, and a conducive environment to execute.
That is why HR business partners need to be working at the frontlines and at the grass root levels to usher in the changes and ensure their successful adoption. In this blog, I am sharing some practical ideas that you can use in your own organizations.
1. Nurturing a culture of virtual collaboration: Obviously, I am not implying that it is HR’s duty to plan e-lunches and design social hours to enhance engagement levels. HR must influence managers to communicate frequently, transparently, and recognize socially in a virtual workplace.
- Managers can begin by substituting hallway conversations with regular 1-1 conversations. They must follow a consistent approach in performance discussions based on changing priorities; these can help employees push through challenges and proactively gauge mental health.
- For many of us working remotely is a new experience; HR can help employees shape their personal brand; how to remain visible in a virtual setting – effective video conferencing tips & tricks, paying special attention to documentation and guide the always-on millennial and Gen Z generation to power down at the end of the day.
2. Visualizing the workplace: With social distancing norms and safety measures being instituted at the workplace, HR must champion the mindset shift and help businesses analyze trade-off decisions on business travel, home-office setups, and contingent/FTE workforce models.
- HR can play a critical role in redefining the Employee Value Proposition offered to employees as we move away from old office perks such as cafeteria coupons, transportation, and campus recreation facilities. Employees are now keen on insurance top-up policies, employee assistance programs, flexible leave policies, and reimbursements for on-demand services such as medical checkups, home entertainment, and virtual learning services.
- In companies that have reopened their offices, we may find the need to reinforce return to work policies to avoid discrimination & harassment against employees who may have experienced symptoms or undergone diagnoses of COVID-19.
3. Mobilize and reskill: A growth mindset with a focus on reskilling can help employees take advantage of business disruptions.
- For those business units that may witness downtime, HR should encourage employees to consider resetting learning goals and identify different avenues to close skills gaps that will impact upcoming strategic business objectives.
- HR must keep themselves updated with the labor market requirements to support business leaders form assessments on critical roles and emerging job opportunities to pivot their businesses. To ensure business continuity, managers will need direction on creation of
employee succession plans and guidance on how to balance workloads effectively.
In summary, remember business teams can thrive only when there is collaboration, inclusion, and accountability. If you are an HR business partner and you have been searching for your calling, here is your chance to step up to the role, quickly adapt to the changing needs and be at frontlines of the business transformation of this millennium.
–By Rachel Ferreira
Rachel Ferreira is a passionate HR professional with a wide range of experiences in HR, having worked with a large Indian MNC, an American product giant and an IP tech & litigation start-up. In her current role at Oracle, she is an active member of the Oracle Women’s Leadership (OWL) circle. Born in Goa, she calls Bengaluru her home with a well-developed palette for benne dosas and kesari baths. Only thing that matches her passion for HR is her love for all dogs in the world!