Turn on any news channel or unfold any newspaper, we hear and see: lock downs, lack of beds, vaccines, oxygen cylinders, ventilators, burning crematoriums, stacked up bodies in hospitals, people wailing, streaking ambulances, flights that are grounded and airlines that have gone bankrupt. We feel numb, probably a deep pain and unexpressed panic. Now, shift. We see people traveling, taking holidays, walk around without masks, hand-sanitizers are barely applied, people are thronging restaurants, flights are jam packed, the surging stock market, the elections, rallies, polls, melas and what have you. Life seems to be irrationally normal. At a subconscious level, we are confused with the dichotomy that we are facing. While we are trying to make sense of all these and more, every short video that is being shared has a theory on vaccines, medicines, recovery and about life and some even about after-life. And there is also this video where the protagonist tapped on the bridge of the nostrils and declared that he is now Covid negative. On the work side, food and door to door deliveries continue to streak. For the last year or more, most of us are working from home alongside our family and coworkers. Video calls are filled with children running around, the flushing of toilets, the odd conversation of a family member looking for his glasses, have been accepted as normal. And a stressed mother telling her kid, ‘give me 15 mins and I will be with you and then shifting gears to say, ‘yes, online marketing campaigns …’ is not unheard of. With so many calls and meetings, digital interactions have soared, but real people interactions have reduced. Deep down people have fears of job security, the need to upskill, the concern to stay relevant, the urge to portray that they are performing is creating immense stress. Given this context, what can HR do?
- Employment: Despite all odds, HR professionals should focus their efforts in continuing to support the business to their best. Continue to recruit, help people perform, manage HR processes, help deliver to customers and so on and so forth. In a pandemic or otherwise, when businesses fail, the first to suffer are employees and their families. And if businesses do well, people continue to be employed and that is the best that can happen to any economy. Staying focused, support the business, stay the course – that is the need of the hour.
- Employability: Upskilling not only helps people create a larger business impact, but also creates newer and larger scope for long-term employability for people. Especially in the case of eventualities when economies and businesses implode, people can either become employable or can use their skills to be self-employed. Despite al odds of the current pandemic, HR as a function needs to take a structured approach to ensuring that the skills and competencies of people are upgraded with courses, projects, and cross-functional opportunities. Learning culture where people are proud to learn newer skills is something that HR can significantly influence. Importantly appreciation for upskilling, while may sound cliched’ works wonders, even these difficult times. Don’t we all see people publishing learning certificates on LinkedIN?
- Emotional Well-being: When ambiguity is high, stress soars and HR can significantly add value, just by calling people and listening to them. Assurance that there is light at the end of the tunnel is what people would like to hear. A listening ear and empathy go a long way, not just from HR but especially from business leaders. Looking at the emotional trauma, mayhem of death and the information overload on messaging platforms, companies could help open authentic advisement centers, where people can call to seek help, expertise and advise. We often think it is the affected who seek out, not true. The entire-eco-system is brittle, shaken and needs emotional support to limp out of this crisis. What matters most now is – resources who can care for the tormented, medical aid, vaccine support, health & life insurance. And oxygen for the battered lungs.