By Sunny Choudhary
Lenin very rightfully said, “There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.” Nothing is truer than these words which were spoken 100 years back, probably in a completely different context. At this moment the world has come at a standstill as the most sophisticated and well-branded race got gripped by a deadly pandemic which is questioning the entire existence of the human race. Such is the impact of this virus on the race that in the span of a few months, citizens are asked to confine themselves at home to prevent the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus. The world of business was suddenly required to crawl for ways to maintain business continuity in the face of such a lethal crisis. Every business today is compelled to grapple with the basic question of survival.
Learning From The Past
The SARS outbreak of 2003 is often credited with giving rise to e-commerce giants such as Alibaba and JD.com. Also, it is very interesting to note how companies like American Express and Starbucks evolved during the global financial crisis of 2008−2009 to a new-age digital operating model that enabled them to survive, thrive, and hence dramatically increase their shareholder value. COVID-19 and the containment policies aimed at controlling it has changed the way we work and what we consume. History shows that such changes are not always temporary crises that can fundamentally reshape our beliefs and behaviours. Be it the participation of women in the workforce during World War II or the 9/11 attack. Several of such incidences in the past have impelled us to believe that the impact of COVID-19 is not going to be temporary.
Is COVID-19 Also Going to Change the World of Work?
As the COVID-19 crisis continues to have a huge impact on businesses, leaders across the world are focusing on the agility to evolve to the new ways of working and ensuring the workforce stays engaged and productive. Today around 75 percent of companies across the globe are working remotely. A Gartner survey revealed that nearly 50 percent of organizations reported 81 percent or more of their employees are working remotely during the coronavirus pandemic. Another 15 percent of those surveyed said 61-80 percent of employees are working remotely at this time. Gartner analysis also reveals that the post-pandemic, 41 percent of employees are likely to work remotely at least some of the time. Which gets us to conclude that work from home is here to stay and is going to be the new normal in the business world.
In the last major global financial crisis that impacted the entire world between 2007-09, most of the organizations turned to corporate finance for survival. However, the COVID-19 pandemic is a human crisis that brings the need for human resources to be at the forefront of ensuring success in sailing through the crisis. Thus, HRs need to redefine their business and people strategies in such challenging times. Being more transparent in communication and share the leadership vision with employees is the key during such times to ensure that employees feel inclusive and accountable towards the organisation. A far more definitive approach towards reimagination and realignment to rejuvenate the workforce should be the new mantra for HR.
Challenges Faced By HR During COVID-19
The COVID crisis is perhaps the greatest challenge HR has seen in a few decades. HRs are flooded with issues such as coming up with new policies for employee safety, enabling people to work from home, measuring productivity and efficiency during remote work mode, designing employee engagement programs, and for few digital-first businesses that grew exponentially during the crisis, the need to hire and scale through remote hiring. Be it implementing strategies on mental health and wellness, talent/leadership development, performance management, compensation and rewards, financial modeling, etc today HR is engaged in multiple activities to safeguard their people and the business both.
The crisis is certainly forcing every organisation to question and rethink their basic operating models as well as their plan for expansion, mergers & acquisitions, and people strategies. And to fight this battle, companies will have to primarily redesign their organizations and the way they work. This pandemic certainly should be taken as an opportunity by HRs to review the entire operating model, streamline the processes & policies, reduce manual intervention, bring transparency across data handling by digitising, and simplifying the complete HR processes by using software. As the world is moving towards a new normal, HR should use this time as an opportunity to fix things internally. Here are the top 4 things HRs need to relook and fix during this time of crisis.
Focusing on Reskilling
In 2017, the McKinsey Global Institute estimated that as many as 375 million workers or 14 percent of the global workforce would have to switch occupations or acquire new skills by 2030 because of automation and artificial intelligence. In a recent McKinsey Global Survey, 87 percent of executives said they were experiencing skill gaps in the workforce or expected them within a few years. But most of the respondents didn’t have a clear sense of how to address the problem. The pandemic has made this question to be addressed immediately. The dynamics here is about more than remote working, it is more about reskilling and upskilling the workforce for them as well as the business to be prepared to deliver new business models in the post-pandemic era.
Adaptive Workplace Learning
With the outbreak of coronavirus, one of the many important things that is taking a hit is workplace learning and is emerging as one of the earliest and hardest-hit business activities. But, organisations’ can’t afford to put capability building on hold for a long time. Be it putting an extra effort in reskilling at a business-unit level or a company-wide aspirational transformation, this can’t stop/pause companies to hit the red button on critical workplace learning. To continue delivering value-creating efforts, HR leaders should be in the frontline to take important tactical steps so that the upgrading, upskilling, and learning is not frozen by developing adapt programs and establishing and expanding virtual learning environments.
This time when everyone is working remotely it is imperative for HRs to keep their employees engaged and motivated so that the productivity doesn’t go for a toss. Many organisations across the globe have implemented various innovative initiatives to keep their employees feel safe, happy, and motivated. Now is the time to build a strong culture of appreciation, recognition, and gratitude towards each other. A continuous 360-degree feedback approach can be the best way to keep everyone in the team connected and engaged. Managers can facilitate weekly face to face zoom calls conversations with their reportees and discuss both personal and professional development of the employee. HRs on the other hand should focus on the mental health and safety of the employees once they get back to work.
Digitalisation & Use of Technology
Technology is the mother of every small thing we do in our daily lives. Be it ordering food online or booking a cab, technology has been the crux of every activity we take up. Then why should live at work be any different? And this is the time when technology can be used most extensively as everyone is working remotely. HRs can work towards digitalisation and keep everyone connected and build a transparent workplace using HRMS software.
With the unfortunate outbreak of COVID-19 worldwide and the detection of an extremely high amount of cases worldwide, we believe that it is crucial for all of us to do our best to take care of ourselves by adhering to some proactive precautionary measures. We feel that awareness along with some simple do’s and don’ts can go a long way in helping all of us protect our health and also those around us. These are certainly the testing times for everyone on how quickly we adapt, how differently we can think and plan which will determine how strongly we emerge from this adversity. Hence businesses that can adapt, innovate, and evolve quickly with survive the battle again COVID-19.