Since the covid-19 crisis began the priority for HR leaders has been one of rapid response. The emphasis has been on health and safety, maintaining essential services, managing working from home and ensuring people stay connected. It is now time for HR leaders to consider how their organizations will recover, grow and thrive in the long term and this will require extraordinary focus.
What the future will look like is far from certain. The length of time it takes for the vaccine to roll out and the effectiveness of therapeutics means that organizations need to plan for the continuing impact of covid-19.
How organizations handle their recovery today will impact their future competitiveness by defining the way they are perceived by their employees and customers in many years to come.
The covid-19 crisis has meant that some organizations have re-prioritized their business goals to consider changing customer demands and markets.
HR leaders work with business leaders to find dynamic human resource solutions that drive their business strategy. The first step might involve analyzing the skills of existing employees to discover how these can be best utilized, identifying any gaps and putting systems in place to ensure gaps are filled.
Every HR department and HR leader is integral to ensuring an organization has the right talent, in the right roles at the right time. During the covid-19 crisis this means managing talent through fundamental shifts. Some aspects of a business might be slowing down while others are ramping up. HR leaders might need to quickly and effectively organize reskilling, strategic redeployment or acquire new talent.
Post covid, companies may re-open or accelerate their growth. Like start-up companies, they will need employees with the skills to be able to experiment and solve problems. It is the role of HR leaders to ensure systems are in place to tap into and find these skill sets and to ensure that employees have the right talents to drive the business in the long term.
Managers leading remote teams may need to acquire skills in managing from a distance. They need to be able to provide clarity in uncertain times, motivate employees towards shared business goals and build a sense of community.
HR leaders have a responsibility to ensure connectivity between managers and their team members. They might organize training programmes for leadership development, and at the same time nurture those who show leadership capabilities in these challenging times.
HR leaders support business leaders to connect people. Employees who physically work in an office benefit from in-person collaboration. They share knowledge and ideas as they talk at the coffee machine or in the corridors.
During the pandemic there may be times when there are people working in the office and people working from home, and then a separate culture can develop which can leave remote workers feeling isolated. HR solutions might include managers establishing an ‘open door’ policy to facilitate more informal interactions with remote workers so everybody feels equally valued.
Employees need to experience a sense of common purpose and community to feel happy and motivated. This is a profoundly stressful time for everyone, with uncertainty leading to anxiety and depression. Employees can only work at their best if they feel supported and valued by their employer.
HR leaders help business leaders to proactively identify mental health conditions and to offer employee assistance programmes which might include everything from financial counselling to shared exercise classes. They can ensure that organizations build and maintain social capital so that employees remain ‘on board’.
Remote working means finding creative solutions to employee engagement. The ability to engage remote teams is a skill that will transcend the pandemic.
HR leaders can recommend different ways to engage employees. They also track employee engagement regularly through feedback loops and quick surveys, taking action to keep everybody motivated.
Performance management planning and strategy may need to be adapted when employees are working from home. Their productivity is best monitored with SMART goals since it is not possible to review their progress by observation alone.
SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant (to what the company wants to achieve) and time-bound.
Many companies are likely to continue having at least some employees working from home in the long term and post covid. The covid-19 crisis has revealed the benefits for businesses of people working from home as well as the challenges.
Working from home can be more stressful for some employees, depending upon their physical setup and domestic arrangements. When the line between home and work is blurred employees can also find themselves working longer hours than usual which can cause stress for themselves and their families. HR leaders will continue to ensure that people successfully balance their professional and personal lives so they are happier, healthier and thus more productive.
It will be the continuing role of HR leaders and HR departments to nurture employees’ wellbeing as they continue to work from home and to make sure they are supported in their home office with ergonomic solutions that adhere to health and safety.
HR leaders have a critical role in making sure businesses grows and thrive through the covid-19 crisis and beyond. They develop HR strategy and administer systems that drive business goals in this shifting economic climate. They take the lead in developing talent strategy and ensuring employees who are working both remotely and in the office are continually motivated and ‘on board’.
For further HR reading you may want to read our Aligning HR and Business Strategy article.