HR managers must design an employee experience, which not only challenges but also excites their employees to overcome the uncertainty jitters and commit wholeheartedly towards growth—professionally as well as personally.
Following the SARS outbreak of 2002, Wimbledon organisers added a ‘pandemic clause’ to their insurance policy. Having religiously paid a higher premium for 17 years, the tournament organisers are now set to receive around £114 million against cancellation of this year’s tournament owing to COVID-19. In hindsight, how many CHROs would succeed in convincing their management on such an insurance cover? But for the evolution of human resources in the last decade, not many would have triumphed. One can credit this ‘evolution’ to have averted the simultaneous implosions of many an organisation during the forced lockdown period. The evolution continues.
: Having survived the shock of a shutdown; organisations are now drawing contingency plans for a possibility of a second lockdown. Whether it happens or not, HR Managers will have to convince the senior management to set aside a greater share of profits towards crisis management. Speaking of crisis response, most organisations did not have any remote working programme in place. Organisations working in data-sensitive domains like financials, technology, pharmaceuticals etc. will bite-the-bullet and sensitise employees of the additional responsibilities of accessing sensitive data remotely. Cementing trust between employees and organistion will be a paramount concern of today’s HR.
Communication: To find a communication tool that suits the organisation’s culture is a tedious task. One of my earliest employers used to host a Content Management System, which not many of us used. As remote working becomes a norm, HR teams are working against time to implement a communication tool acceptable to their employees. In uncertain times like these where rule-changes by governments happen frequently, it is pertinent for the senior management to allocate some time daily to address possible concerns of ordinary employees. That is all it takes to make everyone feel part of the organisation. Going by personal experience and at the expense of being marked as spam, HR managers should be wary of sending frequent mass mailers; as such communication may get overlooked easily. Job security or rather the business uncertainty remains a big concern of today’s time. HR managers must bring in transparency and address these concerns at regular intervals. Calms nerves are one less thing to worry about.
Employee Well-being: This is the biggest challenge HR managers face in a post-COVID world. Most are trained to comprehend the psyche of their employees on the office floor. However, how can one judge an employee’s state of mind in a remote-work environment? While discussing the forced grounding with several colleagues across domains, I found most felt ‘helpless’ against segregating family time from personal time and professional commitments. In a way, the physical separation of office and home space allowed them to commit to one aspect while putting the other on a backburner. Thus, they were able to manage their time without any major overlap of duties. HR managers will have to come up with ways to re-instate the status quo else risk a huge toll on the mental well-being of their employees. During this phase, an enhanced employee engagement initiative should be able to sustain employee productivity.
Long-term Impact: Ensuring quality of life has become a new norm across different industries. COVID-19 crisis has acted as a catalyst for embracing this welcome change. HR managers must assess those job functions that have become obsolete since the lockdown or are on the verge of closure and seek to align employees from such job functions laterally. Redefining the training programmes according to the changed landscape will make them more effective and thus justified. Improvement in the employee leave policies will ensure employees do not feel the pinch of ‘pandemic-related’ health emergencies. HR managers must design an employee experience, which not only challenges but also excites their employees to overcome the uncertainty jitters and commit wholeheartedly towards growth—professionally as well as personally.
— Nilesh Gaikwad is Country Manager at EDHEC Business School, France. The views expressed are personal