The COVID-19 pandemic has seen organisations scrambling to adapt to new ways of working as country after country plunged into lockdown. As organisations grapple with the uncertainty of the economy and businesses, HR leaders are also plunged into the spotlight.
In the post pandemic era, HR is responsible for being the “facilitators” in ensuring a safe and smooth transition for employees to the workplace. In the past, some of the strategic focus areas for HR revolved around digital transformation and employee experience. According to The Future Workplace 2021 HR Sentiment Survey, which surveyed around 200 C-level HR leaders in the United States, these priorities have since shifted to focus on employee well-being, diversity, equality, and inclusion, and managing remote workers.
Here are the top five priorities and their impact on people practices:
Addressing diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI)
Diversity, equality, and inclusion has always been a key topic for HR leaders. In this post-pandemic, it has become even more of an imperative. Based on The Future Workplace 2021 HR sentiment Survey, new measures are being taken such as defining metrics for DEI, specifying inclusive behaviours for DEI and forming new partnerships to broaden the talent pool.
Research has shown that organisations with a strong DEI strategy tend to hire individuals with a diverse mix of qualities, resulting in a richer set of ideas, perspectives and approaches to business problems.
Challenge existing talent management models
Talent management models vary from organisation to organisation. However, with an increasingly demanding and remote workforce, organisations need to direct even more focus on existing talent management models. The first step is to establish an organisational culture that values employee experience. Employee experience is crucial as it has a direct impact on customer experience and service. When employees feel happy, they are naturally more inclined to serve their end users better. Likewise, organisations need to focus on upskilling their existing workforce in order to equip them with the right technical knowledge and skill sets to thrive in the dynamic business environment.
Another key aspect that HR leaders need to relook at is performance management. Traditional performance review models of a linear and top-down review approach no longer works today. HR and business leaders realise that this approach does not stimulate creativity, sets unclear expectations and goals, and does not provide an avenue for employees to communicate their career and professional development goals. Progressive approaches that organisations can undertake include continual feedback throughout the year, peer review, and introducing flexible and adaptable goals that are reviewed quarterly throughout the year.
Transform working patterns
As the pandemic forced employees to change their work locations and revisit their work patterns, HR leaders need to find and experiment with new ways to drive employee engagement and boost productivity levels. Traditional work models such as a 5 day 9am to 5pm work week no longer works for employees. With a large proportion of the workforce working remotely, HR and business leaders need to relook at ways to ensure a clear distinction between employees’ work and personal lives to prevent burnout and fatigue.
There is no one solution that fits all. Hence, HR leaders need to adopt a listening strategy. Provide avenues for employees to provide anonymous feedback, create an FAQ portal to address commonly-raised concerns, and be transparent with employees when communicating new work models. Adopt a flexible approach for employees who may have difficulties adapting to the new work model and work closely with employees to discover and implement new solutions to help them cope.
Create an adaptable workforce
An adaptable and resilient workforce is an imperative for HR leaders during the pandemic and even more so in the post pandemic era. Businesses are not the only ones trying to adapt to the multiple uncertainties and setbacks. Employees themselves are trying to adjust to work remotely, while ensuring that they remain productive and engaged. This is even more so for new hires, who may not necessarily have the traditional onboarding activities or even step foot in the office once.
HR leaders and managers need to ensure that the workforce remains engaged, while providing avenues for new hires to connect and build relationships with existing colleagues. Concurrently, existing employees need to be versatile and able to adapt to this new way of working in order to innovate and collaborate with employees to achieve the same organisational goal.
Make mental well-being a business mandate
The novelty of working remotely has worned off. Back to back Zoom meetings, juggling family demands, lack of a proper workstation – all these have taken a toll on employees. As this pandemic continues, this fatigue and claustrophobia deepens and starts to affect positive feelings about everything – personal affirmation, work performance, and even employees’ feelings towards their work and the organisation that they are employed with.
HR leaders and managers need to be prepared to have this fatigue impacting all employees, even themselves. Instead of succumbing to the mental exhaustion, there is a great need for business leaders and managers to be more attuned and empathetic towards employees. Active listening and developing actionable solutions is needed to overcome this hurdle. Offer well-being benefits such as revamping flexible working arrangements or access to well-being apps or courses. Schedule no-meeting Fridays or introduce a year-end office closure for all employees to unwind and discharge. Tailor well-being solutions based on the industry, the organisation size, and most importantly, to each individual employee.
As organisations move into the new year, this is the golden moment for HR leaders to shine. The way employees work, where they work and the technologies used are here to stay. As HR leaders crave out their key human capital priorities for the road ahead, it is crucial to also ensure alignment with overarching business objectives. There are no doubt plenty of key priorities that HR and business leaders need to be concerned about but recognising which are the most crucial and impactful on the workforce will provide HR and business leaders with a clearer direction.
If you like our content, remember to subscribe to our e-newsletter to receive the latest tips, articles, tools and exclusive promotions for payroll & HR professionals conveniently in your inbox!