As 2020 passes its half-way point, HR leaders look back on six months which have pushed business and people management across the world to its very limit. The questions that have been posed are manifold: have established HR strategies held up? What will be the long-term effects of last-minute operational changes, such as large-scale remote working and returning from the furlough scheme? How will the recovery process vary from industry to industry and country to country? And does the ‘new normal’ guarantee any kind of stability?
There is a lot of information to digest and speculation to be had, but from some of the key trends that have emerged in the first part of 2020, HR leaders will notice risks and opportunities that must be effectively dealt with to form a successful future people management strategy. Most of these factors relate to the employees of an organization – the people who’ve had to merge their work and home lives, worry about the virus, economic impact and threat of job losses, continue to produce good work, and adapt to ever-changing circumstances. By understanding the experiences, desires, and challenges faced by employees, HR leaders will be able to bring about effective change for the remainder of 2020 and beyond.
A serious blow to the nine-’til-five routine
Although remote and flexible working has become more prevalent in recent years, with the rise of freelancing and the gig economy, the past few months have seen the strategy embraced en masse. However, not all organizations have been totally suited to it; many rely on face-to-face contact in the form of client presentations, brainstorms, scrums, and one-to-one meetings. While technology offers people a certain degree of that close contact, it lacks the spontaneity and inclusive feeling of a fully functional office environment. Despite some mixed results associated with remote working, employers have had to accept it as a fact of life for now.
That said, in the coming months, many workers will still be working remotely and perhaps only just beginning to return to the workplace. The experience employees have undergone will make them question the HR strategy; some might want a full return to remote and flexible working, others might want to dedicate longer days to the office so they can have more days off. Experiences between HR leaders will vary, but the most important point is that employees have had months of a different experience and may have developed new intentions regarding their routine. HR leaders will have to take this into account to create a truly effective people management strategy.
More support demanded by employees
As Dave Ulrich commented in April, “personal wellbeing is often shaped by the organizations where we live and work. Many industries (e.g. travel, entertainment, consumer goods, advisory services) are more directly affected, but all organizations have to adapt to this crisis”. This highlights that businesses must strike a balance between looking out for their employees and ensuring that business objectives are being met. This would pose a considerable challenge even in stable times, but now, HR leaders must contend with the unique burdens brought about over the last few months: additional stress and anxiety, adjusting to a new way of working, and maintaining a positive outlook on the future.
With effective people management strategies having the potential to create a more productive organizations, HR leaders might have to consider what additional support they can offer staff. However, this must be balanced alongside a possible loss in income or business, the number of extra resources which can be offered and how best to make it available to staff members. The key is to be proactive. Effectively communicate with employees that leaders understand how challenging the year so far has been and that work is being done to support employees at all levels. Make sure that senior members are available to meet employee queries and dispel concerns.
An increase in upskilling and training
It goes without saying that finding a new job during a global pandemic is extremely challenging. To that end, employees may feel inclined to stay with a business until conditions are more stable. During the past few months, workers may have become restless during furlough, unhappy with new working conditions, and uncertain of where their future with the company lies. Thus, HR leaders that emphasize the need for workplace belonging may experience fewer problems.
Now is a good time to reassert the importance of a clear and comprehensive talent management strategy, where workers are able to upskill and gain experience in the workplace. Perhaps consider how best to reward the strengths shown during lockdown; time management, effective communication with colleagues, appropriately prioritizing projects, and maintaining personal resilience. Communicate to team members that their efforts haven’t gone unrecognized during an unprecedented time, and that by complying with company objectives and policy, the post-pandemic future will be aware of their desires, supportive and full of opportunities.
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