Three Must-Haves In HR During & Post The Pandemic
In the last decade or so, technology has enabled talent acquisition teams a great deal and sharpened the scope of HR teams. They can monitor better, control and streamline organisation functions, and also offer employees a better balance between home and work.
However, the COVID-19 situation has proved to be a big spoke in the wheel. It has disrupted human routine, lifestyle, businesses and the global economy. The overall economic impact of the outbreak will cast its shadow over operations for years to come.
Yet, in so much chaos, one aspect that has come into the spotlight is the role of the HR in holding all ends together and fixing gaps to ensure the continuity of businesses. The HR teams, as much as the technology teams have had to rise to the challenging demands of this situation.
While leaders are keeping the ball rolling by finding ways to sustain and drive the business, HR went into crisis response mode at the onset of the pandemic to address all the challenges of remote working and communication. Nevertheless, the pandemic isn’t going anywhere any time soon, and we may spend a good part of early-2021 in uncertainty as well.
To deal with this swiftly changing work environment, HR team’s must make it their mission and a regularly vet each process, each initiative, each task that they undertake in these critical aspects that are now permanently a part of the future of work.
The safety of employees whether they are working from home or at work is paramount. Be it basic compulsory rules like wearing facemasks, or recording body temperature daily, and maintaining social distancing, or having only a third of your staff come into work at any time by creating a rotating shift system, every company today is creating new chapters in its workplace policies.
The world’s largest retail company Walmart started instituting these measures way back in March and continues its efforts. It has installed plastic shield barriers (sneeze guards) at its regular Walmart registers, sells sprays to sanitise its carts and has placed floor markers to maintain social distancing. Closer home, several Kirana stores are doing the same – placing social distance markers outside stores.
HR needs to know employees and their medical conditions and maintain up to date records without compromising privacy, at least till a vaccine is found. It is also the onus of the HR team to communicate safety measures, whether you do it by inviting guest speakers regularly, share tips to improve immunity or encourage employees to share best practices among themselves.
It’s not only physical safety that matters but also mental wellbeing and feeling safe to express yourself, without feeling embarrassed or guilty about admitting mistakes, asking questions or offering new ideas. When Google conducted a two-year study on what makes a great team, they found the highest performing teams had one thing in common: they felt psychologically safe.
HR teams should also ensure the psychological safety of the employees. Most large companies have come up with novel ideas ranging from doctor on call, psychological counselling and online meditation and fitness sessions to virtual team lunches and dedicated ‘work for home’ hours to help in household work – to keep their employees motivated and engaged.
Here are some questions that will enable you to keep employee safety a priority at all times:
What impact does this idea/task/initiative have on the safety (physical &/or psychological) on my employees?
What are the parameters for threat assessment?
What new safety protocols do we need to put in place before any change is implemented?
How and when will the safety protocols be communicated to employees?
Do we need to appoint a vigilance officer?
Do we need conduct drills?
Quality of work matters. It’s not only the output of work but also the input. It is especially relevant in current times, where work from home is the best solution. The process of how we do things matters greatly.
In a work from home situation, the dynamics of the game change vastly. The onus is on the employees to create a positive workspace for themselves from ensuring proper desks and chairs, to finding a conducive work spot. The quality of work also depends on time management, individual productivity and team collaboration, which are all the domain of team leaders. After all these months, if an employee is still unable to meet targets or adjust to the work-from-home situation, it has got to be probed further.
Among the things that universally guide the quality of work include job satisfaction, keeping the stress low, being compensated well, and the work environment itself; HR can ensure Quality by instituting strict quality standards. But we need to be mindful that quality comes from a variety of aspects – such as having the right tools, information, environment, motivation, and support being key. When we implement quality standards, it will have a direct impact on the various HR aspects, all the way from recruitment to employee exit.
A good example of how the quality of work can be managed are e-commerce delivery companies. Professionals from companies like Amazon, or food delivery services like Swiggy and Zomato have adopted new rules like sharing the daily temperatures of its delivery persons, ensuring no-contact deliveries etc. This means these companies have invested a whole lot in revising the training to professionals, safety and hygiene kits, and app up-gradation to convey this to the consumers – and the result of this is better trust both among employees and among the customers. This, in turn, will build confidence to increase business slowly.
Here are some questions that will enable you to keep quality a priority at all times:
What is our definition of high quality with respect to the task/idea/process in question?
What initiatives will we need to put in place to train employees?
When do we expect to see a transition in the quality of work?
What are the parameters or tools that will we use to measure quality?
Do we need to appoint a quality champion?
How often will we need to redefine quality?
First, to understand productivity it is not only delivering on time that makes a person productive. It is the value they add, the quality of work they deliver, the ability to go beyond and to collaborate with employees. In other words, it means a person who can consistently deliver, is of more value to the organisation than someone who does a job well one time. And the key to high productivity is putting employee well-being before productivity issues. This will automatically lead to more trust, loyalty and better productivity.
For instance, Bank of Baroda has exempted employees above 55 years from coming to the office. At Axis Bank – where nearly 88 per cent of corporate office staff and several of the field staff are working from home — offers virtual meditation sessions, online learning modules, and informal virtual team catch-ups among others to keep employee morale up.
WFH is here to stay so companies must plan accordingly. To maintain productivity, HR must open two-way communication. Empathy will be important and directly impact morale and motivation and hence productivity. HR has to also provide employees with a strong sense of purpose that drives them intrinsically. HR must also constantly remind employees to maintain focus, and link it to the larger vision. They must also ensure everybody on the team is on the same page, and at the same level. Offer 1: 1 support to employees who may not be in a position to be as productive as they were in office. This can be done by breaking down tasks into smaller activities, and also rewarding appropriately when needed. Offering flexibility is another very important aspect to give employees a comfort level.
Many of the strategies for increasing productivity at work might seem like we are moving away from our focus of work – but it’s been shown over and over again that happy, engaged employees are more efficient. You don’t need to spend thousands of rupees on high-end perks to foster this engagement, though.
Here are some questions that will enable you to keep productivity a priority at all times:
What is our current productivity level?
What is the productivity goal with respect to the task/idea/process in question?
What initiatives will we need to put in place to train employees?
What are the parameters or tools that will we use to measure productivity?
How does this change impact our current performance management practices?
How often will we need to redefine productivity?
It may seem like a lot more work in the already ‘glass full’ situation for HR. Never-the-less, all these moves should be seen as a step forward and not a setback. HR has to hold the fort on these three fronts, at all times! At the end of the day, people are the biggest assets, and it is the responsibility of HR to push the boundaries of work culture so it’s more conducive to growth despite the state of affairs.
At Yellow Spark, we can help you audit your current practices and create an action plan to implement change. To know more please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author Profile: Deepam Yogi is an adventurer at heart, socially conscious in her gut and professionally a strategic consultant. She co-founded Yellow Spark to support organisations to build workplaces that people love being a part of. Deepam describes herself as a shy yet opinionated writer and firmly believes that most answers to complex issues lie in simple communication.