HR has never been as important as it has been during the coronavirus crisis.
Its strength is demonstrating that commercial success can best be achieved by motivating, developing and coaching people, and creating great places to work.
The crisis has unleashed new ways of working and challenges leaders and managers to inspire people they haven’t seen in person for weeks. It has created a more human focus for many businesses as they support people through bereavement, illness, homeschooling, anxiety and maintaining mental well-being.
As the world moves slowly towards a return to work, the challenges will get greater for HR.
- Who do you bring back to work first, and how?
- How do we ensure our workplaces are safe?
- What do we retain in terms of new ways of working that appeal to staff and potentially make us more productive?
As we look beyond the short term, here are the three key opportunities that I believe will create great places to work — and that deliver improved performance and greater productivity:
How do we rewire our companies so that we allow people to work flexibly, retaining the work-life balance they desire and need, yet still feel that they belong and are part of the team?
It is clear that a wave of redundancies and restructuring is in front of us. How do we do this not just with an eye on reducing cost and being legally compliant, but with more thought as to the skills, capability and potential we want to not retain and empower?
This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to structure work differently, to change the organization’s rules of engagement, break silos and create new operating models which provide both increased efficiency and a more inclusive culture.
The pressure will be on the organisation to act fast but HR leaders need to educate their peers to see this as a moment on reinvention.
It has been transparent throughout the crisis that we’ve seen both the best and worst of leadership. I’ve talked to HR Directors and Chief People Officers over the last weeks and months and it’s clear that the issue of leadership bench strength has become ever more apparent.
Many leaders and managers have been shown to not have the capability to engage, motivate or inspire the people that work for them. In many HR functions we have recognized this for years but have turned a blind eye if problems weren’t created and tasks got completed.
However, this is now out in the open and we have to act. HR facilitates creating great people management. But you will never be able to create a high performance organization if your people leaders are second rate and just can’t do what’s required.
We need to assess, develop and sometimes remove the managers who aren’t able to empower and get the best from our people.
We have not invested enough in this area. At the start of the crisis we needed data on our people and the majority of business struggled even to get the basic information about their workforce.
If 60% to 70% of an organization’s cost base is people, surely having data on this asset is important!
So, we need good systems that can provide the data that allows us to optimize our performance. Then let’s move on to provide a great employee experience, where employees are tech-enabled and have the tools to do the job.
The moment is upon us for HR leaders to grasp this opportunity to make a huge impact on their organizations culture and performance. Let’s not play it safe, let’s reinvent.