by Sarah Stewart, M.A.
For most HR departments the past 6 months have been a rollercoaster of reactionary, rather than strategic, changes to workforce management. Policies and procedures have been updated ‘on-the-fly’ to meet the immediate needs of the business with little opportunity to consider how these changes fit (or don’t fit) with the organization’s culture and longer-term strategic plans.
The COVID pandemic has changed employee’s priorities, and attitudes toward ‘HR clichés’ or ‘management fads’ such as agile, remote, flexible work, and resilient leadership have changed now that such approaches have become key differentiators between organizations most likely to successfully adapt to the current crisis, and those that are struggling. How can HR maximize this opportunity for change to help their organization bounce back stronger, better and more adaptable than ever?
The following framework sets out some key questions to help drive the discussions and decisions that will help you and your organization rethink your people and talent strategy while everything is fresh in our minds, and perhaps more importantly from a change management perspective, fresh in the minds of our leaders and employees:
1. Re-think your organization’s operating model based on how people work best. Are there any areas of the business that are equally efficient, or even more so, working on a remote basis? Have there been any parts of the organization that have faced challenges maintaining a functional team while working remotely? What does this mean for how your employees will be expected to work moving forward? Does everyone have to follow the same approach? Do your policies and processes need updating to align with whatever is decided?
2. Consider the changing priorities of employees. What is important now will be quite different to what was important 12 months ago. Employers of choice will adapt their approach and offerings accordingly. Do you have a good understanding of how your employee’s priorities have changed? How can you adapt your people strategy to ensure you are meeting these new priorities?
3. Talent management is seeing a shift of focus from critical roles to critical skills to support organizational resilience and adaptability. How might this impact your recruitment, training and career development program, and succession planning?
5. Engagement. This is particularly important if remote working will remain a key part of how work is organized and delivered across some or all of your organization. Do your managers and leaders have the skills necessary to ensure remote teams remain engaged and productive? If not, what support do they need to be effective? What changes might be needed to your traditional methods of communication to ensure everyone feels valued and connected to the organization?
For many of us there is still a long road ahead before the positive changes we've experienced and identified as important to delivering our future strategy are embedded in our organizations. But it's reassuring to see that many of the recent trends HR has been championing to modernize the way we work were exactly the approaches seen in organizations that were quickest to adapt and remain resilient during the COVID crisis.
Sarah Stewart, M.A.
U.K. based service provider for Traaen & Associates LLC