Saturday, June 06, 2020

People agenda and HR processes after coronavirus pandemic.

What will be your answer if I ask you the question, “Who drives the digitalization journey in the organization?”. Typical answers will be CEO or CTO or somebody responsible in the Management board. I think digitalization is driven by the coronavirus pandemic; yes Covid19. Covid19 situation forced us to change. One fine morning, everybody started working from home using digital platforms. This is the New Normal now. 
"With a changed scenario in workforce management, we also need to understand the implication of the coronavirus pandemic on human resource & work."
You are already reading news of companies planning to move employees, to work from home giving them more flexibility. This will also save the cost on infrastructure. The use of flexible and contractual workforce will be one of the elements of workforce strategies. But before that lets predict what employer and Human Resource will have to work for creating a better future.
Three major imperatives will change the functioning of Human Resource function. HR professionals will have to change their mindset towards the workforce. Acceleration has already happened & it should continue. 

Imperatives in the new normal

Covid19 has given us enough space for learning and planning for the future. New normal will have the following three imperatives which will have implications on the future of work.
  • Digital acceleration: Covid19 has proven the tough teacher. It has already accelerated digital journey in organizations. As per the assumption, most of the white-collar employees will start working from home. (Please read my article here Covid19 is a tough leader.). This will bring different challenges. Employers will have set up a proper system of engagement, collaboration. Besides they also need to track the progress of employees and ensure the effectiveness and efficiency. Employers will have to establish a protocol of generating the data and analyse the productivity of employees. 
  • Aftershocks, Impact & consequences: We need different competencies in the new normal. Pandemic has consequences on the business. It has a big shock. Millions of people have lost their jobs and livelihood. Companies may not be fair during such periods. High performing organizations need to find innovative solutions to bounce back. Talent will be the key here. We need different skill sets. What we used to call critical & complex roles actually are not complex and critical. It will be crucial to manage the crisis. While working remotely, people may miss the human factor, while others may take extra efforts to keep engagement and keep that human factor in mind.
  • Organizational Ecosystem: Pandemic has changed the organizational ecosystem. Organizations have to prioritise & plan for resilience & prepare themselves for the new normal. This will be volatile, uncertain, complex, ambitious but also having impact on the culture, value system & design of the organizations. With new ways of working complex structures may not work and organizations need to relook their current structures and ecosystem. HR’s role will be very crucial to facilitate the flexible but value-based ecosystem in the organization. However, we also need to understand that employees are afraid, they are worried about their & family health. They may not be sure how they are safe, how their jobs will be impacted. They may be worried about the future in the economic uncertainties. Employers will have to give the proper message with the right intentions." 
We also are aware now that this pandemic has accelerated all actions which organizations wanted to take. With this changed scenario, workplaces will be defined by personalised solutions, focus on wellbeing, culture, autonomy and inclusivity. Work is already being untied from space and time and, while this freedom is liberating and empowering, there are challenges ahead. 
In particular, how do organisations respond when walls have come tumbling down between physical and digital, the workforce is more disparate and demanding than ever and the new rule is to expect change and keep on learning. 
"The answer is to keep the core principle of purposeful leadership at the heart of everything. Future workplaces require visionary leaders, and they will be those people who want to be not only ‘best in the world’ but ‘best for the world’."
Leaders with the support of HR should come forward to create the right workplaces as per the following four aspects:

Psychological workplace: This is about considering the emotional aspect of the workplace. Creating the ecosystem for engagement, trust, inclusion and ensuring the wellbeing of employees will be vital.

Physical workplace: In view of physical workplaces moving at home, employers need to support having the right infrastructure, digital platform and proper connectivity. Employees who will attend offices and factories will need assurance of safe and healthy workplaces. HR will have to work regularly to assess the situation and take appropriate calls so that employees are productive and efficient.

Digital Workplace:  This is not only about digitalization and automation but also thinking about how technology will foster new business models, ways to work and employee experiences. Further it is also preparing, educating, developing employees to work in the virtual world. Roles will be changed. Few new roles will be created. Sales will not happen like we do it today. Speed and agility will be core of workgroups. HR needs to work speedily in creating new behaviours in the digital and virtual world. People will have to take extra efforts to be more empathic & persevering. Networking & collaboration will happen in the virtual world. Employees will have to continuously learn in the new digital world.   

Purposeful workplace: Employees are looking forward to work with those companies whose value systems are strong. They will be attracted towards the purposeful economy. With strong evolving ideas of leadership, organisational models, value(s) and employee engagement it is very important to embed the purpose in everything which you do. 

New competencies 

Leadership roles are demanding but it will be more demanding. They also need to develop strong pipelines in different functional areas. Talent management will be even more crucial. It should be a business process instead of just one of the HR processes. 

We will need Talent with different competencies. Employees also need to go the extra mile. Learning agility will be the core of talent management for identifying high potential and top potential employees.  (Learning Agility).

Following are few new competences:  
  • Transdisciplinary: Expert in one functional area but having the basic knowledge of other areas also, 
  • New Media Literacy: Knows how to communicate on different platforms, able to connect customers and articulates proper communication. Knows how to design the communication. Practice storytelling techniques. 
  • Sense Making: Ability to determine deeper meaning or core what is said or expressed, 
  • Novel thinking: Clarity of thought & coming with innovative solution to complex problems, 
  • Data thinking: Ability to translate the data into abstract concept and understanding logics, 
  • Design Mindset: Ability to represent & develop jobs/tasks & processes for desired results.      
What will be the implications on HR? 
"For HR, it is not the business as usual. There are no boundaries now. Comfort zone has already vanished. It is the time to drive the change and support & coach business leaders." 
HR processes and actions need to accommodate those changes as per the situation. Policies will have to review regularly & there is no timeline. Policy documents will be dynamic. Systems have to be established. Platforms have to be created. Along with this, HR will have to align following actions:

Accelerating the Talent Management process: Getting this done, we need the right talent in the right role who will create the value for the organization. Talent should be a part of business strategy. More you discuss the talent in leadership meetings and different platforms, the more you know about the potential of the talent. Companies that underestimate the potential of talent will always miss the upside potential of what their colleagues might have been capable of. They will fail to capitalise on the opportunities that inevitably arise from this or any other economic shock.

Capabilities: Identify new skills & competencies that enable effective remote work, including greater digital skill. Assessment and development plans have to be implemented quickly.  
Employee Experience: With changed aspects and imperatives, employee experience journey maps will be different. We need to think about what those look like.

HR & Talent Analytics: How are you going to manage the data of employees working in different workplaces, home and office? You will have to track continuous sentiment to monitor culture/ engagement across an increasingly dispersed workforce. You also have to come up with the clear policy on what is ethical and what is not. Government regulations & privacy policies will have to be framed keeping practical aspects of life. 

Health & Wellness: It is not just fun activities some professionals are expert into. It is also not about having experts’ sessions for employees. Companies also have to come up with solutions for employees. Few things like more Medical Cover with corporate buffer for self, family, Life Cover in case of unfortunate death of employee, regular consultation by doctors on psychological health, Tracking the overall stress and happiness level will help employees to be productive. Along with this, you will have to create a support eco-system for employees.   

Total Reward: Organizations will have different sets of employees, like permanent, contractual, consultants and most importantly gig workforce. Their compensation & benefits will be different. HR will have to come up with innovative total reward policies for them. It is not only the compensation & benefits but also how they are treated, how they are engaged. It is also about culture, workplaces & employee experience for them. Gig economy will also bring some other challenges for the government on their health & social securities. It will be interesting to know how companies mange those different set of people with equal opportunities. 
"George Orwell, in his political satire writes, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” This is the common reality in the corporate world, society and political world. However, the question is how you deal with such realities and frame fair policies."             
Workforce planning & Gig economy: Cost optimization always is crucial. But it will be more. CEOs will exercise caution where fixed liabilities have a major portion of the costs. You have to come with a variable workforce planning model based on the business. Gig economy in white collar will emerge, however ethical and legal complexities will have to be handled.   

Choice between Human in technology or technology for human: While going for total digitization and automation, it will be the choice with companies how to manage the human depending upon the business. Some companies will go touchless, dehumanising the processes. One of the arguments will be quality and precision of the product. Companies need to embed de-humanizing models in the business model sensibly. This is a paradox, but organizations will have that choice in managing their human resources accordingly.          

Organization design: It will start with designing the organization for resilience along with efficiency & effectiveness. There is a need to design roles, structures and processes around results instead of tasks to increase responsiveness and flexibility. You also may have to shift to agile operating models and flexibly deploy your assets to solve problems. It also includes identifying nonvalue added roles and processes in the organization and eliminating those.

With these all accelerated actions we also need to investigate the roles of HR professionals. Typical in most of the organizations we have:

  • HR generalist, who is handling every aspect of people, but more transactional HR activities, 
  • HRBP, HR generalist but mainly strategic HR business partner, consultant, coach to managers and plays active role in the business,
  • COE, expertise and programme design of human resource areas in Talent Management, People Development, Analytics, C&B, talent Acquisition etc etc.
  • And finally, the HR Service team handles all transactional HR activities and support to HRBPs.   

If we want to be more effective, the following four roles should be embedded in the HR operating model.

Integrated Talent Development Leaders:  Integrated talent development leaders are an evolved form of the senior level HRBP or talent management manager who tackle the most pressing talent opportunities and challenges throughout the organization. They navigate across the organization and find out the right talent in collaboration with HRBP, talent acquisition team & people development function. They are the custodian & gatekeeper of the talent management process in the organization. This role requires strong networking & influencing skill, business acumen and courage to challenge biases of the senior leaders in the organization. They educate managers on talent management philosophy. Encourage employees to have their individual development plans and ensure that development programmes are delivered based on 70:20:10 learning philosophy.

Project Experts in HR: HR needs to establish the HR programme management team which should have an HR team trained in Project Management process & design thinking mindset. If you want effective HR processes, you need to constantly work on different projects in HR & this team will work on such projects. This team defines people issues, hypothesizes, tests and builds solutions. This team works agilely on more temporary project assignments and can be redeployed based on need. Create this dynamic team and this is the great opportunity to develop your HR team & their employability also.

Talent Health Process Experts: Process experts are HR professionals who are expert in transactional HR areas. Currently you will find experts in payroll, analytics, technical integrators working on HR software etc. These roles need to be strengthened. However, you also need an expert in Health & wellness who may be an expert in understanding human behaviour & human psychology and design the programme around this. They will monitor & track the overall Talent health of the organization. 

People Relations: We already have roles like Employer Relations or Industrial Relations Managers in most of the industries. Typically, HRBP plays this role from time to time. This is not a different role than this, but such roles need to be strengthened. Strong oral & written communication is important in this role. People relations roles need to be more strategic than typical IR/ER Managers. (DO you have the right capabilities?) They need to be proactive with strong human relations skills.      
Per say, these roles mean not necessarily full time but depending upon the organizational set up, these roles can be combined with some other roles.  

Few CXOs & CHROs are already taking few actions during the normal situation, however the journey is still far away. Earlier it was just the board room talks and very little action on the ground. Now it is the time for executing those actions. Of course, sometimes we need to stay in the course & sometimes we need to change the directions. During this pandemic situation, you have to do both.
(Opinions are purely personal & does not represent my organization)
Please read the print replica of my latest book written for leaders on amazon kindle; Vitality in Human Resource


OHR said...

Thought provoking article on realistic approach in this critical situation.

Ravindra Patil said...

Very nicely presented.
And it is truth of today.

Vaishali said...

Very elaborative. Gives an holistic approach to deal with the new normal.

Anantha Padmanabhan said...

You have articulated the Covid 19 challenge very well. The biggest challenge business leaders will have post Covid is change management. HR professionals have a very important role and responsibility in supporting CEO’s in this transition.

Anuraag Rai said...

Good read Vinod . It’s evident economy and economics will compel businesses to look at whole business model in new paradigm and such evaluations will include values, philosophies , engagement and relationships in different manner from here .
Real leaders will be ready to lead because it’s situational necessity , rest will be comfortable to follow .
It’s also certain that every area of value chain will have to consider new ways to “ survive and thrive “ , in addition to support functions , which are enabling in nature.
This also means core functions which has direct bearing on P&L will require comprehensive help ,to scale up and strengthen commercial levers - change management as highlighted Mr Padmanabhan will play crucial role .
And as it appears , Managment boards and ÇEO will play critical role to aide this journey then any single function or role.

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