How HR can enable organisational success beyond Covid-19

22 July 2020 - Reading time: 3 Minutes

Health

Last week I joined Kevin Green, ex HR Director of Royal Mail and Chair Advisory Board at Circal, to discuss how organisations have responded to the Covid-19 pandemic and HR’s role within that response. Don’t worry if you missed the webinar, you can watch the full version here.

I wanted to keep the conversation going around HR’s role in organisational success. Although many organisations have moved beyond the first two stages of management, 1) response and 2) adapt, experts suggest that the world is still very much in the early stages of the pandemic. This means that there may still be fresh challenges for business leaders to face over the next six to 12 months. While right now many of us simply want things to return to normal, the reality is that some things have changed for better or for worse, at least we hope they have changed for the better. Many organisations will leave out-dated working practices, such as rigid core hours with a lack of flexibility, in the past.

I have always been a firm believer that HR must be an agent of change; even before Covid HR had a strategic role to play. Being able to adapt to changing environments is the best way to survive as a company. Post-Covid, the organisations who will thrive and come out stronger are the organisations who not only listen to HR, but who take the time to understand their employees. What did they struggle with? Are they still struggling with the same issues now? How can we improve work for them? As an HR leader our job is to truly listen and empathise with our people, that’s the difference between a good and a great workplace.

Shaping the workforce for future success

For many of us, work has switched from a fixed physical location, to a web-based function which can be carried out from home. As a culture that finds it difficult to disconnect when we’re away from the office, and not even during a global pandemic, sharing the office with our precious home space will only make it 10 times harder to switch off. Whether we like it or not, the start of the flexi-work revolution has begun, and we must be prepared to sink or swim.

While some business leaders will be quick to remark that if productivity and output has stayed the same then employees must be satisfied, I don’t believe we should turn our back on the office just yet. All good HR professionals know that ‘water cooler’ moments, such as having a coffee with a colleague, or going for lunch with your team members, play a key role in positive wellbeing and employee attitudes towards work. Although the idea of slashing accommodation budgets may appeal to our financially savvy colleagues, it’s HR’s job to stand our ground and put employee wellbeing and development first. After all, losing good talent and recruiting new staff is a huge financial cost so it pays to take care of the employees you have now. However, we can’t deny that home working does have some benefits for employees too, such as increased work life balance, and I believe that settling on a middle ground of part remote-work, part office-work will suit most organisations.

Fellow HR leaders, I understand the immense pressure and stress of the last few months. We all have had to adapt our people management approaches to remote work, cuts in training and development activities, remote onboarding of new employees and often a ban on recruitment, to name a few. The next few months probably won’t be any easier, but I know that HR leaders will turn the challenges into new opportunities and create a robust, resilient workplace that is even more successful than before.

Catch Cathy and Kevin’s webinar here.

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