Article: Rewind 2020: The year of change, learnings, and HR

C-Suite

Rewind 2020: The year of change, learnings, and HR

What was the year 2020 all about – crisis, business continuity, flattening the curve, employee safety? Besides everything, 2020 was the year of great change, immense learning, and an opportunity to hit refresh!
Rewind 2020: The year of change, learnings, and HR

This year zoomed by fast, isn't it?

I remember the first meeting we had in our editorial room the moment the situation started getting clear and we realized that nothing is going to be the same again. The fact was that whatever we had planned for the next ten months for our readers and our community, was about to change. While the earth takes 365 days to change its course, the world this year, changed in a flick. The world was nothing like we experienced earlier. And statements like “next five years plan, trends for the future, or the next 12 months’ editorial calendar” all at once stopped making sense. Nobody predicted it, (except Bill Gates, who in 2015, during a TED talk warned of the need to prepare for a pandemic.), nobody had the slightest understanding of how to react, and nobody has any clarity on how the future will unfold. 

However, 2020 was also the year that prompted talent leaders to see beyond the horizon, look around corners, and spot things that can make people more engaged, business more successful, and work more productive.

The year was tagged as the year of crisis – a crisis in health, a crisis in the economy, a crisis in jobs, a crisis in business continuity. But as a community, we toed the line, we dug deeper, and we achieved.

This month’s theme #Rewind2020 is all about looking at what went by and what are the key learnings that we can apply next year to ‘flatten the curve’. As we look back at 2020, we learned a number of things and we saw three winners emerging in the situation posed by the impact of the novel Coronavirus:

The year of HR

Undoubtedly, 2020 was ‘The Year’ for HR, and the role of HR became more indispensable than ever. In 2020, companies worked proactively to create a sense of stability and safety for people, and the role of HR is expanding more and more to fill this need. The role of HR has gone beyond the necessary functions to keep the engine running–keeping people physically protected; manage staff exhaustion and the stress that comes from the pressure to perform during a crisis; keeping the staff connected and supporting them in isolation; devising and mapping new roles and job responsibilities as the business models change, and futureproof workforce as layoffs and job elimination become a norm as we enter the next normal. 

During this time of major upheaval and uncertainty, the CHRO emerged as a loud voice in the COVID-19 war room. These HR heads were the ones having daily, if not hourly, conversations with the CEO and other senior leaders on how best to navigate a situation that no one possibly could have fathomed. They’re the ones helping to keep anxiety-ridden employees informed about what’s happening with the company and up to date on the resources — financial and medical, that can help them stay calm and productive.

For years, human resources professionals have wanted a seat at the proverbial table. And now they have that seat in a major way. And if you’re good, you’re going to stand out. But if you’re not good, you’re going to stand out even more. We’re going to see this crisis as a make-or-break time for a lot of CHROs.

The year of wellness

COVID-19 has not only shifted the economy, but the way companies take care of their employees. Wellness took on a whole new meaning this year, with employers racing to support workers facing a pandemic and all of the disruptions it created.

With lockdown and compulsory work from home as a precautionary measure, a lot of issues like burnout, stress, anxiety became common among employees. Staff juggled between business commitments with increased childcare and home-schooling responsibilities – and worries about older, immunocompromised, or absent friends and family members.

This year, a lot of companies and employees got vocal about work-life balance and defining boundaries too. According to a study by Microsoft, it was found that people are in significantly more meetings, taking more ad hoc calls, and managing more incoming chats than they did before the pandemic. After-hours chats, or chats between 5 PM and midnight, have also increased. There is a whole group of people who never touched a keyboard after 5 PM before the pandemic—now, they do.

According to a pulse survey by People Matter Research, we see a significant investment in employee wellness when we compare the pre-COVID era with the current times. The investment in wellness technologies has doubled, from 16 percent to 32 percent.

The year of ‘antifragility’

Words (and sentiments) like 'recover', 'bounce back' and 'resilient' were seen peppered across conversations and communication while speculating about the post-COVID-19 world. But are these words the only way to describe 2020? 

The year 2020 was about learning how one must react to these times and how we should be ready for anything unforeseen. The year 2020 was an opportunity to stop looking at surviving, but thriving. 

During the People Matters TechHR Singapore virtual conference, one of our keynote speakers, noted risk specialist Nassim Nicholas Taleb, aptly shared what the world needed right now– Antifragility. 

Now, one can further confuse antifragile with being resilient, being adaptable, or being robust. However, being antifragile is beyond all those concepts. According to Taleb, the resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.

Certainly, in 2020 some companies have benefited from this moment. Zoom is the first to come to mind. The pandemic has been devastating to Disney’s travel and theme park businesses, but its growing streaming business is a counter-balance. Similarly, Amazon’s increasingly large physical retail business is vulnerable to the pandemic, but counter-balanced and reinforced by its e-commerce strength. Even limited diversification can help. Today, Uber is benefiting from its investment in Uber Eats, a smart, synergistic diversification of its transportation capability. On the other hand, Lyft is suffering from the fragility of being a mono-product business. Their stock has declined 27 percent since mid-February, significantly more than Uber’s 17 percent drop over the same period.

As we bid adieu to the year 2020, People Matters Editorial brings to you #Rewind2020: The year that changed the world. This editorial campaign is all about hitting the rewind button, picking up the big lessons and learnings from the year, and getting ready to conquer the next uncertainty. 

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Topics: C-Suite, Leadership, #Rewind2020

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