Nobody had expected the world to change in every aspect- and this fast! COVID has been instrumental in making a huge shift within days/weeks. While humans have been proud of their significant progress in medicine, science, and technology, COVID-19 made us realize in no time, that we still have a lot of ground to cover before we consider ourselves invincible. It just took an approximately 120 nm virus to make us realize this overnight.
Today, every employee’s priority is his/her own family’s health, safety, and future. Many concerns hover in their minds regarding their abilities to overcome these threats physically, mentally, and financially.
We have prided ourselves in the bold steps we've taken to reach the top of Maslow's pyramid as a species but has the transition between 2019 and 2020 made us realize that at any point we could swiftly go down to the very bottom of the pyramid to address basic physiological and safety needs.
Organizations are put to test on their ability to sail through these difficult times smoothly. How should organizations and leaders prepare to address their employees' future needs? Will the strategies that were used to attract talent still be effective? What engagement strategy would work best in a location-agnostic office? Will the loyalty factors of employees get altered with the deep impact COVID has created in their minds? Will our performance appraisal system be forced to change across the industry? Clearly, there is going to be a need for the Human Resource function and business leaders to come together and create a post-COVID HR Strategy re-pivot playbook.
Charting a New Path
The post-COVID HR strategy will necessitate deep introspection into what is important to individuals and organizations and chart out a new path, to be successful in the new normal.
- Individuals: Due to the safety nets we had built over generations, the future had become predictable for humans. Forgetting to live in the present, humans had started living in the future. The concept of quarantine had suddenly forced us to live in the uncertain "now" and take each day as it comes, forcing us to form a new outlook and gain a deeper understanding of the world around us - maybe even forever. With this dramatic change in outlook, the question that comes to mind is what employees will look for from an organization in a post COVID world? With remote working settling in, factors like proximity to the office will no longer be the criteria for choosing a workplace.
- Leaders: Leaders too will be forced to revisit their leadership style in the current context and hone their leadership skills to match the new demand. Leaders are learning to cope with the new normal of staying connected with their teams virtually, keeping them engaged and motivated, resolving conflicts, communicating effectively and proactively addressing any mental or emotional stress of their teams. The pandemic has proved without doubt that leaders are capable of embracing change quickly and deliver outcomes, if they set their mind to it. Testimony is the ability to embrace technology deep and wide across multiple industries -from IT, education, government to smallest "Kirana" shops that use apps to deliver items overnight.
- Organization: For organizations isn’t this the best time to embrace all reforms that were discussed (but never seen a huge needle movement)? With jobs in some industries becoming location-agnostic, should talent search be restricted to old norms? Can we open up all the sidelined talent pool and bring them to the mainstream hiring pool- helping the differently-abled people work with their own digital devices, women who had taken career breaks due to various constraints, retired professionals who have the mind share and skill to work, skilled workers from remote villages who need not move to the city & crowd/pollute. It is time for us to widen the talent pool without physical boundaries.
Like how COVID fast-tracked many companies to adopt technology overnight, will it also force employee’s loyalty factors to change in lightning speed - loyalty to “profession” versus loyalty to “companies”? “Career growth” based retention to “future skills development” or “flexible working models” based retention? “Holistic comp & benefits package” to “outcome-based compensation”? “Long term incentives” to “short term compensation”?
To be successful in this post COVID professional world, it is time to go back to the drawing board and redraw the strategy basis the emerging employee needs.