COVID-19 & WFH: Defining the role of tomorrow's CHRO
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, organizations across the world were faced with an unprecedented challenge that demanded a complete rethinking and recalibration of the workspace as we know it. The pivotal function played by Human Resources (HR) became more evident than ever before, with HR leaders stepping up and leading the rapid response to the pandemic in their organization and consistently keeping the workforce engaged, productive and resilient. With nearly a year of the post-pandemic and largely remote work life, the role played by HR has never been more vital and visible. As organizations brace themselves for the onset of yet another reality, HR leaders are focusing their attention towards recovery in earnest, laying concrete grounds for their organization to thrive. The COVID-19 situation has redefined the future of work, in a sense it won’t be business as usual.
Change, adaptation and adoption
Getting employees to adapt to and adopt a hybrid work situation - combination of work from home (WFH) and coming to office only for collaborative/ teamwork/training etc., is a shift in the way of working. The jury is still not out but some employees want to return to office whilst some are very comfortable working from home and another sizeable number want a combination of WFH and work from office. As social beings, many employees need forums and platforms for interaction and opportunities to socialize with colleagues. One of the biggest benefits of WFH is the time saved in commuting to office. We have made it a point to highlight how this has helped in our environment sustainability efforts and how the employees are contributing their mite. These ideas have resonated with many and this has contributed in helping employees adapt and adopt change. Realizing all these dynamics and appropriately responding has been an interesting issue to work on for companies and specifically the CHRO.
Taking charge and constructing holistic workforce strategies
Return to office is not about going back to pre COVID-19 ways of working. Many organizations took a hit on the top line and bottom line. With the return to office there is emphasis on “bouncing back” with productivity and efficiency. This could give the feeling that one is doing more with less and it could trigger stress. For HR leaders, improving employee experience in the new normal has become the foremost priority. Comprehensive and agile workforce strategies guided by the expertise of CHROs will play a critical role in keeping organizations functioning at optimal levels and will also consequently assist in keeping the morale high which in turn positively impacts the company results. The emergence of hybrid work experience is one such strategy which promotes flexibility while working remotely. To support employee well-being, it is important for HR teams to deploy programs that support mental and physical well-being.
Recognizing the invaluable role of communication and technology
The HR function is collaborating much more with IT and Communications teams to leverage technology in new ways. Communication plays an instrumental role when it comes to fostering a positive work environment while keeping employees connected, engaged and productive. In current times when face-to-face communication and human contact is not possible, companies can invest technology and infrastructure to help employees manage HR transactions virtually. Key processes like employee onboarding are being run seamlessly virtually and tech platforms are also being leveraged to foster a culture of reward and recognition. Communications , IT and HR have facilitated many sessions that promote “virtual camaraderie” and this has bode very well with the employees who look forward to these sessions. They are filled with fun, action and creativity.
This has also brought in the era of information overload, so it is important for companies to ensure that technology is easing quick access to critical data or systems without taking away valuable, productive hours.
Sustaining company performance—maximizing potential
An additional factor that might aid in maintaining company performance is accounting for the possibility of an economic recovery, and the pent-up demand therein. Coming up with novel ways of tapping the potential of this possibility can be fruitful. Investing in upskilling employees, for instance, could be a great tactic, as could training them along new business models and incorporating their suggestions on future-readiness.
Remaining human in a technology-driven world
While battling with COVID-19 and drastically altered work conditions, we were showed time and again that while technology can augment and supplement work, it does not replace what is derived from real, human interactions. As they stage the return to work, HR teams across industries have been granted with an opportunity to push the envelope in the ways they integrate technology with the human.
HR is driving these crucial conversations in the boardrooms and they have made the leadership appreciate the human factor as a critical factor for the success of the organization. Formulating strategies that remain abreast of evolving situations while keeping in mind the best interests of all stakeholders involved has made them take note of these as investments and not costs. During these extraordinary times, progressive HR leaders are dealing with these key themes with empathy and keeping the total wellbeing in mind and this has built trust and enabled employees to work with a purpose.