COVID-19 has been a harbinger of sweeping changes in all facets of life and business and requires us to navigate through a lot of chaos. But nine months into the pandemic, it is time to shift gears from reactively awaiting change to proactively building an exit strategy out of it. How can businesses and HR executives redesign their toolkit for the future? What should be their focus areas?
In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Charles Ferguson, General Manager, Asia Pacific, Globalization Partners, who also spoke at TechHR 2020, shares his thoughts on the role can HR play in helping organizations move beyond the chaos to redesign strategy.
Nine months into the pandemic, what do you think businesses should now be focusing on?
The other side of the pandemic and preparing for the next disruption! Honestly, so much time and focus has been spent on addressing the now of this pandemic and analyzing the lockdown/recalibrating/reopening of business, which is fair enough, but while we deal with the current situation, we have to take a longer view, and, as one of my previous managers said to me, “control the controllables”. This means preparing and reimagining the new way of doing business and getting ready to recover revenue, like an owner. Not a gradual recovery, but harnessing the relative chaos as an opportunity and get focused on speed; it is important to think like a startup at scale, and act with urgency.
Remember how nine months ago your relatively conservative business suddenly got digital and remote work-ready and enabled the entire workforce to work from home in a few days? Tap into the unprecedented opportunity to hire the best talent in the global talent pool that can now very quickly and easily be made part of your team. Explore and leverage new ways to extend your reach, through new models and new partnerships.
What does an exit strategy from the reactive mode to proactive mode look like to you?
As a sales leader, clearly this looks like the best time to identify and prioritize existing and new revenue opportunities. It is also a time to use design thinking methodologies to make the sky the limit and get creative. Again, speed is the new normal, so get focused. The faster you get started, the further ahead of the recovery competitive wave you can track new campaigns or projects and alternative business models.
Develop and deploy this agility into your operating model and drive a cadence into the business that moves faster than usual; weekly sales reviews rather than monthly, so on, and so forth.
Equally important on this is to bring HR in lockstep on this process; aligning the People Agenda with the Revenue one will pay dividends. Companies that have embraced the digital transformation, revenue optimization, and talent strategy opportunities are adapting to the new order faster and better than their peers. Business leaders need to design and deploy a comprehensive exit strategy, and importantly, communicate it transparently across the organization! We should continue to use technology to enhance the capabilities of our employees, not replace people.
What role can HR play in helping organizations move beyond the chaos to redesign strategy?
The coronavirus pandemic has caused some of the most extreme disruptions in lives and in business in decades if not in over a century, and it has thrust HR directly into the spotlight. HR is key to supporting companies and catalyzing changes in the workplace. Organizations must reconsider, reimagine and reinvent how they manage talent, deliver services and bolster their organizations through a future-proof HR strategy—how they deliver the most compelling work experience in order to attract and retain talent, anywhere and at any time. The issues are complex—including rewards, pay and benefits, employee wellbeing and support, leadership development, and strategic partnerships across the organization.
What should the redesigned toolkit for the organization of the future encompass?
- A hybrid approach to staffing, more choice in employment options, and the “new norm” of remote working will drive diversity, boost caliber, and develop a more balanced global workforce.
- Revisit rewards and recognition programs.
- Refine WFH policies.
- Design and execute a comprehensive program for upskilling and reskilling.
- Design and execute a comprehensive program for health, safety, and wellness.
- Align with IT on policies and with them to focus on digitizing and automating people processes.
- Empower the HR function to get mentors/coaches/partners.
- Design and execute a program of training leadership on EQ and remote team management.
- Create a competency framework for skills beyond the “job”: psychological safety, agility, collaboration, resilience.
Although most businesses are still very much in the crisis management phase of the pandemic, some businesses are already exploring how they can set themselves up on the best path for growth as they come through to the other side. While ensuring the health and safety of their employees is paramount, and putting in place plans, policies, and strategy for business continuity and scale, they are reviewing whether or not, do strategies remain fit for purpose. This means considering which course corrections they need to make given the expanded role of the state, evolving customer and employee behavior, technological advances and unprecedented adoption, the need for organizational agility, and supply chain resilience, shifts, and evolution.
The world and markets are still chaotic at the moment. What’s more, this chaos has sparked a major social, economic, and technological transformation that is playing out in front of everyone globally, in real-time.