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Challenges HR departments have to face in the second year of the pandemic

A vicious onslaught by second wave indicates that we are not yet out of the woods and HR has to spring in action once again

Published: May 5, 2021 02:36:14 PM IST
Updated: May 5, 2021 03:13:14 PM IST

Image: Shutterstock

The ongoing Covid pandemic has disrupted businesses globally. At the micro level, organizational processes have undergone major reshuffle in order to accommodate the ever-changing dynamics. HR department seems to have borne maximum brunt owing to recasting of employee experience. As we enter second year of this pandemic, companies are in a race against themselves to bring back normalcy of operations. It is essential for organizations to transform learnings from last year’s pandemic-response into lasting solutions for coming years. A vicious onslaught by second wave indicates that we are not yet out of the woods and HR has to spring in action once again. Let us discuss possible solutions to challenges ahead of us –

Employee Well-Being: With the Covid pandemic impacting workforce closer home, organizations must take up initiatives to enhance employee health and well-being. The blurring of lines between home & office spaces has put employees under stress while the uncertain nature of today’s businesses has aggravated anxiety among many. This mental and psychological impact of the pandemic on one’s workforce has escaped scrutiny but can wait no further. HR can introduce flexible working hours, life-coaching sessions, set-up an online grievance cell etc. to make their workforce feel motivated and hearty.

Trust: Vaccinations are now open to all age groups above 18. Recently, Reliance Industries announced its own vaccination programme for all eligible employees and their family members. Initiatives like these go a long way in cementing loyalty with one’s employer. Organizations, big or small must make it a mission to vaccinate their workforce on a war footing. Creating a trust culture among team members goes a long way to calm nerves. It could well be something as simple as taking over additional responsibilities of a colleague who is recovering from the virus.

Employee engagement: Prior to the pandemic, HR had a relatively easier task of ensuring physical well-being of its workforce. Organization achieved this through spacious & clean offices, work related infrastructure, healthy & subsidized food options, periodic team gatherings etc. However, in last one year HR has had to dwell into keeping remotely connected employees engaged. The aim should be to use technology in such an interactive way to clone eMeetings as closely with those in boardrooms or better with those water-cooler conversations.

Flexibility: An organization where HR departments are empowered to take quick decisions are far better prepared to respond to uncertainties. With over a year’s experience into this firefight, those with their ears to ground will anticipate – where the next crisis would build up. Preparing oneself in advance can ensure HR avoids knee jerk reactions that often lead to undesired results. Prioritizing issues at hand coupled with quick and effective execution is the key. Extracting collective experiences of important stakeholders remains an under-valued task. Effecting people involvement at all levels to one’s benefit is the sign of a confident HR.

Communication remains an important tool in an HR’s toolbox. In today’s times, an average person has more mediums to get information. The Human Resources department to not only disburse necessary information but also to quell any rumors or to allay misplaced fears can release periodic information bulletins. Furthermore, the uncertainty related with Covid pandemic forces HR to bring in changes overnight as well as set-up periodic rules and regulations. Governments also share periodic communication based on the status of the pandemic. Effective dispersion of this information is vital for employees to feel part of the organization. At team level, daily stand-up meetings can prove vital for keeping up the spirits of the members. Such meetings are a great way to receive honest feedback. Finally, Senior Management should share their short-term strategy through monthly addresses to keep their employee-base motivated.

Nilesh Gaikwad - Country Manager at EDHEC Business School, France