Human capital development

COVID-19 and the future of work: 6 takeaways for HR leaders

Out of necessity, businesses worldwide are transforming how they operate in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, creating what many are calling a “Big Reset”. Even after the outbreak slows and life returns to a semblance of normality, many business practices are likely to be forever changed.

To ensure they are properly prepared for the post-COVID future, HR leaders should keep the following points in mind:  

 

Remote work is here to stay

Businesses around the world are currently carrying out the biggest remote work experiment in history. The results are not yet in, but many companies are likely to see some substantial benefits. A widely-cited pre-pandemic study suggests that people are actually more productive when they work from home. Moreover, after the pandemic passes, many workers will want to continue working remotely – at least some of the time. HR leaders should be ready to accommodate this reasonable desire in cases where it is workable.

 

Employee health and wellbeing is of paramount importance  

The COVID-19 pandemic is a vivid reminder that organisations can only achieve sustainable prosperity if their workers are healthy. HR leaders should advocate on behalf of workers, and lobby the company to invest in their physical and mental well-being. Such an investment will improve the quality of life and job satisfaction of employees, while also driving the growth of the company.

 

Digital transformation is necessary

Most major businesses already have a multi-year digital transformation plan. Yet the current crisis highlights the need to accelerate this process. Harnessing the full power of digital technologies will allow companies to more quickly identify growth potential in times of prosperity, and be much more resilient in times of crisis. Digital transformation must be a company-wide undertaking, with HR playing an integral role.

 

Distributing authority makes sense

Within a multinational organisation, facilities in separate countries often face very different challenges. The current pandemic serves as a case in point: Governments around the world are imposing varying levels of restrictions, forcing geographically distant business branches to find their own ways of adapting to realities on the ground. A global organisation should be cohesive in its overall strategy and vision, but it no longer makes sense for every action to be dictated by a centralised power.

Organisations that spread out authority more broadly are far more agile than their rigidly hierarchical counterparts. Even for smaller companies that have only a national reach, distributing authority across departments allows leaders to focus on the big picture – without getting involved in every problem that arises.

 

Contingency planning is vital 

As the saying goes, “Hope for the best, and plan for the worst.” While nobody could have predicted the level of disruption that we are now seeing in the wake of COVID-19, businesses with stronger contingency plans are in a much better position to weather the storm. When the current pandemic passes, organisations should immediately start planning out how they would deal with potential future disasters, and HR leaders must play a central part in those conversations.

 

Strong leadership is needed more than ever before

These are unprecedented and extremely challenging times for HR leaders. Contracts will have to be renegotiated, employees will be laid off, and many other difficult decisions are on the horizon. Honest communication and steadfast leadership from HR heads can help boost the morale of remaining staff and ensure the survival of the company.

Even after the pandemic passes, the road ahead will have many obstacles. Strategic hiring and proper planning will be crucial if the business is to take full advantage of the eventual recovery. If organisations and HR leaders keep the above lessons in mind, they should be better prepared for future crises and – when this current Black Swan period passes – ready to return their organisations to prosperity.

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