The impact of the pandemic on HR and the New Normal of work

February 25, 2022
L'impatto della pandemia sulla funzione HR e la nuova normalità
The pandemic has brought about many changes and ‘new norms’ in the workplace, seeing employees and managers adapt in extraordinary ways. Arguably the most significant adjustment has been the normalization of working from home.

We have previously covered the challenges of the transition to a hybrid work model, but what are the broader impacts on the role of HR? More specifically, what challenges might HR face as they navigate this new world of work?

Let’s start by considering the role of HR and how it is evolving. Fast Company describes HR in legacy environments as rather transactional; ‘hiring and firing’ and enforcing company policies. However, in progressive organizations, it has become more proactive. To this extent, the Society of Human Resource Management now defines HR’s core function as helping the organization achieve its goals.

The key challenges then center around the specific functions of HR – be it staffing, performance management, training and development, safety and health management, or employee relations. Not only are these functions now performed differently by default, but the pandemic has given rise to new challenges.

Attracting and retaining the right people remains a challenge – especially when there is uncertainty in your industry. While you might not be able to control this pandemic-induced uncertainty, being able to promote a favorable company culture certainly bodes well when attracting the best talent. This of course requires keeping on top of your company’s culture, and ensuring employees’ needs are genuinely being met.

While challenges associated with conducting the recruitment process remotely are subjective and possibly negligible, the organizational cost of staff turnover cannot be denied. And when things don’t work out, it is back to square one for HR. Not to mention the increased risk of burnout for other colleagues left to pick up the pieces until a replacement is found.

The Journal of Management and Organization highlights the importance of increasing employee engagement and a sense of belonging to reduce turnover.

Tips for attracting and retaining talent in the new world of work::
  • Nurture your company culture. You can use a Climate Survey to measure how things are going in real-time and make improvements along the way.
  • Increase employee engagement and a sense of belonging.

A silver lining of the pandemic has been a forced thrust into trusting employees to work from home, being the only option to keep things moving. And what a revelation to discover that employees don’t need to be physically seen to perform.

Trust is the highest form of human motivation. It brings out the very best in people.”.
Stephen R. Covey

When it comes to traditional appraisals, the once or twice a year ‘checkbox’ approach has long been deemed obsolete. And the pandemic has only exacerbated the need for real-time feedback and action.

While we may be comfortable conducting the feedback process online, how do we ensure optimum performance of remote working employees on an ongoing basis? Moreover, how do we nurture them to remain more engaged and happy?

Tips for improving employee performance from remote
  • Ensure a continuous flow of meaningful tasks to create a sense of purpose and engagement.
  • SMatch tasks to skill level. Overskilled employees completing mundane tasks can become easily disengaged, not to mention that their skills are not being capitalized on appropriately. Conversely, employees who are out of their depth may feel disheartened or anxious.

We are treading new waters when it comes to health and safety in light of this pandemic. HR policies had to quickly incorporate safety measures that reduce the risk of spread and offer employees peace of mind.

Tips for managing health and safety during the pandemic
  • Empower managers to appropriately manage the health and safety of employees and work through any concerns
  • Gather real-time feedback on the work-life balance of employees to preserve mental health and prevent burnout.

The Journal of Management and Organization notes that the pandemic has forced organizations to reform their HR strategies and harness new technologies to survive, and thrive.

For example, traditional models looked at physical presenteeism as a measure of employee performance; a one-dimensional and limited measure that went out the window when the pandemic hit. And with flexible working arrangements continuing to be offered in hybrid models, companies are looking for more innovative methods.

Technology, therefore, presents a new opportunity to gain a deeper insight into performance and morale.

Moreover, having a vested interest in employee engagement (and taking action) elevates HR to a core strategic arm of the business, well beyond the pandemic. Employees are your business. Supporting their professional growth and helping them to achieve their goals will ensure the success of your company.
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