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Role of HR in the New Normal

21 Dec 2020

Lee Iacocca, the famous American automobile executive known for bringing the iconic Ford Mustang and reviving Chrysler, in his autobiography said, “If I had to sum up in one word the qualities that make a good manager, I’d say that it all comes down to decisiveness. You can use the fanciest computers in the world, and you can gather all the charts and numbers, but in the end, you have to bring all your information together, set up a timetable, and act.”

Lee’s observation about a good manager could not have been truer than the current times. COVID-19 has forced organisations, leaders, managers across the world to ramp up their efforts, accelerate the process for the ‘future of work’, and most importantly, act. 

CII’s white paper on ‘Reimagining the organization for the New Normal – Role of HR’ tries to answer two fundamental questions on significant changes in action and thought in the new normal, and imperatives emerging for the HR function and key takeaways. The white paper is a combination of survey responses and interviews with business leaders.

Human Resources have the tasks of adjusting to the new normal, make the employee feel safe, and help the organisation grow. The report shows that while 66 per cent of the respondents reported serious revenue issues during the pandemic, 87 per cent believed their organisation handled the crisis well.

In an unprecedented occurrence, work from home became the new normal in the post-COVID world. Although it was a necessary step to ensure the safety of the employees and organisations pushed for it, it also resulted in stress and lack of social connections among employees.

92 per cent of the employees in the CII survey believe employee engagement has remained the same or improved. 69 per cent of the organisations want to make work from home more enduring, long-term and sustainable. Social-Connect (57%), work-life balance (47%), and mental well-being (45%) have emerged as the top employee-engagement challenges.

Digitization is another aspect that has accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. CII’s research shows that 62 per cent of organizations that have made digitization a priority and said they had adopted new tools and technologies with a focus on facilitating business continuity in the form of remote working and connecting virtual teams. In such circumstances, employee engagement, learning, and development have emerged as priorities for HR. The whitepaper shows that 37 per cent of organisations are investing in tracking employee performance while working from home.

The crisis has also led to more leadership involvement in terms of collaborations across stakeholders. 60 per cent of the respondents in the CII report believe in increased trust and empowerment when it comes to leadership response to the crisis. 72 per cent of leaders are dividing their time equally between business and people or cultural issues to deal with the crisis. The respondents have identified four energy pillars for the leadership of the future viz. the growth energy, survival energy, human energy, and digital energy.

The COVID crisis has called for reimagining the organisation. 40 per cent of respondents in the survey believe organisations are engaging with HR in discussions around how the role of the office and work design will evolve. 49 per cent believe that change will be so substantial that it is better to re-imagine the organization and not deal with incremental changes.

As the crisis is primarily a human crisis, HR functions across organisations have helped in reestablishing the confidence and faith of employees and, at the same time, in accelerating the business value. 42 per cent of the respondents of the CII survey believed that HR functions are well organized, capable, and are working on relevant items, while 62 per cent of organisations expect the HR function to innovate employee services, communication, and engagement.

Employee engagement has emerged to be the top parameter to analyze the efficacy of the HR function. 92 per cent believe employee engagement either improved or remained the same during the pandemic and 76 per cent believe employee engagement should be used to measure HR Performance.

In a time when fear has taken over the conscience, it is the role of HR that can lift the spirits and help in reimagining the workspace. The role of HR in the new normal is to bring sustainability to lives and organisations through innovative tools that will define the future of work.