‘People are your greatest asset’. How many times have we heard that? The statement may be overused, but remains true. An organisation’s success is largely dependent on the quality and performance of its people, making HR an important function in any business.
Human resource professionals have many responsibilities, such as taking care of compensation, planning employee-engagement activities and so on. However, if we travel back into the past, there are various aspects, which were either not on the priority list or not needed.
Mental health issues
Sunil Jha, group CHRO, ACG Worldwide Group is taken aback by constant questions about how his employees are coping with mental health issues. He is surprised that organisations did not even consider this as an option to invest in back then.
“In retail, there is a higher number of front-end employees. Therefore, reassurance has now become of utmost importance, which was earlier missing. The pandemic has made HR leaders reinforce the message of togetherness to their employees.”
In the past, Jha continues, “HR didn’t think of many progessive policies that are being looked at today, let alone mental health. Today, work-from-home has pushed us to think beyond work. Also, there was a time when the remote working structure was ridiculed, especially in the manufacturing sector. You can see the difference today.”
“The pandemic has changed our lives completely. What was overlooked back then, has now become a priority. Companies and HR leaders are much more open about the mental health challenges, and are spending more time to address these issues,” agrees Vinod Parur, CHRO, Nilkamal.
Parur also states, “Several aspects were looked down upon earlier or not in the priority list. Organisations were more concerned with succession planning, leadership development, performance management, and so on.”
Jha feels, “Increasing medical coverage, health and wellness and digital space are the three areas which organisations and HR leaders have taken for granted. However, the pandemic has forced HR to turn the tables and focus on such areas for a better future of the organisation.”
In recent years, there has been limited progress made by HR leaders in communicating with their employees about the future of the organisation and the employees’ future in the organisation. Clearly, there is room for improvement in providing employees with information, which will in turn, provide greater confidence and contribute to organisational growth and stability.
Uncertainty is the biggest plague that concerns employees across sectors. Though in reality, these times are unprecedentedly tough, there has to be clear communication from the organisations to ease the effect.
Ganesh Subramanian, CHRO, More Retail, says, “In retail, there is a higher number of front-end employees. Therefore, reassurance has now become of utmost importance, which was earlier missing. The pandemic has made HR leaders reinforce the message of togetherness to their employees.”
Listening to employees
When employees say they want their voices heard, they are really saying they want leaders who will not just hear them, but also listen to them. Listening to employees, you may think, is a no-brainer. However, when you look deeper, you will probably be surprised to find that hardly any listening happened at the workplace.
“Listening to your employees and your team members will help you stand out as a good leader. Concerns will vary from one employee to another. Understanding their needs and keeping in touch with them personally is also quite critical. In zoom meetings and reviews, it is all about work. Currently, it is more important to dwell on what’s happening on the personal front,” Parur adds.
Amid this COVID-19 crisis, HR professionals have a unique opportunity to innovate their policies and the employee experience, too. With some extra effort, they can go beyond just temporary solutions and begin by listening to their employees.
Although success can bring happiness, to create great work, the employees’ well-being and happiness are the most important factors. For any business, it is always important to have those who work for you to be fit, healthy and happy.
After the pandemic hit, battling through remote working and uncertainty, organisations have come to realise that work can continue with the help of a work culture that promotes health through all aspects of their employees’ lives.
Subramanian believes, “Due to the pandemic, employee health and well-being have come to the fore. Although the importance was always there, it has got accentuated now.”
Interestingly, “Initially, it was only about employees’ well-being, but now it is also about their families. Anything happening to a family member has a direct impact on the employee,” shares Parur.
Feasibility of work-from-home
Who would have imagined that work will be done within the four walls of the house for half of the year straight?
The COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdowns have made work-from-home an imperative for several industries. Earlier, it was not even a considered option, as most leaders thought it to be an excuse to idly sit at home and pretend to work.
In Subramanian’s words, “Companies and HR leaders have become more conscious of the needs of the employees during this difficult time. Work interruption due to unavailability of house help or the presence of children at home is now an understandable factor. The sensitivity around such matters has increased.”
“The pandemic has changed our lives completely. What was overlooked back then, has now become a priority. Companies and HR leaders are much more open about the mental health challenges, and are spending more time to address these issues.”
The impact of the pandemic has brought some issues to the limelight. Infrastructure at home to enable work from home, was never thought of earlier. Today, companies are supporting employees with proper infrastructure at home, whether it is reimbursing the broadband connection or providing a chair and a monitor to work comfortably.
You need to have empathy towards employees working for you. While work from home has become the new normal, it is not easy for every employee. The home environment and scenario for many may not be suited to working from home comfortably. As an organisation, the kind of support you can give and the extent of flexibility you can offer have become the top priorities today.
“HR didn’t think of many progessive policies that are being looked at today, let alone mental health. Today, work-from-home has pushed us to think beyond work. Also, there was a time when the remote working structure was ridiculed, especially in the manufacturing sector. You can see the difference today.”
Keeping employees updated
It makes sense, of course, to train employees on the specifics of their field and position. However, many employees lack basic foundational tools that are relevant to any position in any industry. Earlier, not much attention was paid to these areas of specialisation that have now become extremely important.
Parur agrees that HR leaders have often overlooked basic skills. “Equipping our employees with skill sets, especially the way meetings are conducted and interaction with customers, is of utmost importance today. Now employees have to sell through their phones, which was not the scenario before.”