COVID-19 had presented the HR industry with a lot of challenges initially. However, six months down the line, leaders are in a position to look back with satisfaction at how these woes were addressed and tackled. Human-resource experts are of the view that the pandemic has brought to the fore the need to upgrade the conventional performance-management systems used by companies. Unisys India introduced some new changes to the existing model owing to COVID-19. Avneet Hora, senior director and head – HR, Unisys India, informs, “Typically, in our industry, the performance cycle is annual. At the end of the year, you get appraised. Therefore, it is either a mid-year or annual evaluation. This April, we switched this to a quarterly cycle.”
That is not all. Goals underwent some modifications too, with a touch of realism, to suit the current scenario. “We also assessed our goals. Clients’ expectations do not reduce nor do the Company’s expectations from the employees, in terms of qualitative and quantitative perspectives. However, in this current scenario, the leaders need to get real and do those dipstick checks.” Citing an example of how goals were redefined for a team that supports the travel and transport industry, Hora reveals that adjustments were made such that the associates were not penalised and clients’ expectations were also met.
“Measuring an HR person’s productivity may require different metrics. How often they are communicating with their leaders; how quickly they are solving an escalated matter or answering queries, and so on, can form the bases for assessing them. Right tools, metrics and technology are important. A combination of these three can truly help measure the productivity or performance of any team member.”
Human resource leaders of different industries do bring up the tricky part of assessing the performance of employees during these times, when a major part of the workforce is working remotely. There needs to be some support system in place to evaluate them, in as just a manner as possible, but with compassion and empathy. Technology, thus, will come in very handy here. A Gartner analysis shows that 16 per cent of employers are using technologies to keep track of their employees through virtual clocking in and out, tracking work computer usage, and monitoring employee e-mails or internal communications/chat.
Hora believes that technology, right tools and proper performance metrics can do the job for the information technology (IT) industry. “For a large part of our organisation, there is a metrics to track performance. Technology is a big player here. It is a bit easier for us because we have the right tools with us. About 70 to 80 per cent of our goals are data oriented in the metrics.”
However, this also leads to the question, ‘What happens to the departments that don’t have such robust mechanisms in place?’ “Measuring an HR person’s productivity may require different metrics. How often they are communicating with their leaders; how quickly they are solving an escalated matter or answering queries, and so on, can form the bases for assessing them. Right tools, metrics and technology are important. A combination of these three can truly help measure the productivity or performance of any team member.”
In case of new joinees, Hora believes in having a baseline to figure out if they are performing, against the training that they have received. That judgement comes from experience.
The humane touch
Productivity will also depend on how the employees were looked after during these troubled times. That will create credibility and a will to be part of an organisation for long. This pandemic has seen employers go an extra mile to take care of the well-being of their employees — in terms of sick leaves, financial assistance and more.
Unisys has also introduced a lot of COVID-19 measures to help its employees, one of them being the insurance policies. “During May-June, cases went up and hospitals were not able to accommodate more patients. Those with less severe symptoms were simply being asked to stay at home. Therefore, we tried to find out through our existing insurances providers about home-care packages. Our associates were happy because it was the genuine need of the hour.” The IT Company also tried making it more beneficial for a large section of employees by thinking of reducing the age or premium.
Better post COVID-19 view
Now that many of the countries have gradually opened up businesses and are trying to adapt to the new ways of functioning, there will be a few changes in the HR industry as well. Hora believes this could be a blessing. “The best part is that, now we have a much larger talent pool to hire from, largely thanks to technology. The pool is limitless and extends to any part of the country. I think it is better now, as we can look at mothers — who had taken a break— returning to work, as they don’t have to relocate or spend time travelling. We can look at the differently abled with the right skills. Therefore, a big gamut of talent has opened up, which is a big blessing!” Hora summarises.