Adding More Value to HR in Uncertain Times

Adding More Value to HR in Uncertain Times
This is one area that I see most organizations and HR teams struggling with. The pandemic is making people think about how they play their roles.

Adding More Value to HR in Uncertain Times

Among the many, our function has its roots in Welfare too. Establishments were required by law to appoint a Welfare Officer. So, if I may build on this for a bit, the key expectations from this role were:

  • Ensuring proper facilities (water, food, restrooms, et al) are made available at the workplace.
  • Explaining working conditions to employees.
  • Assisting employees & families during difficult times.
  • Being alert to and responding promptly to difficulties/hardships of employees’ working conditions.

Essentially, the entire gamut of employee wellbeing – physical, social & emotional. Let me mention, that this role had to be performed almost with a selfless zeal and a healer’s touch.

Cut to today’s day and age, and the raging pandemic.

Self-Level Issues of the HR Professional

  • Learning on the go: while our universities taught us what they did, experience keeps us real. And the thing about experience is that you never have it until you have it! People look up to the HR professional as if we know it all. One must plough in learnings in real-time.
  • We are employees too: This is one time that we must also think like an employee. We otherwise have gotten so used to putting our personal employee-hood aside and thinking on behalf of employees, we forget we are employees too. If you learn to take care of yourself, it is not being selfish, but affording ourselves the well-being in order to keep caring for others.
  • Renegotiate: Be kind and treat yourself respectfully. Some goals can be delayed and renegotiated with your managers.
  • Replenish: Find someone who is willing to just listen to you. The suffering, pain, loss that the world and our citizens are experiencing, takes its toll on us. So yes, while we ‘languish’ in this state, it is not always possible to bounce back and be ‘available’ for our stakeholders, on our own steam. We need replenishment.

Professional Expectation to Deliver

  • Recalibrate processes: there could be many processes that organizations run, that need recalibration.
    • Interviewing which was an intense and preferred in-person activity, has now disappeared.  I am sure each one of us reading this piece, has tweaked, and adopted a style that is comforting for the candidate.
    • Remote onboarding: we have mastered the capability of not just interviewing remotely, but also onboarding new hires in remote cities. Yes, this came with challenges, (reaching out laptops and Day-1 tool kits) however, with help of enabling teams, our function has crossed this hurdle well.
    • Managing performance: from being collocated to working remotely, is a challenge formany managers. Some Leaders & HR teams have got it right! We need to make a convincing case for our teams to take ownership of their goals. My team and I have spent a lot of time (prior to March 2020 and reinforced intermittently since) working with biz leaders to ‘let go’ and show the bigger picture to our teams. And help them connect the dots between their actions, how they add up and how they eventually converge globally, to end up in the product that we bring to market. We did away with annual performance appraisals & ratings and transitioned to quarterly Continuous Development Dialogue (CDD), where we encourage managers to have at least one CDD every quarter with each team member. They can mutually decide to have as many though!
    • Moving from ‘touch to deep reach’: another aspect, hopefully, my HR fraternity has come to appreciate, is to listen with empathy, more deeply, and more regularly. Not to say it was not happening earlier, but the depth needed a change. We needed our sensing to be heightened, to listen with all our faculties and not just our ears. We have learnt to speak less in the process. The value of personal connect has reappeared.
  • Respecting & reaffirming our worth to ourselves: While working with global teams, I  observe that we like to please and seldom say “no, we can’t”, or “we need more time”. We think that this will be perceived as ‘unprofessional’. However, given the current scenario, when all employees are struggling to integrate priorities of home & work, it is time to gently renegotiate expectations. HR teams would do well (would have done well) to work with biz heads and encourage this dialogue with global stakeholders. What is needed is empathy, like never before.
  • Creating a culture of empowerment and autonomy: This is one area that I see most organizations and HR teams struggling with. The pandemic is making people think about how they play their roles. Decisions need to be taken, and sometimes, we do not have the luxury to call elaborate meetings, note minutes, circulate them, get a consensus and then publish. People are discovering strengths that they thought didn’t exist. It is time to lend added autonomy to talent and to emerging leaders.

These are extraordinary times and we are learning and ploughing back, in real-time


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