How HR Leaders Can Adapt to Uncertain Times

How HR Leaders Can Adapt to Uncertain Times
Here are a few suggestions for HR leaders to consider while they adapt to these turbulent, uncertain times.

How HR Leaders Can Adapt to Uncertain Times

In hindsight, surviving 2020 seems like ‘base camp training’ when compared to the ‘Mount Everest-like- challenges’ hurtling at us in 2021. While dealing with uncertainty is tough for any functional leader, this extended phase of the pandemic seems to be a true test of HR mettle. There appears to be an inbuilt expectation that HR experts by virtue of their training in coaching, facilitating change management, and dealing with ‘people problems’ -ought to have some magic wand to deal with it all!

During a program for senior leaders, the suggestions for thriving in a VUCA world seemed relatively simple “Combat Volatile with Vision, Uncertainty with Understanding, Complexity with Clarity of Communication and Ambiguity with Agility”. However, applying these tenets in today’s work environment characterised by a growing sense of gloom and uncertainty (often caused by circumstances outside the immediate bounds of the organisation) seems far easier said than done

Here are a few suggestions for HR leaders to consider while they adapt to these turbulent, uncertain times. While compiling them I refer to personal experience, numerous coaching conversations, I have had with senior leaders, some desperate friends, and former colleagues

Help Yourself by Helping Business Leaders Adapt to Uncertainty

For several leaders battling project deadlines, the loss of control that accompanies uncertainty is hard to accept. The unexpected loss of access to staff, facilities, tools, face-to-face meetings are all tough to accept. For many leaders, decision-making difficulties increase in the face of ambiguity where there is incomplete information. That leader who is making a mountain of a mole hill about a new process could actually need help to resolve internal conflict.  The attitude of supporting a leader work through the change could help both sides in the battle against the common enemy without leading to ‘internal combustion’

Reconnect with your organisations’ and your personal Mission & Purpose

When you began your journey as an HR professional perhaps you had wanted to be a change agent or use your understanding of human behaviour to become a beacon of hope?  Reconnecting with your core values could help you and your team provide meaning to all the extra hours of effort and make living out your life’s Ikigai more meaningful in the short term.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

The large format webinar and mass mailers with FAQ have their place, but nothing replaces the efficacy of small group meetings with varied stakeholders.  There is a perceptible sense of reassurance after every small group meeting where there is a safe space to ask trivial clarifications about policies or basic facilities to combat the health situation. Articulating the concern appears to be half the battle won.

Understanding Ground Realities

What employees are facing could translate to a ‘Bare Necessities” Approach’. That ‘Innovative Project’ can wait for a few months. As long as we have our team intact instead of several victims of burn out. Allowing some slack for team members who lost dear ones, who battle with the virus – who are living in tricky conditions with inadequate food or necessities will be a priority.

Learn to Live with Ambiguity

The looming crisis tends to magnify and intensify uncertainties. While it is tough to accept this reality, a ‘one day at a time’ approach makes the best use of the limited resources at hand. Make decisions based on whatever information is available and being agile in responding to the situation of that day helps us make a small but meaningful difference.

Accept the Current Phase and wait for Sunnier Days Ahead

Wisdom tells us that every situation holds positives and negatives, threats, and opportunities. As one embraces these contradictions, we become more resilient. Overcoming the initial paralysis can help us become more efficient. The work from home environment forced us to innovate.” When faced with difficult situations, we are more likely to create innovative solutions, if we can learn to live with uncertainty, find a stable footing in the middle of the chaos, and accept life’s paradoxes.

Use the Crisis to Grow as HR Professionals and Leaders

Embracing this uncertain phase will lead to developing emotional resilience which will definitely help in long-term career growth. Growth as a Professional is closely linked to growth as a person. 

Efforts at being a volunteer coach to create a safe space for present and former colleagues to arrive at solutions, indirectly helped me make peace for myself too.

Early 2021 our HR team listed ‘Physician Heal Thyself’ as a priority goal:  relentless demands of employees and leaders in distress had taken its toll on many of us. In the last few weeks, many of my Wellness and HR BP team members have been involved in emergency rescue missions (hunt for ICU bed, rare medicines and the agonising moment when you know a particular patient is not going to make it…) Despite the agony, the feeling of warriors on a common mission living up to the primary value of People is what is helping us maintain sanity.

The human spirit will eventually triumph. Until then HR leaders who adapt to the times can effectively fulfil their mission


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