Managing Talent and Culture in Challenging Times

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Managing Talent and Culture in Challenging Times

There are two wars being fought right now. We have essential service teams, health workers fighting against the COVID-19, and the chaos it has created across the world. On the other hand, we have the business leaders fighting to sustain their business. 

“The last few months have kept most CXOs and talent leaders thinking. Thinking of how to manage their business, stabilize it, and or sustain it. Like the business leaders, the talent leaders – CHROS are also trying to realign various talent practices to suit the changing nature of business and most importantly WORK.”

Today for most of us work from home is the new normal. Imagine IPL (Indian Premier League) thinking of telecasting their matches from empty stadiums, like a virtual match. I have been playing Ludo and Battle Ship with my parents and relatives sitting in other cities all in a virtual model. See the change in culture that a crisis has bought upon us. From a super physically connected world in an instant, we are thrown to work and live in a virtual world. Our organization’s culture fabric is changing and changing at the speed of light.”

I have compiled below some key talent and cultural challenges that CHROS and Learning Leaders are encountering and some solutions that you could use to overcome the same.  

“Work from home – great”. But how do I manage time?? – Time Management

This is a big shift for most employees, on one hand, you have the lockdown and its restrictions, you have to manage ‘work’ at home and then you have to ‘work’ from home. Employees are struggling with managing time efficiently; this can cause stress and anxiety and also impact productivity.  I have been observing that we actually have a packed day with multiple calls, at the same time we need to ensure that we help our better half with homework and then calls again.  This needs to be managed efficiently else can create more nuisance than the benefits we have heard of.  

Managers can have conversations with employees to help mentor them on Time Management. HR can circulate virtual training programs on Time Management: Working to support them and other similar programs. I would also additionally suggest having a planned home-work schedule. Let’s say you have kids at home you need to tutor, you need to cook or clean utensils/house. Planning and Distribution is the key here. 

Create a fixed schedule for your homework and this will help you plan your office work accordingly and will also help distribute the home workload. Ensure you keep some time in-between to stretch and reflex your muscles.  Do quick workout breaks in the evening if need be. Take a power nap if that helps. Try to avoid calls after a particular time in the day so that you can apportion time to your family. In the end, it’s important that you need to be in a productive mode.

“When will things be normal?”- Managing Uncertainty

I think uncertainty is the next certainty. After this event I think every soul on this Earth would have realized that there is nothing certain.  This changes the game and introduces the concept of “Resiliency” in the organization Leadership and Culture. There is fear and lack of clarity floating around in the organization of what will happen next. Business leaders are figuring out the next best move and Talent Leaders are looking at how to ensure that organization fabric does not tear. 

At times like this HR leaders need to ramp up organization leadership communication to educate employees on organization measures to navigate these tough times.  HR leaders also need to now become “crisis – ready”, in an agile manner. Organizations need to assess, understand and address the unique risks they are bound to face, both at business and workforce front. Business needs to prepare their employees on “being-ready” for the new norm is “things can go wrong anytime”. As leaders, we need to make sure all our programs going forward focus on “resilience” as a core value and culture element.  Organizations need to be pragmatic in their solutions and yet be agile to re-evaluate and change their business strategies

“Will I be laid off?”- Compassionate Leadership

The question lingering in the minds of many today is “Will I be laid off?”  “How do I save myself?”.  “Does the organization care about me?”. Let’s face the reality there will be restructuring, there will be a new strategy and layoffs and many tough financial, business, and people decisions that will need to be taken. This will have an impact on the talent and culture. How well HR prepare for this will determine the success of the firm to overcome the troubled time. 

Such times call for compassionate leadership. While focusing on personal safety such leaders will need to concentrate on revenue and business continuity. Key skills to develop for compassionate leadership are Empathy, Humility and Resilience according to the latest KPMG report of Leading workforce practices during the crisis.  The report further stress that leaders must provide a common purpose

and a path to allow employees to seamlessly navigate through these uncertain times.

Leaders need to be more receptive and allow the employees to share their concerns, leaders need to understand the concerns and take actions that can address those concerns (leading by example) and most importantly leaders need to be approachable.  HR Leaders need to train their organization leadership to imbibe these qualities more and more in the times to come. 

“Corona, daily news, work, home work, lockdown are making me anxious”- Wellbeing

An organization is only as healthy as its employees. Fear and anxiety have been gripping everyone’s mind from the time COVID -19 started.  Increased lockdowns, restricted movements and sudden change in the culture of work from home has caused many employees to go into depression. Imagine, for people staying alone or otherwise the above environment is nothing less than a prison. I have come across some people who have gone into depression and panic attacks are common with many.  Some are not sleeping well, due to changes in schedules and work-life habits. How do we ensure that we change the WFH to WHFH – Working healthy/happily from home?

HR Leaders need to plan for well-being initiatives on a war footing. If you are reading this and have not actioned anything on this you are very late, well here are some solutions you can try. Keep a wellbeing seminar, a motivational lecture, or someone from within your organization to share a positive message to your employees on a weekly basis. 

Organize for online meditations and/or other activities that can help relax minds.  Most importantly, wellbeing comes from good healthy habits, so ensure that while you are in lockdown or otherwise you plan for your  ME TIME. This 30-60 mins in a day you do what you like to do Reading, Music, Gardening,  Dancing, Jogging, Workout, Painting anything that you LOVE. 

This will de-stress you and will also help you improve your hobby. List healthy goals and work towards it, do workouts virtually with likeminded people if need be, I know of a group that does group mediation on zoom on a regular basis. Reach out there are plenty of such avenues.

These are tough times and challenges are not limited. How we work collaboratively and innovatively to navigate this crisis will determine the cultural fabric of our organization we intend to build. I think it’s a REBOOT time for all of us including nature and we need to Reflect, Adapt and Change Course. There is fear on one hand and there are learning and opportunity on the other, what you grip is a choice YOU have to make.  Stay Safe, Stay Happy, and Stay Healthy. 

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