HR Spotlight: Overcoming The 2020 Challenges
Here we are going in the 9th month of the global pandemic instilled by the Sars-Cov-19. Remote work has been made mandatory again, and a collective sigh can be felt around companies. It’s true—it’s easier to work from home. All you have to do is to go from your bedroom to your work table.
But… Working from home has its downsides—mental health strain, loneliness, burnout. About the better boundaries, you should set in these harsh times, I wrote here. Now, it does not matter from where employees are working, one thing is certain—somebody has to look after them. And not in a micromanaging sense, not at all. But to ensure that everyone is fine.
Are Human Resources specialists the beacon of normality?
Stressful times ask for similar efforts. HR professionals at the moment have to manage some extra tasks apart from what they are already doing. Among these tasks, we can mention navigating workforce reduction (if it’s the case), ensuring everyone is safe from germs—and chronic stress, drafting communication procedures to keep everyone up-to-date and finding new ways to engage in the times of digitalization.
Now, maybe these are the biggest challenges of an HR professional nowadays—maintaining normality. But...
- How can you keep the employees involved when everyone is nothing more but a square on your screen?
- How can you take the pulse of the company when the main mean of communication is lacking gestures?
- How can you make a comprehensive sales pitch to potential new employees, when you can’t engage all of their senses? When you can’t show them the place where they’ll spend 8 hours per day, 5 days per week?
- How can you ensure the messages you get across are not misread due to several factors you can’t control? How?
The easy answer is… Well, there’s no easy answer. It’s complicated. These times are uncertain, drastic changes and measures are taken, but HR professionals should not despair. After all, new opportunities are created, and new challenges are to be taken to simplify and to make processes and communication more efficient.
Now, let’s take them all apart and see how any of these challenges can be embraced and eventually conquered.
Brainstorm with your employees
Look, HRs, as the acronym implies, are only human. Humans with a great desire to make the world, okay, fine, the company a better place. But, now with remote work, they might feel a grand void in their stomach that gnaws at them. They can’t ensure everyone is ok, because of the bigger things they can’t control, and this can make them feel unworthy. But.
Here’s what all HR professionals should do—don’t overlook the intelligence of your employees. Certainly, they are a bunch of guys and gals who are smart and trustworthy and pretty aware of how their jobs work. So, instead of staying awake nights and brainstorming the best solutions for everyone to be OK in their homes, do this—brainstorm together.
Create a form or ask them to send you solutions regarding their accommodations, how to continue engagement, and even what do they need for additional support. You can even schedule weekly or monthly video calls with the team. There are several communication platforms that you can use, some of them designed especially for these kinds of interactions—for instance, Microsoft Teams.
In the end, it’s safe to remember that assumptions are the mother of all failures and stress (and we all know stress is bad), so communicating with your employees instead of guessing, is the best option. Moreover, this will make them feel cared about and will lead to a higher retention rate.
Trust—the keyword of the hour
Sounds like a buzzword, I am aware. And a utopia. I, too, am quite a fan of the Latin saying, “de omnibus dubitandum est”, but when it comes to employees, is important to have trust. In times like these some of the managers will tend to micromanage, because they don’t trust their employees. But, on the other hand, if you assume (and eventually share those assumptions with them) that the employees work hard, care about the company’s success, they are more likely to act accordingly.
It’s true, as an HR you can’t stop managers from being suspicious. But, you can come as the other side of the coin, where you encourage the employees individually, in chats or calls or maybe in general and remind them of the good work they’re doing—and also reminding them to stay safe.
However, you can go the extra step and discuss with team leaders and managers in regards on how to ensure that your employees feel trusted by the managers as well. Here are some key questions you could answer:
- If we would trust the majority of our employees, what would we do differently?
- What’s getting in the way of trust? How can we refrain that from happening?
- What personal behaviours can we demonstrate that would help build even more trust?
Having the previous experience of remote working, I became aware of how the lack of communication channels with the company are affecting employees in the long term. So, to avoid this from happening, it's important to send weekly (or bi-weekly, or bi-monthly, it depends on each company) e-mails with updates. Not sure what to share? Try by answering these questions:
- What kind of information could be shared to increase transparency?
- What information do the employees need and want?
- What information could make them feel more involved?
If you still haven't found the "right answer"—there's no right answer, however, each company has a different DNA, you could share information such as:
- Updates in regards to the adopted measures by the organization. (Especially if your workplace requires physical presence from time to time.)
- Updates from the C-level management—a personally written message integrated into the e-mail, an embedded video. Something encouraging.
- Links that contain valuable information.
- Health talks and training sessions about how to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.
- And even inviting them to reach out in case they feel demotivated by work.
Be careful especially to not overdo the internal communication. Try not to burden e-mails with plenty of confusing, and especially negative types of information. Try to keep it as sweet and simple, and eventually neutral.
Take advantage of online recruitment
I mentioned earlier that one of the biggest challenges HRs face is recruiting. You can’t pick up the vibe of a person by not being there. But. I do recommend to look at virtual recruiting as the latest norm.
And I might add, take advantage of any opportunity to recruit, hire and retain top talent.
Although the world seems unsafe, when it comes to IT&C practitioners, hiring processes need to continue. So, now is the most optimum time to keep job seekers as engaged as possible when applying. Especially if your company has lengthy interviews—try to keep in touch with them as much as the company's policy allows.
Moreover, work on retaining talent, as much as possible. Maybe right now they don't do that much for the company, maybe because of the lack of resources, but this too, in the end, shall pass. And in the end, they will prove to be a valuable asset.
But what about interviews? You might ask.
Indeed, it's difficult. But you still need to communicate about your workplace culture. Now, this is challenging, because you won't be able to share the perks such as team lunch every other Friday or birthday cake. But you know what can you do?
Schedule video calls. Pick their vibe through it. See their micro-expressions. It’s not the same as the real thing, but it’s the closest thing we have so far, and it’s better than phone calls only—long live digitalization.
What about pitching the workplace?
You can talk about the company’s values. How they are applied in every employee's life. You can make success stories out of your employee's experience. You could make a pitch deck to sell your company. You could make an engaging, fun video presentation.
The world is your oyster right now. There are several ways and methods through which you can make your workplace appealing. But, don't forget to emphasize the company’s culture. Make it as transparent as possible. That's what they'll get their attention and desire to stay.
We live in uncertain times. Challenges arise constantly, and it’s getting, even harder to get back on your feet and to fight back. But, to all HR professionals out there—this, too, shall pass. So, don’t give up. Find ways to reinvent the company and yourselves, in the end. When all of this will be over, not only you will be capable of adding a new brilliant skill under your belt, but you will also have managed to keep the human in Human Resources, even in times like these.