The world around us has changed drastically since the outbreak of Covid-19 and the pandemic has affected almost all walks of our lives. It has changed the way we shop, party, communicate, exercise, and most certainly the way we work. HR teams across organisations have been at the forefront, swiftly guiding and helping employees acclimatizing with this new way of working and keeping their sprits and productivity high during remote working.
However, as the world is slowly coming back on its feet and adapting to this new normal, the HR function has a daunting task at hand as it needs to look ahead and rethink workforce planning, policies, practices, etc. and align them with the new norm of working.
Some of the challenges that I foresee for the HR domain in a startup post-Covid are:
Increase In Remote Workforce Demanding A Change In Existing People Practices
What started off as an aberration has already become a norm. A growing number of organizations who were initially wary of the work-from-home concept have realized that remote working is as effective as working from a physical office set-up. Today, sales pitches, product launches, appraisals, etc. are all happening virtually and remote working seems to be a preferred option as organizations are looking at reducing costs to make up for the losses which they suffered due to the pandemic.
This could mean that the entire life cycle of an employee in the organization which includes onboarding, learning & development, performance management, rewards, exit and everything else in between going for a complete overhaul. Organizations need to be prepared for the challenges that will come along with a distributed workforce like:
- Creating the required digital infrastructure for an uninterrupted remote working experience
- Ensuring remote workforce is engaged, motivated, and productive
- Creating channels for robust communication
- Ensuring upskilling of workforce in this new atmosphere and managing their growth & learning needs
Focus On Employee Well-Being
As organizations begin the recovery process, employee well-being is another challenge which the HR professionals will face in future. Health and well-being had started figuring as an organization’s overall engagement philosophy, however, post the pandemic, it is going to become even more crucial. Today, people want organizations to reinforce the commitment to their physical and psychological health.
While physical wellbeing includes having access to clean and sanitized office spaces, availability of equipment needed to work safely, etc., psychological well-being includes practices like flexible work schedules which can help address employee’s mental and emotional health apart from other offerings.
This unprecedented situation has increased stress and anxiety among people and the onus is on HR to ensure that the people feel safe, energized and stay motivated. Afterall, people also would prefer to work with organizations who truly care for them, hence, start-ups need to have employee well being as part of their core philosophy.
Engaging A Remote Workforce
Remote workforce by its very nature is physically less connected and employees miss out on even small things like team lunches, colleague’s birthdays, etc. that make a group of individuals feel like a team. Hence, engaging a remote workforce is definitely another challenge that HR will face post Covid.
While technology has its benefits and we all have adapted to it, but can it ever replace the human touch and personal bonding which employees experience at the workplace? Can the virtual conversations ever replace the water-cooler conversations? There are no easy answers here but HR needs to drive engagement through innovation in the near future.
Staying Connected With Organization’s Vision
I feel another challenge which HR professionals will encounter in a post COVID world will be in terms of keeping its people motivated and aligned to the company’s mission & vision. It’s easy to get disconnected from the Company purpose if people are not experiencing the same fervor as they would while being physically close in an office setup, listening and watching colleagues passionately chasing goals. This will require strong top-down communication to ensure that people are motivated and wired to the company’s goal.
Having A Performance & Rewards Program That Augments Performance Even In Flux
Another challenge which looms post the COVID pandemic is uncertainty – uncertainty in the external environment, uncertainty in the minds of people and uncertainty of future. In the new normal, traditional approaches to performance management where goals & business strategies were made keeping an annual goal in mind. In today’s VUCA world, organizations would be required to move away from the standard Annual Operating Plans (AOP) to a more agile & evolving framework of goal setting & performance evaluation.
Likewise, while monetary rewards like salary hike, bonus, incentive programs etc. have been preferred way of appreciating people, but the current pandemic has made people realize the importance of non-monetary benefits like flexible working hours, profit-sharing, health care, etc. and therefore, HR would be required to reshape its performance and rewards strategy accordingly.
Sustaining Your Culture
An organization’s culture is one of the most important differentiators that sets it apart from each other and acts as a source of competitive advantage. However, with the workforce getting fragmented, the HR function will face the challenge of sustaining and cultivating their existing culture. In a remote environment where people are not physically in close proximity, how can HR protect and sustain its culture? HR should:
- Communicate regularly and openly
- Recognize people who live company values aligned with your culture
- Ensure leaders are not creating their own sub-cultures and are rather reinforcing organizational culture in their act
Last but not the least, another great challenge which HR will face in a post COVID world will be of workforce management. As I see, in the near future some roles will become insignificant and redundant while demand for some roles will increase. HR professionals will have a critical role here as they need to find ways to leverage the existing talent pool prudently by moving them cross-functionally, which would be a win for both the individuals and the organization.
Also, HR needs to ensure that people acquire new skills needed to succeed in the new normal. Startups post covid will focus on being nimble and efficient with optimum workforce, hence, building a more fluid & flexible organizational structure will be another challenge for HR.
The Covid-19 pandemic has come as a rude shock and has definitely created a new environment around us but it is up to us whether we view it as thrilling or terrifying. While there are challenges but I strongly believe that a positive future is likely if HR is able to modify itself to capitalize on the underlying changes.