As COVID-19’s impact on the world has grown, companies have had to quickly find ways to manage through the uncertainty that has spread with it. Many companies have changed the way their business operates and how they manage their workforce.  They’ve implemented mandatory lockdowns, deployed remote workers to increase social distancing, and distributed personal protective equipment to essential onsite employees as an attempt to flatten the curve. HR leaders need to understand the realities facing businesses today in order to develop a people strategy that prepares the business for the new future.


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Reality #1: Business impact

The crisis has spurred organizations to safeguard their employees by transforming their business operations. While many companies may still be open for business, they may have closed some of their locations or reconfigured their workforce and shifted responsibilities to support changing volumes.

HR leaders must keep pace with new and changing regulations as they unfold and provide data to adjust business continuity plans.  And of course, they still need to serve their internal and external stakeholders by performing their regular activities in a safe and efficient way. Because of this, many have realized the critical role HR technology plays in giving the full picture of the employee life cycle required to make strategic decisions instead of just reacting to issues as they happen.

Reality #2: Employee impact

For many organizations, the last several months have been centered around transitioning their workforce from a predominantly centralized, office-based work environment to a predominantly remote workforce and are learning new ways to work.   Of course, there are some exceptions – such as essential positions that can’t be performed remotely.

Because COVID-19 impacts all employees, HR leaders are implementing new ways to communicate, build trust, and keep everyone safe and healthy – both physically and mentally.  They must provide employees with a clear understanding of their job duties (as many of them may have changed), clarify what their goals are and how well they are performing, and promote options that allow a balance between work and life. As a result, many HR leaders are turning to technology to ensure that employees remain engaged, stay productive, and have flexibility with their schedules.

Reality #3: Technology impact

Prior to the pandemic, some companies offered online solutions for their employees to access information, but now many more are implementing new technologies like mobile employee self-service, remote conferencing solutions, and asset logging for remote work equipment or onsite personal protective equipment. These kinds of tools have become essential to keeping employees engaged and productive with all the disruption currently occurring to and in workplaces everywhere.

Because everything we do these days ties back to data, HR leaders need a clear picture of the entire organization to better identify opportunities for improvement. Implementing digital technologies that provide visibility into operational metrics and people data across all areas of the business can support data-driven decisions now and for years to come.

Post COVID-19 strategy

Now that we’ve recapped some of today’s realities, let’s discuss how HR leaders can create a people strategy to move the business forward.  As some states begin opening back up and rolling out a phased approach to get closer to normal, here are a few tips to help you navigate your organization’s options post COVID-19:

  1. Know your business. First, you have to understand where your organization is today. The current crisis has forced many companies to move more towards being strategic in their HCM processes, but not all. If your company is still doing things manually or with outdated processes and systems, this is a great time to map out your processes and find areas where you can make improvements. A unified approach to HR technology with automated administrative processes, dashboards and metrics that offer historical information, real-time reporting, and predictive analytics can provide HR with the tools they need to move the business forward.
  2. Evaluate your business model and adjust as needed. Look at all areas of your business and evaluate both how they’ve been impacted and how you responded to the pandemic. It will be helpful to identify areas that worked well or didn’t work well so you can better plan going forward. Going through this evaluation will help you know what you want to keep and where you need to make changes. You may even find other areas of opportunities to support your employees like total rewards programs or creating a culture that supports work-life balance with flexible or alternative work schedules, unlimited vacation policies, or work from home options. Answering these questions can help you modify your business model and prepare you for the future.
  3. Develop a return to work strategy. For those employees who have been working remotely, furloughed, or laid off and will be returning, it will be important to develop a reentry plan. You may decide to do this in a phased approach or all at once. But this is an area to really focus on, as many people have gotten used to working at home or may be reticent to return to the office. Having a plan in place can help eliminate any concerns or fear as they come back. If you’ve adopted other strategies like monitoring performance indicators, supporting well-being, flexible work schedules, and other technology-based solutions, you may want to keep those in place moving forward to keep morale up. Your employees will be ready for some much need social interactions after being quarantined for so long, so consider ways to create a culture that encourages social activities and much-needed collaboration.
  4. Enhance digital operations. Cataloging all the lessons you’ve learned from this crisis can help you determine a strategy to incorporate technology into your business. You should have a good understanding of how your employees’ and managers’ expectations have shifted as well. Get their input and feedback during these times – it can play an important role in enhancing your digital operations. I would suggest that you start with the basics, like an HCM solution that offers a variety of tools in one place to meet employee and manager expectations. Then you can focus on other areas where technology can help improve the overall operations of the business.
  5. Stay safe, secure, and compliant moving forward. You should continue to take precautions and follow safety protocols outlined by the Centers for Disease control and local governments.  Keeping your employees and customers safe should always be every company’s top priority. It's hard to predict what new regulations may come our way post COVID-19, so HR leaders should stay up to date as new regulations unfold.  It will important to communicate these changes to your employees and apply the proper rules to employee work practices and pay rules.  Having insight into real time people data can help ensure your company stays compliant.
  6. Assess other vulnerabilities. As a result of the crisis, we're seeing an increase in the number of users on the internet and an increase in system hacks, scams, and fraud, so going forward it will be important that you take ever measure to secure your company and employee data. Data privacy and security is critical and if breached, it can cause a lot of damage, so being prepared is the key to protecting your data. In fact, many CIOs are moving from traditional in-house servers to a cloud environment that provides protected security protocols and a good disaster recovery plan to access their business and people data, and HR can make recommendations along those lines for HCM systems to aid in those efforts.

Conclusion: Be ready now for the changes on the horizon

There's no doubt these are challenging times for everyone, and the message that we hear over and over from our customers is that “we’re going to get through this.” And they're right; we will. No matter if you already have practices in place or if you're just starting out, these strategies can help you evaluate where you are now and better prepare you to have positive changes in place down the road when things settle down.

As you begin to make critical adjustments developing, adapting or improving your processes for your organization, your employees, and your customers, make sure you're armed with the right tools and technology.  Some of the changes you are making today will be long-lasting for years to come.

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Published: Friday, May 8, 2020