The New Challenges For Human Resources In The Pandemic Era

7 Lug 2020

Laura Colombo  |

Forbes Human Resources Council  | | Membership (Fee-Based) | Leadership

CEO ETAss, People Development and Digital Communication Strategist.

After the Covid-19 pandemic tore through China, another country was quickly hard hit, and that was Italy. Even today, months later, Italy has plenty of active cases, and the majority of them are in Lombardy, the region where I live and work.

Before, the Lombardy region had been growing for years and had recovered from the crisis of 2008. However, 2020 represents a dramatic drop in the regional GDP. Within a few weeks from early March, our economic and social standard of living was completely disrupted such that it will not be possible to go back to the traditional models and habits.

I have observed, moved by positive thinking, that we will only be able to get out of this crisis if we see it as an opportunity to reshape our future.

Nothing Will Be The Same

The pandemic crisis has emphasized the strategic importance of your people and, consequently, the need for a proper policy to manage human resources, both from a relationship and communication perspective. It is time to draw the scenarios of this new era and set up innovative plans and models of change that will be efficient for HR management and learning.

The new HR model is developed in line with a new human-centered culture that is lived in a digital way. HR leaders are aware that their role cannot be the same as before, and it is clear that the pandemic has only sped up the evolution of the profession that was already underway during the last two years.

HR has been fundamental to helping companies adapt to the new normal. The value of empathy in professional contexts and its contribution to overcoming crisis has been greatly reconsidered.

The New Concept Of The Workplace

The concept of the workplace and work tools has changed, as well as contracts and, consequently, the concept of safety at work. We are asked to perform the same activities and meet the same goals as four months ago, but nothing is the same. We are often forced to play it by ear and make decisions without proper and detailed information because the situation requires that. The concept of place is replaced by the concept of time, and instead of working hours, we refer to met goals.

Strategic Involvement

In this moment, HR has to be positively reconsidered and recognized as managers of strategic value — that is, people.

HR is considered an asset that can “make the difference” as it fosters the adoption of resilient strategies to fight the crisis. Therefore, HR positions have been progressively and increasingly involved in the strategic decision-making process. HR roles have changed dramatically, and there are still countless scenarios and tools that will impact and change this profession, starting with objectives and KPIs.

Co-Responsibility And The Three E’s

Companies are being asked to look at and interpret themselves from the outside. All the reference points have changed, even positioning and markets. Survival depends increasingly on awareness of the situation, sharing among all the subjects involved and co-responsibility.

Companies become “smart” by adopting humanistic digital interpretation keys based on the development of the three E’s: empowerment, engagement and employability. The company and the employee will be increasingly more unified. Together, they activate all available resources to defend a common value and goal: the work.

What has been described above has partly already happened to HR, and almost spontaneously — even though it would be more suitable to say unconsciously, because for every change that happens suddenly and forcibly, this has led to a few problems and feelings of uncertainty. It has also created new opportunities and challenges, including new management and administrative procedures and processes to face and codify, participation in strategic teams, and more intensity and quality in the relationships with suppliers and partners (think about the communication flows and training processes).

Moreover, HR teams have been asked to rethink some processes. They have reduced budgets, supported the introduction of smart and remote working, favored internal communication, and learned to know and manage new workplaces. They have often found themselves in a stressful situation: They require the layoff of many resources, have reduced working hours and salaries, have had to cope with anxiety caused by uncertainty and solipsism, must manage employees by identifying a new compass or buoy, and have activated welfare initiatives and extra support to families.

In light of that, we can point out that all processes of HR teams have been touched by the pandemic: recruiting, talent acquisition, onboarding techniques, skill management, training, organization and collaboration, and engagement. We ask IT for higher-level integration among software and social media platforms, avoiding the complexity and aiming at simplifying processes and procedures.

The context in which we operate is becoming more immaterial, digital and automated — think about the impact of AI on recruiting processes, or about the change in the HR software and social platforms (for instance, our partner organization LinkedIn has recently announced video interviews and increased the level of integration with other administrative software already used in companies).

All this can be translated in the need for adjusted skills that first have to go through a process of awareness, sharing and co-responsibility in order to:

• Explain what happened and what is happening (scenario).

• Define the impact of the change within the company (shape).

• Identify the new objectives and KPI (mandate).

• Identify modalities and tools at your disposal (strategy and tactics).

• Define the monitoring and control modalities (verification, tuning and redefining, total quality).

• Continually redraw the development strategies (in a constant innovation process).

HR is changing, and nothing will be the same. It could, surprisingly, be even better. Are you ready for the challenge?

Laura Colombo

CEO ETAss, People Development and Digital Communication Strategist. Read Laura Colombo’s full executive profile here.

CEO ETAss, People Development and Digital Communication Strategist.