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Empowering your commitment to workforce during COVID-19: An HR Perspective
Anandita Chauhan Vice President & Head of HR, Digital Process Operations | July 7, 2020
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The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly become the largest crisis of the current generation, second perhaps only to climate change. Spread across 174 nations, the pandemic has led to world-changing consequences, disrupting every aspect of our lives, personal and professional, across every domain, from finance to healthcare. Within a matter of a few short weeks, the coronavirus pandemic has forced us to take drastic steps for our safety - from national lockdowns to the suspension of international travel.

During such times, the priority lies in ensuring a sense of stability and learning from our current experience. In these uncertain times, the greatest question we have to ask is this – how do we prepare business models that are prepared for such crises and provide leadership in the business community? How do we look at this crisis as an opportunity to do more or do things differently?

Leading Organizations to be More Connected

There is no denying that this ongoing crisis has been taxing on the world at large. All of us have learnt how critical it is that we stay united, remain connected, and take every precaution to ensure the health and safety of ourselves and each other. And in doing so, it has also revealed the great strength that binds us all together.

Already, we can see the resilience and determination of people as they adapt to these challenges and ensure minimal disruption. Professionals in essential service domains like finance and healthcare are in fact going well beyond the extra mile to provide business continuity to their customers and support them during this difficult time. This alone gives us hope for the future; that with the right business continuity planning, we can survive any further challenges that lie ahead.

With an eye on the road ahead, there are a few ways in which every organization can implement better business continuity planning in place and become more resilient during the current scenario:

Invest in your workforce with a seamless learning experience

Leaders have another key opportunity within their grasp– to evaluate their workforce’s skill set and determine how it can be more relevant. Every leader should consider this key question– “what skills do I want to add to my workforce?”. Leaders can use the learnings from their experience to invest in skill development, both personal and professional, for their teams once businesses stabilize. I believe, experiences are powerful shapers both at the individual and structural levels. Which is why leaders who can deliver engagement through positive experiences which will ensure happier work forces who can feel that their wellbeing is of prime concern for the organization. Putting your employees at the center of the organization’s future plans will make them feel included and respected, the results being evident in better productivity.

Putting your employees at the center of the organization’s future plans will make them feel included and respected, the results being evident in better productivity.

Innovate new solutions

The traditional response during a crisis is to consolidate your resources and have all hands-on deck. But in a scenario, such as now, with a remote workplace experience being prominent, co-locating people isn’t possible. Leaders need to innovate new technology solutions and devise ways of working that ensure collaboration despite these challenges. Building good workplace experiences will take a concerted effort, but with the right technology solutions and actionable insights, investments across the organization, and support from managers, this is something that everyone continues to aim for.

Be a ‘communicative’ leader

Leaders face a particularly difficult task as remote operations introduce new barriers to operational efficiency. Communication, which is otherwise a great streamlining tool, becomes harder to ensure. Leaders need to leverage every tool and idea at their disposal to ensure consistent visibility and collaboration. This becomes even more challenging given the personal and motivational barriers that such a crisis poses. Therefore, Leaders need to become communication leaders first and foremost– ones that can unify the message from the top, connect people, streamline operations, and offer support whenever needed.

Optimize solutions with expert advice

Apart from communication, leaders also face the expectation of having all the answers during a rapidly changing crisis environment. This can be a unique pressure and it’s important that leaders seek expert advice and support themselves so that they can address all essential tasks. Of course, this means that leaders need to be even more precise and clear with their queries, so as to ensure that they have the best possible information at their disposal.,

Collaboration vis-á-vis competition

Competition is typically a strong driver for excellence, but during a crisis it can be counterproductive. Leaders need to set out to encourage and facilitate collaboration without the additional stress of competition. By bringing people together across the organization in a solution-centric manner, they can strengthen their teams while also ensuring effective productivity.

Empower and empathize

Every leader knows that this crisis has affected personal and professional lives in equal measure. Not everyone is suited to work-from-home, and everyone has a different level of adaptability to the change. For many, the challenges of remote work and the additional social challenges can put a strain on their mental health and quality of life. Leaders have to be sensitive to these changes and help provide stability by extending their support in whatever way possible. Empowerment and empathy are powerful forces, and one that should never take anything for granted during these times.

Develop next-gen leadership

The on-going crisis has also exposed the varying degrees of fluidity within the workforce. While the younger generation is more adaptable to using technology solutions to ensure continuity of work, the older generation is still struggling. But each of these groups can contribute to the business in their own unique way. For the future, however, it is the millennials and Gen Z who need to be guided and directed, so that they can share their skills and experience to make the organization more forward-thinking and future-ready. So, we come a full circle to invest through learning, where we started

Advancing through Technology

Technology can help enable this change by helping improve even areas such as talent acquisition, work policies, business continuity planning and much more. With the array of technology at our disposal, we are now prepared to move into this new era. And while technology has long been treated traditionally, as a cost or efficiency measure, we can now tell that it’s the only resilient means of thriving in an era of volatility and uncertainty.

In times of crisis, such as now, perhaps the best way to enhance these goals is to advance the collaboration between humans and machines. But this will require us to moving outside of our comfort zones and look at new ways to adapt to these ever-changing business ecosystems. Organizations need to reimagine how they deploy their resources, especially with respect to technologies which can have far reaching benefits. This is a particularly essential lesson for digital leaders, who wish to embrace uncertainty as the norm rather than the exception.

Only when organizations take advantage of automation to its fullest can any semblance of operational and business fluidity be achieved. This is where the idea of a “digitalCOLLEAGUE” comes into play and can help enterprises secure both their workers and their businesses going forward. We’ll be discussing these approaches in more detail in the days to come but for now I wish you the best and urge you all to stay safe and stay healthy.