Even though many aspects still remain to be clarified, it looks like companies, to a greater or lesser degree, have started to think about returning to "normality", concurring with the various easing phases put forward by the government.
Although our intention is not to review all the issues awaiting clarification, we would like to make some reflections on the key aspects that HR departments will have to undertake in the coming weeks, while using technology as a fundamental element to succeed in this crucial mission.
Just as the HR role has been of key importance in everything that has happened so far, from now on its role will also be essential for "steering" the entire relationship between companies and their professionals, when it comes to executing a lot of actions based on three main axes—management, communication and forecasting—and bolstered by the underpinning technology.
Once the pandemic is over and in this new phase of easing that lies before us, HR must devote much effort to managing everything to do with gradually returning workers to business as usual, especially for those who were affected by the temporary furloughs that unfortunately occurred as a result of the recent crisis. In such cases, organizations will need to reinstate the professionals affected and carry out the corresponding procedures with the labour authorities quickly, easily and without errors in order to regain their workforce volume and business activity as soon as possible. The same goes for temporary paid leave (and managing the hours "to be recovered") or with managing employee requests (leave, absences, leave, etc.) that took place during this period.
Cloud solutions will enable companies to simplify the management of all these situations, as it is the provider who is responsible for updating the systems. Moreover, this allows employees to manage the process from their homes, thanks to the ability such solutions provide for access at any time and from anywhere.
Yet in this new situation it will be vital to keep communication flowing properly from the company to its employees, in order to transmit to them all the necessary information they must be aware of on the aspects in which they are also stakeholders. This can range from communications on company guidelines and policies, for instance, everything to do with employees commuting to their jobs using permits that make it possible to get around and access work centres, as well as special provisions that only affect certain groups of professionals (for example, on using specific PPEs to access certain company areas or specific measures for whoever works with the public).
Possessing the right technological tools to address all these issues will also make it easier for professionals to be able to self-manage, by greatly simplifying all activities in the HR areas in these times when the speed of action becomes strategic for returning to business as usual. Again, a technological solution that provides capabilities for both segmented communication and the decentralization of management, for example, by informing affected workers where to collect protection equipment, by enabling identified workers to access permits via an employee portal, by communicating specific tasks to team managers that must be done, and more. This enables significant competitive advantage, increasing efficiency in processes as well as speed and flexibility within the organization.
Lastly, in this context of uncertainty, HR must be able to foresee, from an operational point of view, how the whole easing process will be conducted. HR must be aware that this requires predicting and preparing actions that must be done before, during and after reinstatement.
In the time leading up to reinstatement, HR should focus its efforts on capturing information, which becomes easier when the process is more accessible and simpler. The possibility of launching surveys and questionnaires to employees will allow HR to collect information on their personal and collective situations, identify aspects that may have been overlooked, etc. Yet for retrieving and distributing equipment and allocated PPEs, it becomes all the more expensive, the more the process needs to be manual.
When the day comes for reintegrating employees, and for the days thereafter, it will be necessary to put in a huge effort into communication again. Independently of the specific actions that each company is considering, the need to store and give employees access to the information required for doing their work activities in a new reality and context with access anytime and anywhere, immediately brings to mind three factors in which technology becomes a key player: employee portals (already mentioned, as access points to information and for self-management), chatboxes (to lighten the workload for an overstrained HR department or other departments) and access on the move for professionals who neither have nor require a computer as a work tool.
While all the above aspects are important, in our experience we believe that situations, like the ones we are going through, will certainly mark a before and after in people, and consequently in organizations. It is therefore right to stop at this point in time to think about and raise some important issues in order to plan for the future after recent developments:
- During the crisis were we able to keep on working? With what effort?
- Do we have the necessary skills, or do we need our professionals to upskill?
- Are we going to maintain remote working? Fully or in part? Do we know for whom and what they are going to need?
- Has our organizational model been efficient? Can we incorporate other organizational and relationship models?
- Does our objectives model align with the new reality? What must be “retouched”?
- Do we have sufficiently robust processes and technology tools? Should we digitize more? How much is that going to cost us?
Each company will have its own answers, and will certainly try to find the best way to solve the most needed aspects, but as HR professionals it is worth rethinking about handing over technology to a trusted provider to be able to dedicate yourselves to what is most important: your people and your business