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Rethinking HR Strategy in This COVID Era

Rethinking HR Strategy in This COVID Era
Rethinking HR Strategy in This COVID Era

While WFH has ensured that organizations continued to operate during the lockdown against the spread of COVID, people are now pining for fresh air, the smell of the office, and the opportunity to meet co-workers and customers face-to-face.

In this time of crisis, personnel in healthcare and essential services have risen above and beyond the call of duty to care for others. Some have even sacrificed their lives for this.

The time has come for organizations to change. The welfare and wellbeing of all stakeholders have to be built into the culture of the organization. Can that happen while our prime focus remains performance and ensuring compliance by ‘Command and Control’? Never.

The new normal will need leaders who are secure from within and can accept themselves and others with ease! Wellbeing and performance will have to co-exist.

WFH represents freedom; we wanted quality personal time, to be more productive, save costs, help the environment, and get rid of micro-supervision. Post-Covid, WFH will be the new normal, and ‘We trust you’ the underlying message.

Needed, a humane touch

The Digital Revolution with AI needs to be reinforced with a humane touch, wherein people are empowered with responsibility and flexibility. Culturally, we must keep sowing seeds of mutual care, sharing, respect, and trust so that as organizations we are agile and resilient. What is needed is a sense of empowerment.

It is time we stopped recruitments and promotions without data and the right competencies needed for relationship management and values over skills. On-boarding may need a reorientation. Start developing leaders who excel in balancing compassion with objectivity, believe in the success of others, and continue to unlearn, learn, and relearn with the emerging environments and needs of customers.

Importance of trust

Trust is a cultural trait that can make or break organizations. Better output, performance, and innovation emerge automatically when people feel trusted. Customers have always shown a preference for brands they trust. Caring and Sharing leaders who enable better collaboration and are flexible, allowing each unique individual the private space /styles to flourish. Airbnb might go through a bad time, but Office B&B may emerge as a lot of people may still want a space outside the home for a few days in a week at least.

Some critical tasks require people to be physically together as a team. That need will keep the idea and concept of ‘office’ going. In my view, in most cases, it is good that people meet and stay together for at least 50 percent of their work time.

Distrust and supervision of micro issues lead to heightened anxiety, poor performance, reduced loyalty to the employer, a lack of space for innovation, and more of a “what’s in it for me?” attitude.

Creating a safe space to listen to, helps. Speaking up to value add as a boss always de-energizes, while not speaking can be seen as an area of concern, raising anxiety levels of subordinates – hoping that I have not done anything wrong to face the wrath of my boss.

Using technology effectively can be very useful, and we have much to learn from the mobile phone’s misuse – that which was an enabler of convenience & peace of mind, has become inconvenient and intrusive, leading to unprecedented amounts of stress.

Beyond profit and performance

I look forward to a Culture of Care & Collaboration in which People & the Environment are given equal importance, rather than just focusing on Profits & Performance. This is the antithesis of the ‘command and control’ mindset, which believes that direct supervision, micromanagement, and control is the only way to get results out of a team.

In the words of Jeffery Pfeffer: “That’s because employers believe that their oversight and direction makes things better — something social psychologist Robert Cialdini and I called a “faith in supervision” effect. In essence, observers tend to see work performed under the control of a supervisor as better than identical work done without as much guidance.”

At the end of the day, ‘results’ matter. It’s not about ‘what I did when’, which represents an extreme form of micromanagement. A manager inquires of a team member, “I observe that you have only worked from 4 am to 10 am … Why?” I say, how does it matter? I would rather ask, “is all well, as you have been working during early hours?”

A spirit of caring & sharing is imbibed here. It’s an adult-to-adult transaction with some Service Level Agreements built-in. With AI in control, some data on behaviors/ competencies of bosses could prove that the current incumbent is not mature enough to manage others with a balance of empathy & objectivity. This can be a key takeaway from technology as the biases in promotion consciously or unconsciously will be much less. Yet the HOW I did it is important, i.e., am I missing out on anything or adopting any means that are not part of a fair process? Then, a conversation is overdue.

I feel that a lot of people may start practices and activities that get them the public eye and create a lot of disturbance for others.

Like the workaholic supervisor who escalated customer complaints at the last minute, although he had them hours ago…just because he loved to see people under pressure, racing to comply with internal SLA deadlines. But it so happened that he fell ill and these practices came to light — he had been penalizing highly committed people and making life difficult for youngsters.

With technology, such practices will be highlighted. Such superiors will be asked to change, given the availability of feedback and data that’s hard to refuse/accept.

Speaking to him was essential, but not till such time as he recovered and came back to work. This was the boss’s decision & was the correct balance of compassion & objectivity. This is a behavior that needs to be rewarded & acknowledged in the form of storytelling for future generations.

(Naveen Khajanchi is an alumnus of INSEAD. He is CEO of NKH Foundation P Ltd)

News Source: The Hindu Business Line

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