From the ice storm to the pandemic crisis: the greatest challenges for HR leaders in post-trauma planning
No, it is not a question of taking stock today. Nor is it about staying behind. It is now time to grasp the full extent of the challenges facing HR leaders in the post-COVID era. Even if we are all still in it, the day after will come and we all need to be prepared for it.
Many of us, of course, remember the ice storm and the unpleasant feeling of being forced to take a break. Except that unlike the ice storm, which was relatively local, the COVID health crisis is global. The direct consequence speaks for itself: the people affected by the ice storm were guided and taken care of ... whereas the world population affected by the COVID health crisis had to mobilize, self-organize and innovate.
The issues are serious and require a great deal of expertise. Let us, therefore, share this forum with Ms. Sylvie Boulanger who, for more than thirty years, has held senior HR management positions in the health and social services network, as well as in the education sector.
Major HR trends in the pre-COVID era
Until early March 2020, the reality of the HR sphere was marked by four major trends that had the common goal of fostering the employee (EX) experience. Here's a photo:
1- HR Analytics
Organizations need to use contemporary and intelligent ways to leverage HR data to provide decision support tools.
2 - Talent management
Staffing is breaking down barriers, must become international... Expertise is increasingly nested and the workforce is increasingly scarce. Internal resources have a thirst for growth and want to keep moving forward. It is therefore appropriate to consider the internal as a talent market for an organization that allows and facilitates personal and professional growth. Retention must become synonymous with evolution and inclusion.
3 - Flexible work
There is a growing demand for working from home and many industries are pushing organizations in this direction. Flexible working hours will need to be more than just flexible. Workplaces, like teams, need to virtualize. In such a context, how can we ensure that employees are well trained and informed? In parallel, but not at all in opposition, employees want and need to be more involved in decisions. Management will have to take a substantially more participative, less hierarchical direction. Many organizations seem to be bending under their own weight while their employees are aiming to lift this very weight off its organization's shoulders.
4 - Socially responsible management
Employees want to be involved in the organization's values and orientations. Human capital must be positioned at the center of the organizational ecosystem's concerns. Structures must flatten and thus more easily allow their bases to participate actively in decisions.
There are four major, inevitable trends of unprecedented strength. An ultimate beating for Taylorism.
And wham. COVID. Immobilization of the company... Human mobilization. As if, literally, human capital was animating. It moves by itself: structures are virtualized, organizational charts are flattened, teams become autonomous. The State becomes coordinator. The public sector in crisis: lack of resources; the private sector in crisis: loss of productivity. Suddenly, our societal space was transformed into a disaster movie... Our existence brought to the screen, it was urgent to take control of the scenario.
Space of humanism: human beings are often at their best when things are at their worst.
And the COVID that makes us capsize in a rocking motion. Our referential is changing.
In a very recent post (2nd wave: is the role of HR changing?), Olivier Schmouker rightly mentioned that "(...) the role of HR is more crucial than ever for the health of the organization, but at the same time it is more complex than ever. (...) To be an HR professional today is to be a caring, diligent and insightful person. It means being able to solve problems, both short and long term, with a strategic mind."
The great evil as a catalyst or cathartic agent
According to Sylvie Boulanger, COVID will have been what will ensure that the four major pre-COVID trends are updated. In addition to the labour shortage, which is not expected to be as acute in the twelve to eighteen months post-COVID, the other features of the four major trends are already in motion. Here to stay.
But will COVID have been a trigger, an evolutionary gas pedal (catalyst) or the missing piece of the puzzle, the remedy that cures the evil-by-evil (κάθαρσις, katharsis: finding in the crisis itself the solutions to overcome the issues that are harmful to the employee experience)?
In reality, it doesn't matter what the answer is. Take the example of telecommuting. Many organizations were reluctant or hesitant about it. COVID came along, organizations had to implement it quickly and adapt to it... employees inherited it and also realized that they might miss their colleagues (but that's another debate).
COVID will not have changed the cultures of companies, but it will have changed the way they are managed (schedules, locations, logistics, immersion in the workplace).
- Sylvie Boulanger
LUC LACHAPELLE B.A., M.A., M.B.S.I.
Certified PROSCI, SIX SIGMA
Director, Strategic consulting services