The HR Team's New Challenges

The HR Team's New Challenges

With employees struggling to manage their core deliverables in the given scenario, any additional requests to connect with them from the perspective of just ‘catching up’ are met with disdain.

The times we live are indeed unique and unprecedented. Business models have been transformed. Many industries are reeling under pressure. In some cases, entire countries (for example, Singapore and Indonesia that are dependent on tourism to fill their coffers) are staring into a dark abyss.


So, it is not surprising that the average office-goer has also found his work life upended in ways that he would never have imagined before. Used to commuting to the workplace for typically five days a week, workers attempt to replicate the same level of productivity remotely. The problem is compounded by the reality that this is new territory for all the parties involved, and therefore, there is no rule book.


For the HR Manager, there is an altogether new set of problems to solve for the organisation. Not truly outside the core domain of ‘Human Resources Management’, but, with their own peculiar twist in this post-pandemic world. These challenges ensure that every HR professional needs to continue to work on his/her own self development and proactively address them. Let us take a look at what some of these are:-


Measuring the People’s Pulse


Of the many responsibilities the HR practitioner has, the foremost is always the role of being well connected to the organisation’s employees, and having a good pulse of how each one of them is doing. Difficult even in regular times, this has become doubly challenging because the only connect one can have is over data or telephone lines.


With employees struggling to manage their core deliverables in this scenario, any additional requests to connect with them from the perspective of just ‘catching up’ are met with disdain. The non-verbal cues sensed in the physical workspace are almost impossible to catch in a virtual setting. Building trust – a key element of determining the truth, gets hampered when one is not able to sit across a desk and have a frank conversation, with a cup of coffee in hand.


Bringing People back to Work


With over 18 months of a remote working environment in play in many organisations, tremendous effort is required to attract workers back to the office. For many employees, the new normal is just that – the new normal. Accustomed to moving from the ‘bedroom’ to the ‘office desk’ in less than a few minutes and avoiding rush hour traffic, many workers find this new operating style easier to navigate.


Undoubtedly, while there are benefits in remote working, the reality is that the in-person interaction that happens at work boosts creativity and productivity. Leaders across the board realise the importance of leveraging the shared energy of a group of colleagues working together to solve a problem. At a fundamental level, many employees also believe in the same. But, now they face multiple challenges in going back to work. For some, it is the lack of safe transport. For others, it is the young children at home who are yet to get back to school. Whatever the reason, the fact is the need to turn the clock back and encouraging a majority of the workforce to get back to the office is quite challenging.


Providing multi-dimensional support to employees


Today’s office environment requires a heightened level of support to be provided to all employees. The days of the ‘weekly employee helpdesk’ is passé. Today, the HR function needs to operate almost like a 24/7 customer care line, serving the varied needs of employees. In some cases, the HR partners are required to help arrange hospital beds for family members. At other times, you need to play the role of a counsellor and provide a comforting shoulder as well as guidance. This challenge needs to be addressed on multiple fronts and is dependent upon varying intellectual faculties, which all HR practitioners may not be adequately prepared with at this stage.


Sustaining and Developing Organisational Culture


Within organisations, culture is the fabric that ties every element of it being together. It is the reason individuals stay with an organisation or choose to move on. Culture owes a great deal of its character to the interaction of the leaders with everyone. It feeds itself on informal communication and personal camaraderie. As new employees enter an organisation and are subsumed virtually, they are unable to assimilate with the others and imbibe existing ways of behaving and working. Thus, in an environment where employees are hired remotely, work remotely any times even exit remotely building a culture that is unified is extremely challenging.


Driving Employee Retention


Enhancing employee tenures is of paramount importance for any business. Leakage of intellectual capital, and loss of delivery momentum are only a couple of reasons why it is critical to retain employees. However, when employees exist in highly distributed and highpressure environments, they struggle to support each other. This in turn leads to high levels of frustration, disappointment end helplessness. Eventually, this leads to attrition. As HR professionals seek to encourage employees to stay longer within the fold, they struggle since the culture, which is the glue that holds them together, is itself compromised. The fact that, at a time like this, employees also have other challenges to overcome in their personal lives, makes it an even more difficult mountain to climb.


Solving these challenges may look daunting at this point. However, as HR professionals, we should take comfort in the thought that many before us have charted similar paths in understanding human behaviour and workplace dynamics. Their thoughts and ideas have established strong foundations on which our current set of practices are built. It is this base that gives us a helpful launching pad as we attempt to build the next frameworks that will make our people and our organisations successful. So, it’s time to raise a toast to all those HR practitioners who are collaborating and defining a new way forward when it comes to supporting our most valuable assets – our people!


Vikas Dua is an accomplished HR professional, an Author, a TEDx speaker, and a Vlogger and Blogger on HR practices. With over 18 years of highquality experience in the corporate world, he has worked with both startups and large corporations like Wipro and Concentrix. Currently, he is heading the Human Resources function in India for IPG DXTRA, part of Interpublic Group, the world’s leading marketing communications company. In his community building capacity, he plays multiple roles including that of Advisor to the BRICS Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Young Leaders Program.


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