Impact of Covid-19 on HR in the Social Impact Sector

Impact of Covid-19 on HR in the Social Impact Sector

The past few months have changed the world as we knew it. The Covid-19 global pandemic has rocked the world and India is no different. While we are all still grappling with questions around the short and long term impacts of Covid-19, one thing is for certain – when we come out on the other side, the world will look very different.


One of the immediate fall outs of the situation we find ourselves in has been its disastrous impact on employment and jobs. According to data collected by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy about 119 million/11.9 crore Indians have lost employment over the last two weeks. These numbers are alarming and point to long term consequences on India's economy and population.


Against this larger employment backdrop, we decided to look at the social impact sector, to try and understand how NGOs, foundations and social enterprises are responding to this crisis. The social sector, like all others, is grappling with developing strategies to respond to the Covid-19 crisis as questions around survival, sustainability and purpose have come to the forefront. Ambiguity around the impact on funding and relevance of programs and the need to maintain morale and productivity of teams have pushed social sector leaders to rethink and reassess in order to respond.


In order to understand how leaders are thinking and responding, Arthan conducted a survey with 132 social sector organisations which included NGOs, foundations, social businesses, consultants and enablers in the ecosystem. This survey threw up some interesting findings on the impact of the current crisis on Human Resources in the social impact sector especially with regards to jobs and talent management.


Almost across the board, organizations stated that there was an undeniable impact on hiring and recruitment. On the question of new recruitment, while 47% of the respondents indicated that they would continue hiring for critical roles, 45% of respondents said that they have frozen hiring completely for the foreseeable future. Only 8% of respondents said that they planned on hiring as usual. The analysis showed that organisations that mentioned that hiring would continue as planned were mostly in the sectors of healthcare and edtech.


For new recruits, who had already been hired just before the pandemic hit, organizations mentioned different strategies. Of all the organisations who had recently hired, 58% stated that they had to defer the joining of new employees and the remaining 42.% spoke about onboarding employees using virtual mediums. Close to 11% of the respondents shared that they had to retract an offer shared earlier.


When it came to performance appraisals and salary increments, 54% organisations mentioned that they had paused giving increments for now and 10% said they were reducing the percentage of increments. Only 18.8% of the total respondents are going ahead with appraisals as planned.


In order to increase their financial runways, organisations have also had to make difficult decisions around salary cuts. 23% of organisations surveyed said that they were reducing the salaries of existing employees, with the senior and middle management facing the brunt of salary reduction for most of these organisations, at least in the initial stage. Organisations that are not reducing salaries, said that their only options were to either try and raise more funds or give employees leave without pay.


The above findings all point to the challenging situations that social sector organizations and leaders find themselves in. Some key recommendations for these times of crisis based on Arthan's experience in HR for the social impact sector are:


◆ Prioritize recruitment needs based on necessity, function, work arrangement, and location


◆ Analyze program functions that are no longer needed and those which will have to be adjusted, as well as assess what new functions will arise in this new climate


◆ Identify employees who can take on cross-functional roles, and who are comfortable with ambiguity and experimentation and leverage their skills.


◆ Look for candidates who have worked successfully in virtual environments in the past or upskill current employees on the same


The social sector has always played a vital role in tackling some of the most challenging problems facing the country and the world. In these times of crisis, it is critical for organisations to find the best possible strategies to rethink, reinvent and realign themselves to the new demands that face us so that we can continue creating positive impact through our programs and continue to solve.

Arthan is a social enterprise dedicated to transforming human capital in the social impact sector in India. We work with organizations in the impact sector and help them with hiring, building HR policies & processes and organizational development; building their capacity in the human capital domain. Since our inception in 2016, we have worked with 701 social impact organisations (112 through HR Consultancy and 589 through online tech solution), and 70,000+ job seekers across levels, sectors and geographies.


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