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Changing role of HR during Covid pandemic

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Dinesh Kumaran - Vice President- HR, Aspire Systems

25-Sep-2020

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As contemplation of return to work emerges, the HR function plays an even more crucial role, formulating reintroduction strategies designed to ensure the well-being of employees as they return to work.

The role of HR has now become more dynamic than it ever was. COVID-19 has put to test the resilience of organizations in the face of such a crisis. The need for employees to stay connected and feel engaged has grown now and, in turn, HR teams are faced with the increased responsibility of improving employee morale and helping employees feel secure, instilling in them a sense of belonging with the organization. They should also ensure that employees do not feel anxious about the things happening around them or get overwhelmed by the change in routine, the frequent calls with their team or demands on work-life balance. The responsibility of HR now includes ensuringemployees continue to deliver their best despite challenges by building trust and collaboration. Covid 19 also has highlighted the importance of having leaders who can guide and take care of their teams through tough times like this with the right balance of taking care of people as well as maintaining business continuity.

As contemplation of return to work emerges, the HR function plays an even more crucial role, formulating reintroduction strategies designed to ensure the well-being of employees as theyreturn to work. Several organizations might have to redefine existing initiatives based on these needs. HR should win the employees’ trust through diligent and empathetic communication about all the changes being carried out.

Organizations adopt several processes to enable efficient communication between employees and their managers. At Aspire, we understand that the key to build trust and credibility lies in having open conversations. HR facilitates open communication and createsmultiple channels to build a high-trust environment. There are no precedents for this model and each organization must build its own. However, four simple actions that will help in this method are: Ensuring that we do our best, being open with people, setting expectations clearly and communicating openly.

How can companies help employees create balance between work and home during this unique time of COVID-19?

Six months after the pandemic forced everyone to stay at home, we cannot completely say that working from home is the new normal. We are left with the realization, however, that companies and employees are greatly resilient and can adapt quickly with changing times. While on the one hand, working from home seems to have been an easy shift, for most companies, helping employees understand the need to balance time between work, home and managing things is emerging as a challenge.

Fear of missing out and stories of the bad market situation have made more employees a bit worried about their future. With the need to help employeesmaintain a good work-life balance, managers must resort to different strategies. While working from home, employees may have to attend to other responsibilities that impact their work schedule. So, they can be encouraged to focus more on productivity rather than the hours spent on work. Getting to know about each team member’s style of working and agreeing on work schedules that are mutually satisfying can also be practiced.  Apart from this, everyone should be given the freedom to voice out any of their issues or concerns when needed.

Understanding leaders, easy-to-follow guidelines, dedication to commitment and clear expectations with respect to performance are some of the strategies that can make working from home a success. The role of Managers has become even more significant for which they should equip themselves. HR should support managers by empowering them in this role and equipping them with the required tools

Besides guiding employees to manage their work better, it is also important to help them stay motivated. With conventional methods of boosting employee morale no longer feasible, companies seeking ways to keep employees motivated faced unprecedented challenges post lockdown. Paid time-off, flexible work timings, inhouse and outdoor engagement activities and other such arrangements are no longer meaningful in the context of a work from home world. Adding to this is the fact that working from home for a long period of time results in the blurring of lines between work and life leading to burnout.Balanced freedom with responsibility is one of our core values and in keeping with this, we treat every employee with consideration while setting expectations clearly.

Different companies have adopted varied strategies to support their employees during this period. At Aspire, we understood the need for regular and focused communication as the basis for effective engagement. HR played a key role in initiating several online activities to increase awareness about process changes and help them stay motivated.

The quick changes caused by the pandemic have resulted in anxiety. The need to stay indoors has added to the stress. Companies have realized the need to help employees have fun moments in their busy schedules and have devised ways to help them feel cared for. At Aspire, we have initiated several virtual activities to anchor our employees and instill a sense of belonging. Online consultation with our inhouse counsellor is one such effort. Mind Spa is our mental and emotional wellness initiative that helps our employees manage their emotions better. The number of sessions has increased to once a week and has been extended to employees’ families as well.

Physical fitness is as important as mental well-being. To help all Aspirians continue their fitness routine during the work from home period, we partnered with a third-party fitness provider who conducted online sessions. New workouts were shared every day for our employees to try at home. Zumba classes for the children of Aspirians were arranged, which was also well-received.

Currently, we have arranged for weekly online yoga classes for all our employees globally. A certified trainer conducts the sessions guiding the employees through basics of yoga and breathing techniques.

Inclusive learning is another core principle at Aspire. Amidst various challenges, we have continued to focus on providing the best in terms of learning opportunities for our employees. Our Talent Nurturing team has scheduled trainer-led technical and soft-skill sessions, in addition to promoting self-paced online courses from leading learning platforms.