Article (October-2020)


HR Transformation with Covid

Dazil Fernandez

Designation : -   Principal Consultant

Organization : -  Success Enablers


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"This too shall pass", and the popular saying stands true even in these testing times when an invisible traitor is playing havoc in our lives, keeping us guessing all the while, what next and what next.

On the other side of this catastrophe lies a huge opportunity for HR. An opportunity that will possibly never re-occur in this century. An opportunity that will transform the way the world looks at HR as a mission critical function. An opportunity if utilised to the zilch can prove to be the next biggest metamorphosis that will impact organizational growth and employee 

What is this metamorphosis and how is it going to transform the way organizations are governed? To extrapolate this, let us look at these three factors:

1. The Philosophy

2. The Principles

3. The Practices

HR functions of progressive organization harbour a People philosophy on which the HR framework rests. This is a factor of a) the nature of the business b) size and age of the organization c) its leadership position in the market and d) its Customer value proposition. This is meant for brand building, talent retention and business growth.

HR functions of progressive organizations define and abide by a few core Principles. These are meant to impact decision making, drive culture and aid communication strategies.

HR functions of progressive organizations also follow a discipline of Practices which is meant for the purpose of fair treatment of employees and to build rigor.

Philosophy, Principles and Practices are largely the 3 pillars which ensure HR stays grounded and relevant. When one of these become brittle, HR fails to become a game changer.

The opportunity we are talking about is how HR must transform these 3 pillars with the COVID-19 episode having set its foot in. First, let me outline the transformation that is required in each pillar and then illustrate how they will manifest in real time.

Philosophy: The HR philosophy must be based on the premise that nothing is constant. The Philosophy must be loud enough that people understand this "we are driven by the compass, not the clock". To make this happen the philosophy must espouse the belief that people must be ready to change frequently, change the way they think and change the way they act.

The Principles: A relook at the principles guiding the organization is essential. Can the principles serve as a mirror when the organization is staring at tough times? Can the principles aid in making decisions objectively? Are the principles easily comprehensible right from the board room down to the last employee?

The Practices: From being just frameworks to define the 'HOW' of workplace behaviour, practices must be meant to make people apply the 'HOW NOW' approach. This means you modify your approach to work based on what the organization is going through, be it competition, customer requirements or socio-economic conditions.

The Manifestation:

Employee on-boarding must be revolutionary in nature. Incumbents must be exposed to the challenging side of the business on day 1. On-boarding from 'knowing the organization' must transform to 'exploring the organization'. People must be given a set of tasks to accomplish in the process understand the organization and its culture. Those who turn out with at least an 'above average' accuracy may be successfully inducted and those who don't may be politely let go, that leads us to another transformation which is required in the talent acquisition space which I will address in the next steps. The organization must look to bring in talent who have the prowess to find answers in a VUCA environment. VUCA means - Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.

Talent Acquisition must transform from finding the best fit for a role to finding the best fit for the culture with attributes required in the role. One may not be completely fit for the role she is being hired for, but very fit for the kind of culture prevalent in the organization. Bring in that kind of talent and let the managers do the job of skilling them. Dismantle the terms talent acquisition and call it Talent Identification. Pin this responsibility on the hiring managers. A hiring manager is CEO of his business unit. He handles hiring end-to-end, the HR team will only support with the infrastructure required. This will build in enormous amount of ownership on the managers and they will go all guns blazing to upskill the talent they hire.

Organization Development (OD) initiatives must be unit specific and encourage the concept of 'micro culture's'. A micro culture is a working culture practiced in a particular function of the business which is different from another function, but within the gambit of the defined organization culture. This can be enabled by making the functional heads as sponsors of OD initiatives and HR being a Co-pilot. Let the OD initiatives pass through 3 filters before they can be put to action. A) Will they support business continuity when in time of crisis B) Can they equip front liners to shift focus quickly when strategy is re-aligned and C) Do they safeguard the business interests.

Learning and Development must take a leap and bring in the concept of community learning within the organization. Meaning people with similar learning needs must be grouped together and asked to chart their learning journey. Learning milestones must be defined by people themselves and their co-learners must become accountability partners for each other. The LEARNING KITCHEN a store room of learning resources must be maintained by HR and learners must be left to their own will to choose what they want. People managers must be held accountable for these choices.

Performance Management must evolve. Get rid of quarterly/bi-annual or annual appraisal and push for readiness-based reviews. Managers can appraise people whenever they demonstrate an optimum level of performance, reward them, change the goal posts and move on. Rework on your compensation strategy to aid this structure and encourage this practice.

Dazil Fernandez - Principal Consultant @ Success Enablers, Hyderabad