The world is going through a transitional period with the COVID-19 crisis, anxiety and worry about the pandemic is top of mind for everyone. Some of us have already lost jobs and are in shock; most of us live in fear that we may be next. Negative tendencies and thoughts are widespread and it has become a question of survival and not merely of livelihood.
While I look at this from a Human Resources point of view (just like everybody else), these are times of unprecedented uncertainty. We’ve discussed here broad topics such as protectionism and work visas, employee engagement, work from home (WFH) / remote working, talent acquisition and retention in an environment rife with uncertainty but what if there were potential opportunities as well? In every uncertain situation, there exists the possibility of innovation, of blazing new trails and the opportunity to stand the status quo on its head!
Let’s take a couple of minutes to think through the opportunities that this crisis has laid out in front of us;
Openness for remote work, across geographies and borders
Interestingly, this was probably one of the first things that was considered because anyone can see that there is tremendous value to both employees and organisations in remote work. To be fair, it’s not all good. This still has a long way to go in underdeveloped geographies that aren’t ready yet with the infrastructure required to make this work.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs says people are social beings and that ‘Water Cooler’ talk serves a purpose, it fulfils a psychological need to belong. Once people change the way they think and accept work for what it is then maybe the concept of remote work can reach a balance between remote work and work from the office.
Protectionism and changes in work visas
Protectionism continues to emerge with Covid-19 as a catalyst in the process. Countries will now want and need to prioritize their citizens over expats and citizens will be unhappy if that is not the case, which has its own set of repercussions. Protectionism may result in regulations on how work permit/visa quotas are going to be doled out, but this could still only be a temporary measure as governments, smart ones, know that using this period to focus on reskilling and upskilling will result in their citizens being able to do the roles that traditionally have been handed over to expats. So this space is set to change.
From a personal perspective, Human Resources (HR) has had to undergo a major paradigm shift. Where earlier it was difficult to even consider organising a virtual ‘coffee with colleagues’ session or virtual ‘happy hours’, it is now an acceptable mode of getting together with colleagues from across the globe and will potentially become the norm.
In the switch to virtual employee engagement activities, the focus becomes more about inclusivity, participation and actual engagement. This was driven by external factors surrounding the pandemic such as regulatory considerations rather than considerations of cost and/or logistics.
Hiring and interviews
With the advent of authentication online, interviews have become foolproof even without face to face interaction. There is now the possibility of doing away with physical in-person interviews as everyone has become comfortable with the idea of having meetings and discussions online via Zoom, or GoToMeeting or Teams or any of the multitude of options out there.
Increased Demand and Supply of Talent: can we capitalise on this opportunity?
The new normal will evolve and hiring will open up soon, it is simply a matter of time. On the one side, there will be a spike in demand as businesses pick up and find that they are short of people, perhaps because of workforce reduction. Employers will be looking for versatile employees who are agile and willing to adapt to change, creative, purposeful, driven and most importantly, passionate about what they do.
By the same token, there is a large talent pool who have re-evaluated what they are looking for from their companies. How did my employer treat me during this crisis? Was there adequate consideration for employee safety? Did the employer/employee relationship trump the bottom line? How quickly did my employer adapt to this situation? Did the line managers who were dead set against working from home undergo a change of heart? Was I more (or less) productive when working from home …. and several other questions came to the fore. What are my priorities with this rebalancing of perspectives?
The opportunity here is for talent acquisition teams and employment seekers to be agile, flexible and challenge the conventional wisdom when seeking to hire or be hired.
Benefits of WFH
Most companies have incurred huge losses during this pandemic and funds saved on expenses have been channelled towards keeping businesses afloat. However, if the concept of ‘WFH’ takes off on a long term basis then these funds saved on workplace leases, power, cooling, transport, air travel, telephony, parking should be channelled into investment in better remote work infrastructure, allowances for broadband, ergonomic work areas and so much more that enhances productivity.
In this article, we’ve broadly discussed the impact of protectionism, remote workforce enablement, the shift in modes of employee engagement and a whole new hiring/onboarding process. We also discussed the macro and micro level challenges, opportunities and their influence on business dynamics.
In the words of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”
Line in the sand
We are living through those weeks that shape the decades to come. In this new norm, there will be those who adapt and those who perish. The question that remains is “How?” How do you innovate? How do you capitalize in this crisis? And most importantly, how do you emerge stronger?
Are you one of those people who has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and pondering on a way forward? Are you looking to transform your business practices and your workforce for what’s next? Reach out to me via DM and we can continue the conversation 1:1….