Who on earth has ever thought of the challenges that 2020 would bring? HR professionals have certainly not imagined the challenges that COVID-19 has dawned on them. The uncertainty has crushed the economy, employees are in stressful situations, and HR professionals are trying their best to keep everything in perspective and aligned. But is it as easy as it sounds?
The sudden shift in work culture has brought new challenges for HR. The top priority for HR professionals is now crisis response and how to keep the employees engaged, provide the right communication channels and tools for remote work, and more.
Let’s discuss the top HR challenges that managers are facing due to the COVID-19 outbreak
1. Mental Health and Wellbeing
The sudden shift in work culture took a toll on overall employee health and wellbeing. Stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues have always been there, and it is no new story. Organizations have always been initiating wellness programs and providing employees with security, health benefits, and flexibility to help them overcome their health issues. But the sudden COVID-19 outbreak has brought the employees’ mental problems in the front seat.
When you have your workers working in an office work environment, you at least understand their pulse and sensitivity, and that helps you immensely to tackle the issues. But employees going remote, communication routes have been significantly compromised, leaving the managers clueless or at least less conscious. In a recent COVID-19 pulse survey, HR professionals across the globe responded health and wellbeing of the workers to be a major concern.
2. Managing Remote Work
The transition to remote work culture is not as seamless as it seems. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, less than 50% of companies had a remote work program. Banks, regulated industries, and many financial services companies did not encourage remote working. Now almost all of them rushing to build remote work strategies.
This has led to many undiscovered problems. HR managers are trying to build seamless routes and strategies to overcome the challenges that it brings. Strategies are no more designed periodically or in advance but in real-time. The focus on employee productivity and engagement has shifted to immediate responses and diagnosis. To provide employees with the right remote working tools and also gather real-time updates from them from time to time to untangle the intricacies and offer support.
Here is a podcast from the thought leader and a mental coach, Shashi kalyanpur on 'Managing mental health of employees working from home.'
3. Lack of Agility
One of the major reasons why HR teams are struggling is due to the lack of agility.
Many HR teams are not designed for agility. And this affecting the HR professional big time. In this crisis, it is critical to respond fast and move quickly. But there are many approvals to take before taking action. This slows down the process of collecting data and take immediate measures that a crisis demands. To become more agile in their approach and re-prioritizing company goals and to have the right communication and alignment among middle management and executives is the need of the hour now.
4. Employee Communication
Communication is another major challenge that is on the priority list. Communication, in itself, is a critical aspect that needs to be taken into account whether or not the workforce is working remotely. Without the right communication channels, it becomes difficult to manage a workforce. The COVID-19 crisis had the HR professionals on toes and kept them looking for the right remote working tools that suit their culture. Though tools like Zoom or Slack are commonly used to meet the needs of the workforce, it certainly is not enough to get everyone on the same page.
More or less the HR teams are doing their best by sharing-
- Updates regarding measures adopted by the organization,
- Updates from business leaders via email or video,
- Links to valuable external information sources,
- Ongoing communication on HR policies related to the crisis,
- And through health talks and training sessions.
Uncertainty can paralyze anyone. The daunting feeling of not knowing what the future holds or what measures to take to sustain organizational operations is a huge challenge. We all are more or less affected by uncertainty. Employees are affected mentally, not knowing what the future holds for them, and the HR teams are struggling to put everything in alignment. To respond to the crisis and develop effective measures and strategies for all.
6. Employee Engagement
The ultimate company goal is the productivity of its employees. It becomes challenging to keep the employees engaged when they are working remotely and that too, in a crisis. The internal communication is compromised, and keeping everyone on the same page becomes tough. With remote working, it is difficult to follow a routine and even except a systematic workflow. When the teams are cross-functional, you have little power to manage them. Not updating them regularly or not arranging meetings/ sessions can impact their morale to a great extent.
Over to you
As you can see, this article is not on the common HR challenges that are related to recruitment, training, and development, performance appraisal, or keeping a balance between the management and employees. It’s on the current crisis that we all are dealing with. If you are an HR professional or manager who is dealing with these challenges, we would be glad to hear from you.
You can write to us in the email below and give us more insights on the HR challenges and what measures you are taking to overcome them. We would love to keep updating our article with the valuable information that you would have and keep the communication thread going for all.