As companies around the world scrambled to pivot in response to the pandemic, one department that emerged as a largely unsung hero is HR. 

Typically tasked with back-office or support operations (with the occasional seat at the table), HR professionals played an important role in implementing the drastic and unprecedented changes of 2020. This included transitioning an entire workforce to WFH almost overnight, with all its operational psychological implications.

Over the next few months, as organisations looked down the barrel of a potential economic downswing and damage to business continuity, HR departments provided the support and infrastructure that employees needed to stay productive and bring their best selves to work – even if that work happened in a virtual space. 

For these reasons, 95 per cent of CHROs agree that HR played a leading role in their organisation’s response to COVID-19. As an ally during the period of challenge and change, HR’s role spread across facilitating business continuity in the early months, gauging employee sentiment and therefore the ideal organisational response, and intervening with the right technology at the right moments. 

The business continuity imperative

The early months of the pandemic were arguably the hardest, given the uncertainty ahead of us and the fact that several employees were unfamiliar with the dynamics of remote work. EngageRocket’s Employee Experience Transformation Survey revealed that 78 per cent of respondents felt more productive working at home this past year, compared to 57 per cent in April 2020. 

Slack’s report on Remote work in the age of COVID-19 revealed that experienced remote workers experienced a stronger sense of belonging (+20 per cent). HR deployed regular communication, change management strategies, and agile technology implementation to bridge this gap. 

Our own research has also found that 80 per cent of employees in the APAC region were confident about their company’s future. In the coming months, employers must build on this trust and confidence that their workforces have displayed and lay the foundations for an even stronger rebound. 

Also Read: PropertyGuru promotes Genevieve Godwin to Chief Human Resources Officer

Renewed focus on the voice of the employee

One of the key focus areas that emerged was the Voice of the Employee (VoE). Like Voice of the Customer in the sales and marketing world, listening to employees in the workplace seeks to capture genuine employee sentiment and intent in order to plan more effective and targeted organisational strategies.

This is a critical requirement in 2020-2021, as organisations must maintain engagement and drive productivity, all the while optimising available budgets. Employee listening gives you essential insights so you can pivot towards more lean HR practices without any compromise on impact.

Market data and analysing historical records don’t always surface these more hidden insights, which is why continuous employee listening is so important. 

There are several ways to achieve this, from the old-school suggestion box reinvented in a virtual avatar, to more sophisticated tools like running sentiment analysis on the unstructured employee feedback you receive. 

Purpose-built technology to solve unprecedented challenges

This was among the major determining factors for organisational continuity and success in 2020. Digital transformation could no longer be relegated to the back burner, and HR helped to bring about transformations until the very last mile. 

There were three major impact areas: 

  • Self-paced learning solutions to continue skill development – Employee upskilling cannot come to a standstill during a crisis – in fact, it was advisable that teams used idle time and any freed-up business hours to elevate their skillsets, helping to hit the ground running in the rebound. KPMG found that over 3 in 10 employees would need to be reskilled after the pandemic, particularly in vulnerable sectors like governments, education, and hospitality. Self-paced online learning tools help to accommodate restructured productivity schedules with upskilling ambitions. 
  • Collaboration tools to maintain interconnectedness and engagement – This was among the first action items tackled by HR in collaboration with IT and middle management. KPMG’s research also found that 53% of HR departments have invested in new collaboration tools to support remote working. Not only is this central for productivity, but cloud-based collaboration and communication was an essential lifeline for many, as we faced extended and repeated lockdowns. 
  • HR data solutions to drive organisational decisions – The ability to access and analyse HR data proved to be a key differentiator in 2020. In addition to VoE insights as mentioned, HR must regularly check on the impact of different employee initiatives, the state of eNPS (Employer Net Promoter Score), and performance indices across milestones like the first month of WFH, first-quarter post-lockdown, etc.

An employee listening strategy

A lot has been written about the art of employee listening as one of the most effective crisis management strategies you could adopt as an organisation. It allows you to glean insights on work arrangements, wellbeing, support (or the lack thereof), business results, and HR policies and their impacts.

Also read: How can you build an employee-first company?

While employee listening was applied as part of HR’s reaction to the pandemic and its consequent response, in the following months, it can help to say a step ahead of workforce expectations even amid more unprecedented changes.

An employee listening strategy uses rapid-outcomes tactics such as pulse surveys, to understand the employee experience and purposefully involve your workforce in decision-making. 

Undoubtedly, HR professionals have done an incredible job so far, facilitating digital transformation at a scale requirement that was once thought insurmountable and easing change as much as possible.

Yet, there is a challenging road ahead, with Gartner’s December 2020 HR survey suggesting that 90 per cent of organisations plan on permanent WFH even when vaccination is possible and a new era of skill demands.

A close ear to the ground – listening in on your “Voice of the Employee” regularly and adapting on time – is crucial to success as we navigate the rebound and come out on the winning side. 

Editor’s note: e27 aims to foster thought leadership by publishing contributions from the community. This season we are seeking op-eds, analysis and articles on food tech and sustainability. Share your opinion and earn a byline by submitting a post.

Join our e27 Telegram group, FB community or like the e27 Facebook page


The post Voice of Employees: How the pandemic accelerated focus on employee welfare appeared first on e27.

content first appear on e27

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.