is it time for an HR strategy reset?

Sherisa Rajah Baird, Director, Fasken, South Africa

This article was first published in 2020 in the Entrepreneurial Mindset Network eZINE Volume 3 no 2 

Sherisa Rajah is an employment lawyer and Partner at international law firm, Fasken. She works with clients in the Middle East and Africa, is actively engaged in legal incubation & acceleration of entrepreneurs, and advises clients on the future of work.  In this article she discusses how businesses will need to reset their HR strategy in response to COVID19….

Covid19 has raised many important questions for employers and employees, including:

  • How do we deal with the lockdown? 
  • Do we place people on leave? 
  • Do we lay them off? 
  • Do we place them on short time? 
  • How do we remunerate people if their contracts of employment and our incentive schemes have not been terminated? 
  • If employees are working remotely, how do we manage performance?  
  • If employees were due to be disciplined, could the process continue remotely?
  • How should we adapt and/or adopt technology to augment business.

Image credit: Pixabay

The need for an HR Strategy Reset

The answers to these questions require a change in HR strategy, a reset of human resources and employer/employee relations. The priorities will be dealing with urgent change, risk and emergency management. This in turn will determine how we deal with people, planning and profit in the future. 

The employer needs to devise a plan to cope through, and beyond, the Covid19 crisis. This raises two aspects -  the correct attitude and the use of real time intelligence. 

The correct attitude requires a resolution vision – the focus is on what the employer will look like after Covid19. 

“Real time intelligence” means the employer needs to create shorter feedback loops with employees, using this two way communciation to effect a culture of change and the ability to pivot.  In effect, it means becoming a learning organisation.

Remote working and the new state of trust and faith 

Once the crisis ends, employees will return with an understanding of the employer’s capacity and appetite to work remotely. The expectation will be for this to continue post-lockdown. We need to instil in managers now the skills they need to manage remote workers, to adopt and adapt the platforms for remote work and to look at the tools of the trade to support remote work. 

Investing in people 

It is clear that reduced consumer spend will adversely impact the employer’s business. This in turn impacts how the employer invests in its people development strategy. A critical point is that employers need to adopt the best fit for their business rather than the best market practice. This requires an “outside in” approach. Organisations need to look at extraneous factors including market conditions and “adopt in” what will be best to build an employee value proposition. 

Creating buy-in and resilience

There is a real need to create the capacity in employees to invest in the new business model and acquire a growth mindset around change. 

This will result in employee relations strategies which will manage employee liability as follows: 

  • Employees need to be taught how to manage stress. 

  • Financial and emotional stress from the lockdown and future changes have an adverse impact on workplace morale. 

  • If this is not addressed proactively this will impact performance and team synergies. 

  • Importantly, we need to invest in building resilience amongst employees. 

Re-skilling and up-skilling 

If  automation is adopted, it will  likely result in redundancy for employees. This is a simplistic answer and may happen over time. Employers can also look to outsourced models - functional outsourcing and procurement of products alone. At this juncture they need to commit to re-skilling or up-skilling waged employees to protect the economy. 

There are tough times ahead but everyone can work together with employees and organised labour through and beyond the crisis. ◼️