The Covid-19 pandemic is going to be a game changer to corporate existence. The unprecedented movement control or lockdown enforced by governments worldwide has altered the very basic nature of work culture. Historically, the intangible services of Human Resources have struggled to find their place amidst the concrete results of marketing, sales, accounts and design amongst others. Even though HR has evolved and has more power on the board table, to a great extent it is still seen as a cost centre rather than a real value-add. It is hard to understand the logic since people are the ones who turn the vision of the company into reality anyway; but that’s a different discourse.
With cessation of movement and lock-down becoming perhaps the precursor to greater disruption, key industry sectors have been badly hit. The airlines have been grounded; the retail sector counting serious dip in business which directly will yield a domino effect on real estate, the hospitality industry is currently struggling and indeed the rest of the economic sectors. This is already having a negative multiplier effect on the economy that will soon impact both local and foreign investment and market equity.
But where do HR executives and leaders fit in all this?
1. Provision of sound, unparalleled guidance in matters of industrial relations.
Undoubtedly, the collapse of key sectors of the economy will give rise to massive unemployment. This means that HR leaders will be busy managing retrenchments and lay-offs over the next 12 months. It will also mean a surge in demand for industrial relations experts to assist companies in facilitating the process. HR expertise is probably the most sought-after service during times of economic crisis where companies initiate retrenchments and reorganisations.
2. Rethinking key HR functions to drive the rising virtual business demand.
Even after movement cessations are lifted, we are likely going to continue applying precautionary measures such as social distancing, wearing safety masks and sanitation and therefore creating a new norm for society to adjust. More people are turning to online modes of business transaction, hence pushing organisations to take online business models more seriously
This creates a HR expertise demand to lead in designing and implementation of new marketing strategies needed to exploit the virtual market business model. New talent capabilities will be needed to drive this frontier successfully. With this shift in business model, HR will also be key in identifying new performance measurements, leadership behaviours and reskilling, for the organisation’s that leverages mainly on the virtual business model to succeed.
3. Novel policy designs and work culture adjustments to help organisations transition to the future workplace/space.
Could ”work from home” culture become a norm in corporate Kenya? I believe it has a considerable chance. Employers may find this practice more productive.
Nonetheless, a more structured policy is required for allowing employees to work from home and HR will be at the forefront. Companies may also need to introduce new benefits for employees who work from home such as claimable Wi-Fi, home office allowance, among others. which are only possible within the confines of well-structured policies.
4.Redesigning and adjusting business models to help organisations survive transition and thrive.
Companies that will succumb to this pandemic will have to restructure their organisations to stay nimble; Azlan Ismail; Managing Director at Setia Prima Group, 2020. With massive lay-offs behind them, these companies require new business models to start afresh. The models will need complementary organisational set ups and competent talents to drive the new strategies. Again, HR will be at the forefront to initiate the groundwork and ultimately take responsibility for the restructuring process.
5. Reinvigorating HR to drive performance culture for tomorrow's enterprise sustainability, today.
The current tidal wave of change positions the HR to transform, lead the employee experience and drive the shape of the workforce that will lead the business to where it needs to go next. However, today’s HR is facing unprecedented change. The digital revolution continues to accelerate and expand at an astonishing pace, business leaders are grappling with emerging technologies, there is a heightened expectation for personal experiences, and dynamic competitors are threatening future viability, according to KPMG Global survey “The Future of HR 2020”.
Incorporating technology, analytics, automation of routines and artificial intelligence among others for ease, effectiveness and efficiency in getting work done have certainly become key for HR. As the changing nature and typology of work continue to change, organisations must reconsider how they design jobs, organise work, and plan for future growth. HR has this opportunity to help in gaining the capabilities and the cultural readiness to fail fast but learn faster and continuously innovate new solutions. This is to master a new mind-set to drive the value that enterprises will require.
The writer is People and Organization Development Professional and Head of Business Strategy, Blue Concepts Africa Ltd., Kenya.