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Workplace disruption opens new window for HR experts

Covid-19 pandemic-related disruptions have
Covid-19 pandemic-related disruptions have created new opportunities for businesses to adopt new models for growth and survival. PHOTO | COURTESY  

The current 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 amid the concrete results of marketing, sales, accounts and design, among 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 the 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 is counting serious dip in business, which directly will yield a domino effect on real estate, the hospitality industry is struggling as well as 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 come in all these?

1.Provision Of guidance in industrial relations

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Undoubtedly, the collapse of key economic sectors 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 when firms initiate retrenchments and reorganisations.

2.Rethink Key HR Functions to Drive the Virtual Business

Even after the movement cessations are lifted, we will likely continue applying precautionary measures such as social distancing, wearing safety masks and sanitation.

More people are turning to Internet business transactions, pushing organisations to take online business models more seriously

This creates an HR expertise demand to lead the designing and implementation of new marketing strategies to exploit the virtual market business model. New talent capabilities will be needed to drive this frontier successfully. With this shift in the business model, HR will also be key in identifying new performance measurements, leadership behaviours and reskilling, for the organisations that leverage the virtual business model to succeed.

3.Novel Policy designs and work culture adjustments for the future workplace

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 to allow 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 and home office allowance, among others, which only well-structured policies make possible.

4. Redesigning and adjusting business models

Companies will have to restructure their organisations to stay nimble in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic. With massive lay-offs behind them, these companies require new business models to start afresh. The models will require complementary organisational setups 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 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 faces 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 the 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 become crucial in 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 innovate new solutions. This is to master a new mind-set to drive the value that enterprises will require.

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