The pandemic is almost over and so much in the workplace has changed. Many organizations improvised to face the virtual challenges presented in 2020. Converting what may have been a face-to-face business to a completely or partially virtual business model required ingenuity.
Now, as we emerge from the pandemic and adjust for the post pandemic world, it is time to pause and assess our position. Just as you would check before changing lanes, we need to “look in the rearview mirror” and evaluate our status before the next move.
This exercise should not only provide perspective but may also entail lessons learned and kudos where they are due. Andrew Barnitz, Director of Organizational Change Management at CARA, states that “taking time to reflect on the year that was and recognizing the challenges of the year ahead will be vital to organizational productivity and success in 2021.” Dan Woods, CEO of El Camino Health, adds to remember the value of humble leadership and that “old solutions can’t fix new problems.” We will need to learn from the past and use those lessons learned to invest in the future.
A 2021 Gartner study—surveying Boards of Directors about their organization’s intended future financial commitments—found a majority of those surveyed preferred “increased support and investment in new technology and new business models to drive growth and digitalization.” It appears that organizations intend to invest in IT, not so much for HR. However, to the extent that HR can influence and leverage IT everyone will benefit.
Determine the impact of the pandemic on the business model. How has it changed or how should it change and what effect will that have on HR? Here is where the C-Suite discussions become especially important. If there has been a shift in the business model, then the technologies, business processes,, and HR functions, even roles and responsibilities, must be examined for impact.
Examine your HR technologies. Identify the systems in use for HR functions and those systems that interface with HR systems. If you have done this before, revisit the schemata. Such an analysis identifies possible redundant systems, ones that may be disconnected for present HR needs, new systems and software, as well as any gaps. While this analysis may be long overdue, now is the appropriate time to conduct an HR systems analysis.
The analysis will take some time but working together with IT you can get an accurate picture of the HR system architecture. Remember: some of the ill effects of overlapping or disconnected systems can cause conflicting or inaccurate data. That leads to the next step.
Consider, once you have the HR system schemata, if there is a need for a new HR system. This is an IT investment that will pay for itself. Gartner sites a study indicating IT will receive more monies on average than the HR department, so now is the time for that analysis and investment. Are there legacy systems that should be retired? Are there systems being used for purposes other than those for which they were designed? This analysis may lead to selection of a new HR system. If that is the case, there are cost effective options that are cloud-based, mobile accessible, AI-enabled and offer analytics capabilities. You will need a three or five-year HR systems strategy.
Reflect on the last year, what did and did not work in the virtual environment. Specifically consider the functions of training, benefits, time keeping, hiring, scheduling, performance management, employee relations, payroll, communicating and departures. This session or these sessions can be conducted either face-to-face or virtually now that you have become a virtual expert.
- Examine major HR functions that were performed virtually; what were the results? For this discussion, involve people from every aspect of the organization. In the sessions make sure that there are clear ground rules for attacking the problem and not the people. Honesty and authenticity will be of utmost importance here.
- Gather information about what worked for people by identifying any job aids or alterations people developed. Ask questions to reveal tools/software/processes that would assist them in their jobs.
- Analyze data resulting from the employee-self-service portal and usage data as well as the organization’s social media. If your organization has not already invested in these tools, now is the time.
Examine how HR is communicating virtually; what software and hardware are you using? For instance, did you find yourself relying more upon PC-based groupware such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom, mobile devices and text, chat, or email? How did you communicate organization-wide changes and how did you communicate one-to-one messages? How can you leverage the existing technologies to build out that communication approach? What are the gaps and how will you address them?
Identify how the virtual environment impacted procedures, roles/responsibilities and metrics. For example, if you find your employees working more hours rather than less and you start seeing doctor’s visits and sick days increasing, the correlation should lead to finding ways to curtail the long hours or mitigate the impact. Release time, wellness initiatives, role redefinition or measuring output rather than time on the computer could be necessary changes in procedures and metrics.
Act. Once you have gathered data and performed these analyses, you will have a better understanding of your next steps. Then, take action. The action may involve changes to communication, to systems, to procedures, to metrics for evaluation, to role definitions, etc.
Thank employees who have contributed significantly. It is time to recognize those who went above and beyond to benefit the organization. Find out who those people are. Provide them with kudos in whatever form works for your budget and culture but do it.
Check your rearview mirror. Do the analysis. It will position you for a hopeful and successful future. Then drive forward with confidence.