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COVID-19 is for HR what Y2K was for IT

By Aline Ayoub

The pandemic the world is going through is directly linked to climate change. And while we are recognizing that COVID-19 is a rehearsal for entrepreneurial approaches to climate change, we are heavily impacted by the chaos and rapid changes we are going through. At the same time, the coronavirus brought out human resiliency and ability to act in an emergency. In fact, the latest months clearly demonstrate how we can act and we can change our behaviour quickly.

Impact on the workplace

As human resources experts, my team and I have been blessed with helping businesses navigate through the impact of COVID-19 on their business. Many are telling us how much this pandemic made them understand how valued HR is. More than a third are facing difficulties with company culture, employees’ productivity and leave regulations.

The reality is that many of the problems are not new they are amplified. Many changes businesses are facing have been in the works for being addressed.  What is new is the fact that questions and challenges surfaced in 3D as a result of the pandemic and require immediate attention for businesses to survive.

So many of my clients have been reluctant to allowing their employees working from home, or have been challenging the open office space not utilized and yet so expensive to lease, or have not been willing to create a culture of continual learning, or refusing to partner with other businesses in order to provide a better offering to their clients, or form agile teams to accomplish specific tasks, to cite a few.

The reality brought forward by COVID-19 is that is has accelerated the changes in the workplace way overdue. The question is how to make sure these changes are effectively implemented? While keeping in mind many of these changes can become the norm.

My latest course on the Gains and Losses of COVID-19 in your Workplace,  provides solutions and tools on how to go about adjusting and maintaining a positive outcome in spite of the uncertainty caused by COVID-19.

Back to employer branding

The reality is the way you are handling your employees must change. More importantly, these changes must be maintained. Empathy and communication are traits which cannot be used lightly nor be used temporarily “until-we-get-through-this”.

The financial programs available through the governments must be tailored to each part of your business. Furthermore, decisions around temporary lay-offs, or compressed workweek scheduling, or participation in the Federal work stay program or other, cannot be taken using a cookie-cutter approach. While taking care of the survival of your business, you also need to take care of your people. What this means is that any decision you make has to take into account how you had and will show up as an employer. For example, how you treat your employees on a temporary lay-off will be significant to how you will bounce back after this. Remember that once you get through this, those employees that will return to work will remember how they were treated.

What is working today might not work tomorrow

It is an oxymoron to say how unpredictable the pandemic is. Therefore, you must be ready to reconsider any changes you make today in order to adapt for tomorrow. You need to create a culture where contributing to new ideas is encouraged and welcomed. Attach minimal governance in order to adjust quickly.

Thing about how quickly can you reconfigure your work spaces?  How will you manage those employees reluctant to work from home? How will you instill social distancing? How will you engage your employees to respect these new rules?

How about the hospitality business whereas social distancing will be a challenge and working from home will be minimal?

How will you implement new realities of operations in the future? Such as no more hand shaking?

What is needed here is the implementation of some principles around the return to work. In Canada, one third of workers can work from home and two-third cannot. Baby boomers might be forced to work longer or might fear returning to work. 

What you do today is setting the line for brighter days. You need to care for your employees and support them.  In order to help you get things moving forward, give us a call today at 416-368-0720 or email us at aline@ayoubhr.com