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A business psychologist’s advice to HR managers during COVID-19

6 Mins

If you’re an HR manager anywhere in the world, chances are the last few weeks have been exhausting.

Between guiding employees and management through the steps required to reduce the spread of this virus, while managing and implementing policies regarding flexible and remote working, HR managers have been in firefighting mode.

Over the past decade, HR has transformed and has gained a place on the corporate agenda and in the boardroom. In the past, it would have been unthinkable that HR could be anything but a cost centre, but today, HR has the ability to affect the bottom line through employee and talent management, and through helping to overcome people and performance challenges.

Getting back to strategic business initiatives may seem daunting when your core assets (your people) have all left the building, but it is possible. Here’s how you can empower your company and positively engage, develop and retain your people to make sure organisational goals are met.

Unusual business, or business as usual?

As an HR manager, it’s likely you’ve been so busy that you can’t fathom anyone else not firing on all cylinders right now, but it’s important to realise that some employees may feel very disengaged during this difficult time.

HR managers need to be completely focused on bringing normality to this highly unusual situation. Making sure that each employee has access to the right tools and establishing a clear plan will help everyone stay motivated and focused. This has to go beyond agreeing on a consistent video conferencing software, or protocol surrounding checking in for remote workers.

Employees also need to realise that career progression need not be put on hold during this crisis, and this includes senior management.

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of HR managers to establish better people management practices through company managers. HR managers are best placed to educate and upskill managers, as they can create a ripple effect through the organisation, encouraging better leadership and spreading the importance of being human and approachable.

If you have dedicated performance management programmes in place, they should not be abandoned. As the dust settles on this time of upheaval, begin to communicate with employees about your plans to check in on their continued performance management, and career and organisational goals.

If you haven’t already defined objectives, it’s a great time to get aligned with the SMARTER strategy, where objectives should be:

• S Specific/Stretching

• M Measurable

• A Achievable, Agreed

• R Relevant

• T Timed

• E Engaging

• R Reviewable

Dust off your technology

Many organisations have invested heavily in performance management and employee engagement platforms, which are often cloud-based applications that feature both employee and HR manager functionality.

This isn’t the time to let that technical investment go to waste. In line with getting in touch with your teams to discuss individual and organisational goals, HR managers should also be looking to their technology to break objectives down into milestones and actions with daily or weekly deliverables. This level of granularity is even more important with remote workforces, as it fuels frequent communication and checkpoints.

If you have the technology to support this type of performance management, now is the time to really become dedicated to using it to capture objectives and outcomes. It will help you remain on track, and your employees stay motivated.

Define new organisational goals

Remote working and the current atmosphere of business survival and continuity have been the most frequent and obvious response to the COVID-19 crisis, but this need not be the only thing to come out of this catastrophe.

As a business, what if you made it your goal to emerge stronger, better and even more profitable? What if your employees could become even more productive, and happier?

What some businesses are finding is that some of the ‘forced’ operational models and technology they’ve put in place have their upsides and that overall, the prospect of prosperity is not unrealistic.

From an HR point of view, your goals may be to achieve a higher level of completed appraisals or to advance your succession planning programme. As an organisation, your company may want to achieve new levels of investment or profit, and this could work hand in hand with employees embarking on new online training programmes.

Now is the time for company-employee trust, which will likely be paid back in loyalty later. Over the coming weeks and months, we will continue to chart unprecedented times, but at all times, recognise that HR’s role in this crisis is critical.

You’ve got the skills to deliver strategic value in your organisation and to empower a culture of growth and resilience. Now more than ever, it’s time to focus on recognising, retaining and growing talent.

Keep calm, think big, and be good to yourself along the way: you’ve got this.

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