The ongoing global pandemic has invaded nearly every aspect of our lives. Perhaps most notable is the way in which COVID-19 has reshaped the working world. No matter what your industry, chances are it looks starkly different now as compared to the pre-COVID era. Forbes contributor Susan Galer of SAP frames the transformation of the working world as an opportunity rather than a loss. In a recent article, she explains that this opportunity for positive change begins with HR leaders, and she discusses the four biggest areas for change as we head into 2021.
Number one, reports Galer, will be a major shift from collaborative work to individual accountability, according to entrepreneur and podcaster Laurie Ruettimann. It is no longer feasible for colleagues to gather around a conference table and work together to tackle issues and projects. Rather, many people are working alone from their respective home offices. Ruettimann explains that HR measures, such as promotions and performance plans, must reflect this shift and focus more on individual productivity, accountability, and leadership.
Reaching Your People
Another shift is taking shape with the conversion to individualized work: the need to keep employees connected to each other and to their leaders. Galer reminds readers that doing so boosts employee resilience and retention. It also centers diversity and inclusion because, by reaching out to your employees and providing ample opportunities for them to connect with one another (and with you), you are making yourself approachable and giving everyone a seat at the table. Galer shares an example of a health care organization in LA that saw a significant uptick in attendance to its employee town hall meetings once they began holding them virtually. More people were able to attend, and more people shared their professional needs and goals, which resulted in more flexible schedules for employees with familial obligations and increased check-ins with managers. Now more than ever, people want to connect with their colleagues and leaders, so it is important for HR practices to facilitate that.
Ditch Hero Behavior
In this area for change, Ruettimann addresses HR professionals directly, stating that they need to abandon “hero behavior.” This, she explains, leads to higher levels of burnout, not only among those working in HR but also among the company as a whole. If HR is overburdened and depleted, it cannot show up for the rest of the workforce. Especially during a time characterized by so much uncertainty and concern, HR must not forget that they, too, are employees who must take care of themselves before taking on any “fixing” of the greater employee experience.
This pandemic has given many of us a glimpse into our colleagues’ personal lives. Ruettimann believes that HR should, when possible, use this information for the greater good. For example, the increased pressure on working women with families to juggle their jobs and their children’s distanced learning has resulted in many of them leaving the workforce altogether. Her hope is that, now that the people at the top are experiencing these pressures, perhaps something will be done about it, and solutions can be implemented throughout the organization, for everyone’s benefit. A step in the right direction, she says, is for HR to approach workplace matters from a place of increased compassion. They know employees are stressed because they themselves are likely stressed, too – which, Ruettimann says, gives them “the opportunity to be the change they want in their lives.”
So, as we (finally) head into a new year, HR should set the example for what post-pandemic work should bring to the forefront: (1) individual accountability, (2) staying connected despite continued social distancing, (3) taking care of ourselves before trying to show up for others, and (4) sensitivity to each employee’s household/family setting. You can read Galer’s full Forbes article here.