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By Antoinette (Toni) Ford

Many of us may recall the legendary tale from days of olde, when the young Arthur was the only human capable of pulling “Excalibur”, the famous magical sword, out of the stone, and thereby proving his rightful sovereignty of England as King Arthur.  Although this tale may be exaggerated in what human resource professionals may be challenged to do in today’s era, our role as Employee Champion and Strategic Plan Partner to the organization cannot help but represent an arduous task.

The COVID-19 Pandemic has caused havoc all over the world and has impacted countries, organizations, and social networks, including family and friends.  For HR professionals and business partners, many of us are still in the “soup” of figuring out how to deal with employees working from home, talent acquisition, and keeping the workforce engaged and productive.  A bigger hurdle may be looming in front of us. One we haven’t had the time or energy to think and plan for yet. Once the pandemic has passed, what plans have been made to re-adjust and adapt our people, processes, and plans to accommodate the new way business most probably will be done?  What are the trends, predictions, and issues we can start planning for today?

Human Resources has never been needed more within organizations than today and in the very near future.  We can ignore the future by dealing only with what’s in front of us today, or we can begin the planning process for the future.  While it is true that no one has a crystal ball (at least that I know of), our focus here will be on three of the key areas that can help us plan strategically for the organization while being an Employee Champion. They include:

  1. Culture Fit: Identifying if the Culture of your organization needs to reflect the new realities of the workplace.  How critical is agility and the ability to reimagine how work will be planned, communicated, performed, and evaluated? Lots of long, sometimes tedious hours are put into developing the Vision, Mission, and Values of an organization.  Our culture is defined as what people say, what actions they take, and how things get done.  If your Culture now doesn’t fit, it won’t fit the future either!
  2. Well Being: For some employers, employees are the necessary “evil” to achieve profitability.  There is ‘lip service’ to their value, but only as it relates as a means to an end.  If that sounds a little cynical, think about all the ways employees are often impacted by mergers, acquisitions, right-sizing, IPO’s, lay-offs, and the impact of technology including Artificial Intelligence (AI). New hiring patterns include contingency hiring to maintain flexibility in the workforce. Analyst Brian Kroop, from the Gartner Organization, predicts that “32% of organizations are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers as a cost-saving measure.” Some predicted new models also include talent sharing and 80% pay for 80% work.  Successful organizations recognize that it won’t be business as usual, just because the pandemic has ended. Where are people who work for organizations caught up in this unsettling time?  People don’t come to work as an arm or a leg, they are whole people who will be dealing with both physical, financial, and emotional issues.  Consider how you can utilize grief counseling techniques to help heal the repercussions this can bring to the workplace.  Whether it’s seeking professional guidance or creating awareness of the Grief Process by people like Elizabeth Kubler Ross, now is the time to plan for how to assist people with depression in the aftermath of the pandemic, and how to overcome the isolation of working remotely. Investigate ways to generate transferability of skills and virtual focus groups to keep the communication lines open. By working with the senior management team to represent the connection between employee well-being and work productivity, it will greatly enhance profitability and the retention of key talent.
  3. Understanding Critical Skills and Roles:  In many organizations, the work that is expected to be performed is described as a person’s job.  This creates a parameter around what specific role they are expected to perform.  In the Post-Pandemic world, employers would do well to focus on how the workflow will be accomplished and what essential capabilities and skills are crucial.  It can begin by identifying skills that may be different and distinct from what their previous job description or role included. In conjunction with re-creating the traditional career path for people, organizations should encourage, adapt, and design programs and educational learning that will broaden the skills they need to meet the new work reality. Agility, reimagining, and fostering talent can reap big rewards.

None of us can accurately predict what the future holds, but one thing we can count on is that if we begin thinking and designing plans now, even though we may have to tweak them in the future, we will be more prepared to remove the obstacles and pull our version of Excalibur sword from the rock to claim our rightful reputation as a true Human Resource Business Partner.

Author:  Toni Ford, MS Administration, is a facilitator and human resources consultant for the Institute of Organization Development and has worked nationally and internationally supporting CEOs, Sr. Leadership, and teams in her role as a senior leader HR Business Partner/OD Director.

The HR Business Partner (HRPB) Certification Program is a life-changing course that will provide participants with key insights, tools, real-life experiences and skills that will advance your trust, value and respect within your organization.  For more information, www.instituteod.com