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The impact of COVID-19 on today’s workforce has completely changed the way companies operate, with many of them fast-tracking actions to stay ahead of this pandemic. In fact, this pandemic has become the greatest accelerator of workplace transformation, changing the topic of debate from what the “future of work” will look like to “today’s new normal” overnight. And by doing so, this pandemic has thrust the role of HR into the spotlight. 

So what has COVID-19 forced us as HR leaders to shift our focus on since the pandemic started? Several topics come into mind: 

Distributed Workforce: 

As COVID-19 has spread across the globe, working from home became the new normal overnight for most companies around the world. There was no preparation. No training or testing. This was a completely disruptive event that no one was prepared for, and we have learned a lot over the past year about what the impact of working from home has had on our people, both positive and negative. This was a perfect testing ground to see how companies can operate in a distributed workforce setup and decide whether it’s something that should continue even after the pandemic is over, or alternatively proving that this is not the right set up for them.

Health & Wellbeing:

Never before has the focus on the health and well-being of your people been more important during this global pandemic. With the adoption of working from home as the new normal, boundaries between work and personal life balance have never been more blurred. And as we live in a more ‘always on’ type of working environment, making sure the right level of support and focus is invested in helping your people’s wellbeing and mental health should be a top priority for any organization. 

Since the start of the pandemic, our data has shown that levels of stress and anxiety have increased significantly. Our people’s sense of belonging at the same time has dropped. People have never felt more disconnected. This can lead to depression, a sense of isolation, loneliness, all of which is not only detrimental to the health of your people, but to the productivity, passion and purpose your people have at your company.

Culture & Values

Given the detrimental effects that this pandemic has had on the workforce from a well-being, belonging and inclusion perspective, now is the time to start anchoring and reminding your people on what your company culture and values are. Having conversations with your employees and getting their input on how the company culture has evolved since the pandemic and what areas a company can improve in to create a stronger sense of belonging is a critically important conversation that is often overlooked or deprioritized. Reminding your employees on why they joined your company and what keeps them motivated to continue to work at your company is a powerful conversation that can lead to tremendously valuable data in how you drive your people strategy to ensure that the retainment of your employees is strong. 

So, what’s next?

Undoubtedly, there will be many more changes that come from the impact of this unprecedented pandemic. Our job as HR leaders is to embrace these changes with a growth mindset, find the silver lining, and continue to push the boundaries of HR to pave the way for what the future of work will look like tomorrow. A future of work where the health and wellbeing of our people come first. A future where we are not afraid to try something new that is in the best interest of your employees, however uncomfortable it makes your leaders. 

So no wonder, our job market has never been stronger. There are more HR job openings than ever, with many companies quickly trying to catch up and hire HR talent as the need for strong HR teams has never been more important. And for the first time it also includes Non-Executive Director (NED) positions big time. 

With such a hot job market out there within our profession, it’s time for HR professionals to choose wisely on whether to leave for a new opportunity or not. Being reactive and making hasty decisions to leave a company is not something anyone would recommend. But it easily happens when you’re trying to create change and shake off the weary feeling this pandemic is leaving. Changing your job to an employer that has just woken up and smelled the HR coffee might not be the smartest move either. Depending on the maturity stage of these companies, perhaps staying and continuing to grow your company’s people strategy and deliver high impact as part of the business strategy is where you should keep doing your HR magic.

To quote David Green, “the pivotal role played by the CHRO in this crisis has been likened to that of the CFO during the Global Financial Crisis”. This is the time that HR leaders around the world need to step up and lead the way.

Enjoy your coffee. It’s never tasted better! 

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