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How COVID-19 is Testing Leadership and HR Adaptability:  3 Considerations

Published on March 20th, 2020

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Dr. Rochelle Haynes

'GigHR' expert, keynote speaker, founder and CEO: Crowd Potential Consulting

One thing that COVID-19 has forced businesses to confront, is their workforce vulnerability in times of upheaval. Let’s face it. Outside the gig economy, remote or contingent work makes up a smaller portion of companies’ labour. But what happens when the atypical must become the norm and, more importantly, when firms’ survival depends on it?!

The rapid spread of the COVID-19 has meant that large portions of the workforce in the UK and other countries may be expected to work remotely. The problem is most company’s HRM practices were designed for physically present full-time employees. Now in the current environment, many business leaders are scrambling to recalibrate their workforce and people management strategies. Firms and leaders that transition smoothly will be those who have addressed 3 key areas:


1. Digital Readiness

Most businesses think digital readiness is buying a bunch of software and offering the required training, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. This is not just a job for the IT department but instead should be a holistic business venture. The leadership team should consult with key stakeholders (e.g. in-house employees, customers, contractors, etc) to design a digital transformation strategy that is integrated, agreed upon, well-funded, and resourced. This should also be easily communicated, and flexible enough to adapt to changes in the business environment.

2. Structural Barriers

Businesses should think of how they can reduce bureaucratic red tape, which often prohibits the implementation of more dynamic approaches to work. In this digital age, pursuing these can still be held up by the need for several signatories on paper-based forms across different departments. This coupled with un-enlightened attitudes around ‘how things should be done’, stagnates decision-making and paves the way forward for more future-focused competitors. In the white paper, The Blended Workforce Revolution (Haynes and Blain, 2020), similar frustrations of progressive corporates and workers who opt to leave such firms are highlighted.


3. Dynamic Communication and Engagement Strategies


For some, remote working can be anxiety-inducing and create feelings of isolation. Firms need to articulate what support they will offer to employees, and how they will keep communication and engagement levels high. This goes beyond ‘management by email’ and can include, but is not limited to, access to certain digital tools (e.g. Slack, Yammer, Trello, Zoom, Hopin…the list goes on) to facilitate teamwork and maintain social interaction with colleagues. For some leaders, sudden and increased dependence on these will require a shift in thinking around trust, security and privacy. If business leaders can’t trust their employees to work when they are not in the office, then it’s time to rethink the organisational culture. It shouldn’t take COVID-19 for organisations to spring into action and think more seriously about more diverse work practices. But one thing is certain about the future of work; it still requires the human touch and more so now than ever before.

For more insights from our 2020 white paper, The Blended Workforce Revolution, and resources on managing your remote workforce, click the following link:

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