The HR Challenges In New Normal
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The HR Challenges in New Normal

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HR jobs are becoming challenging as the work dynamics  are  changing.  The processes  of Industries  have  improved,  machines  have advanced  over  the  years,  however, the  basic principles remain the same. In contrast, The HR is dealing with people who are constantly changing in terms of  behaviour, habits, thinking or as per the circumstances, be it personal or professional. This makes it more difficult because, while dealing with people understanding them, their state of mind is more important when communicating to them.

Talking to people one on one wherein a HR Personnel could view the body language, expressions  of   the  employee  etc  was  helpuful during communication, however, with the pandemic situation  where the workforce  is  mostly  working remotely from home it  makes the situation a  bit more complicated.

The HR Challenges in New Normal
The turn of  events during the pandemic has not been very encouraging for Industries  and with the business being slow and layoffs across the world brings in fresh HR challenges. Some may say, it is rather easier to communicate without having any feelings attached. However, the impact it has on the employee  and his  family  is  immense  is  immense. No wonder we see a lot of depression cases on the rise and few leading to grave consequences. HR known for  empathetic  attitude,  understanding nature, offering solace & support to the employees, is  no  more than  a  robot, delivering  messages without any feelings over phone, zoom or whatsapp based on the decision taken by the Company.

A rather new dimension of HR is coming to the fore, where, a change in strategy is required do things in the new normal. We may never go back to the old ways of  working and there will  be a mix of  both Office and work from home. The challenges which the HR faces now are as follows:

1. Managing a workforce spread  across geographies:  The HR till  recently were managing the workforce  across  geographies  through officeculture,  however, this  has  changed with  the pandemic across the world. Many organisations especially IT  based organisation have allowed the employees  to work from  home. The same is  the case  of  other sectors as  well for  people working from  Corporate or Regional  Offices  barring  the Plant which requires people to attend duty. Hence, due  to this  recent trend most are  preferring  to relocate to their home town which not only makes them feel safe but also helps them in taking care of their old parents, escape from the hustle bustle of city  life,  save  on  rent etc.  However, managing workforce spread across regions and geographies with limited or no control is a new way of managing people. The HR professionals have upgrade themselves with the best technology which will help in  managing  the  workforce  remotely  depending upon the organisation.

2. Compensation Management: The Compensation Management is a critical part in HR. Employees apart from the standard compensation are also provided with certain allowances which are based on location, cost of living etc. With the movement of people from offices to remote working the compensation management has to be reworked. The fixed  compensation,  variable compensation, special/project allowance etc are to be re-aligned to the changed circumstances. At the same time,  the compensation  components would also undergo change which may become irrelevant such as Petrol Allowance, Uniform Allowance, Transport Allowance and others may get replaced with Internet & Telephone Allowance, Remote Office expenses etc.

3. HR Policies: The HR policies are to be reviewed and amended considering prevailing circumstances and based on the future work strategies which their companies/firms  may adopt or will   adopt going forward. For IT  companies it  is clear that on an average about 30-50% of  their  workforce  would now be working remotely if  not more. Few companies such as  Google have also rolled out allowance for purchase of Desks, keyboards, mouse etc and there are others having Technology allowance,   furniture   allowance,   Telephone   & Internet   broadband allowance  for  employees.  It should not come as a surprise if sooner or later the Government  may also come out with certain tax relaxation on such allowances if the pandemic lasts long.

4. Contract Management:  It is also expected that HR would also have to change the standard format of the offer/appointment letter with terms and conditions  of  work from  home. This  may encompass clarity on aspects of work such as dual employment  during  WFH, attendance, leaves, travel, Termination clause etc as this is critical to avoid litigation in future.

5. Reward & Recognition Programs:  The reward and  recognition  program policy  will   have  to be worked out differently.  The feeling  of  being rewarded before  ones  colleagues  in  town hall meetings, conference rooms have become redundant and the same feeling cannot be replaced or generated online. The HR will have to think out of the box to recognise the Talent and in assessing the Individual for reward  & recognition programme. The reward going forward can range from a family Pizza  party to gifting  Netflix  subscription  or any other ways such as  providing  vacation  to a  hill station a drive away from their location or may be PS4/Xbox game CDs etc. The motivating factors of being recognised among the herd will  be missing but the HR can capitalise on the feeling of making the employees  proud before  their family  members recognising their efforts. This will not only create a win-win for employees but also for the Company.

6. Association & Belongingness: Another challenge which HR faces is a sense  of belongingness and association with the Company. How often we felt a part of the company or a group, when we wore the company provided uniform and attended the Office, spent some quality time over a cup of coffee or tea knowing each other apart from working together. The sense  of  association & belongingness which the company uniform or physical presence in office has would be difficult to overcome. Human being tends to associate themselves and develop closeness; hence, the biggest  task  would  be  for  HR to  bring  in  the cohesiveness, bonding, sense of pride working witha  particular  brand when employees  are  working remotely.

7.  Communication:  The HR communication  is another challenge wherein the emails, phone calls, messages play an important part. However, it would be relatively easier to send messages across to the large number of employee’s through group mailers or messages. The situation  gets difficult when the employee communicates to HR in a remote environment.  With  so  many employees  working remotely or in a mixed environment sending messages, emails to resolve their queries, it becomes difficult for HR to respond to all of them. Sometimes,  few  mails  or communication  to  the employee gets missed. Earlier, during office it was easier to sort out things when one could directly walk up to HR and get the issues  sorted out, the same  was applicable,  wherein,  the HR used  to resolve issues upfront.

8. Performance  Management:  Another  complex phenomena and highly debated topic is Performance Management of employees. When people worked from Office right under the nose of their bosses, they had complaints about the assessment.  Imagine the situation of  assessment remotely, though it has its own pros and cons. The essence would be to ensure that the KRAs/KPIs are to be properly drafted by the reporting Officer, the performance are to be measured based on outcomes. The employees  can now be provided feedback  over video calls which  can be recorded, as compared to the earlier practice where, some of the Managers escaped providing feedback and filled the form and submitted it to the Management. The technological tools can be utilised for Performance Assessment.

9. Training  & Development: The challenge which HR faces  is  to ensure that the employee  stays relevant to their jobs. The HR should utilise the free Webinar and provide some certificate programme which the employee should be able to complete online. The employees should be encouraged to participate in programs on their free will other than the business programmes which may develop their skills   such  as   learning   new  languages,   newprogramming codes, further studies etc.

10. Talent  Acquisition,  Management  & Retention: Another  important  challenge  which  is the HR faces is in the area of  Recruitment, Management & Retention. The employees working remotely may not switch easily which was not the the case earlier as employee relocated from Tier- III/II   to Tier-I  city  for  more jobs,  growth, better schooling, medical facilities etc.. Now, the jobs have moved to their home and it will be harder to poach candidates who are already settled with a work from home option. Equally the retention of  employees would  also  be challenging  and research needs to be done what extra benefit  a Company can offer that the others can’t. More than the compensation the major  attraction  during  remote work possibly could be perks such as Mediclaim facilities including parents, Mobile & Internet Reimbursements,  work culture  where companies trusts their employee and are more output oriented rather than monitoring activities on the go through various software’s etc.

11. Employee Connect & Engagement: One more important aspect will be the employee connect and engagement. HR would have to make a conscious effort to actually touch base with employees and understand the issue being raised by them. Empathetically listen to them over phone, give them solutions and suggestion. Also they need to conduct regular activities to keep the team motivated and associated through monthly birthday celebrations virtually, make them participate in online  team gaming  activities,  sending  gifts  and cards through online  portals  such as  Amazon  or Flipkart to the employees on their birthdays and anniversaries etc.