As the COVID-19 pandemic drastically disrupted work environments, the first priority was crisis response: putting in place new health and safety measures, ensuring essential services, and establishing a rapid virtualization of work and education.

Indeed, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations may have felt as if they were being propelled forward in time at an accelerated rate. As they stress-tested their ability to blend people and technology, they were fast-forwarding into the future of work.

And yet, a strong undercurrent of hope ran amid the tragedy and uncertainty. Individuals and communities responded with empathy and strength. Organizations—despite many staring down the barrel of layoffs, furloughs and shutdowns—took quick action to protect their workers’ health and safety, establish essential services, and deploy workforce strategies to support workers in real-time. And ecosystems banded together to leverage their collective and complementary capabilities to effect meaningful change. The social enterprise went to work.

But while moments of crisis can lead to heroic and unprecedented actions, the sustainability of those actions is where the true path towards recovery will begin. That path must be paved not only with good intentions but also with meaningful change. In a post-COVID world, purpose, potential, perspective, and possibility are no longer future-focused aspirations, but the reality of the here and now. Organizations face a choice between returning to a world that is just an enhanced version of yesterday or building one that is a sustainable version of tomorrow. The risk is more than that of falling behind—it is the possibility of never catching up at all.

Now, as most companies are on the road to recovery, focusing on reopening and/or restoring the workplace effectively, efficiently and, most importantly, safely, they are facing the challenge of the “unknown unknowns”. From changes in the social contract, to macroeconomic impacts, to local health ordinances, to individual employee preferences or fears of populated work environments—these considerations make the challenge seem more like quantum physics than a simple decision calculus.

In this context of uncertainty, the COVID-19 pandemic has struck hard at the heart of our companies, affecting the way Human Resources (HR) departments operate. To enter this road to recovery together, Deloitte Luxembourg invited HR professionals from different industries to join their first digital HR round table “Anticipating a safe way back to work after containment and beyond”. The HR lab was a unique opportunity to exchange information about the current situation, visions for the future business outlook, and best practices for HR executives in an interactive session.

On the agenda were topics like “planning a safe comeback to the workplace after the containment”, “how to restore employee confidence”, and “anticipating the dimensions to address once the decontainment is achieved”.

In all this uncertainty, a conviction that all participants shared was that this pandemic is not a clean break. It is not comparable to a typical natural disaster, such as a storm that allows you to start rebuilding as soon as it has passed. It is the potentially ongoing nature of this situation that makes it so unique. Recovery does not mean a return to normal; instead, it is a transition period to something new.

“How can we be connected if we are afraid to come closer? What is the benefit of going back to the office if people still feel confined there, as they have to respect social distancing, wear masks and cannot gather to work together?” one HR leader argued.

This period puts tremendous stress on businesses and HR leaders. Being agile and able to do things quickly while creating some degree of stability will be essential. Nevertheless, the Chief People Officer of a leading European IT solutions and services group has observed a performance increase in her company since the pandemic began and all employees worked from home. Also, another HR manager from the telecommunications industry had positive news to share: “We have already conducted two employee surveys since March to understand how our people are feeling. The result shows that they are very positive, and the majority feel very comfortable working remotely.”

Although we still find ourselves in an uncertain present and are still coming to terms with an uncertain future, we could be in the early days of launching dynamic and virtual organizations, which will define the future way of work and priorities. Business leaders are rightfully seizing this opportunity to reflect the way the crisis touched the purpose of their organizations and what to do next. Leadership should first and foremost focus on surviving, whilst protecting the future of their business and employees. Secondly, it is valuable to think about how an organization can emerge stronger and learn from this experience. Lastly, the necessary preparation will allow organizations to build resilience and take the next step in their journey towards adaptability.

Throughout the HR lab, there was full consensus that these actions should create a safe workplace environment by implementing health and sanitary measures, but also to restore employee confidence through ongoing communication, support and well-being campaigns.

While not all questions could be answered, and with the awareness that this crisis does not have a one-fits-all solution, participants appreciated the opportunity to discuss a variety of topics during this interactive HR lab.

If you are interested in joining future HR lab sessions or if you would like to receive more information on the topic, please send a message to the Deloitte Banking and Human Capital Leader, Pascal Martino (pamartino@deloitte.lu).

 

Communicated by Deloitte Luxembourg


Publié le 15 juin 2020