COVID-19 has created a 'new normal' that all businesses - and particularly HR departments - are now working hard to keep up with. Phrases like ‘unprecedented’ and ‘once in a generation’ are used to describe the monumental shift in the labour market so frequently it’s become a punchline on social media. The fact of the matter is businesses the world over are navigating uncharted territory and looking for ways to find their footing in a situation they’ve never experienced before.
Companies now face a range of unique challenges related to the pandemic that will require dedicated, effective solutions if they want to remain competitive during this time. To emerge from the current situation in a stable position, employers must first address core HR challenges that will impact other areas of their business success.
1. employee safety
Since COVID-19 is primarily a health crisis, employers must take responsibility for keeping their workforce safe and ensuring their people and customers aren't put at risk of infection.
Physical distancing has been central to efforts to tackle the spread of the virus around the world and must now be a priority for employers. But that presents difficulties for companies in sectors like manufacturing, where the traditional way of working involves people being closely gathered together on production and processing lines.
Personal protective equipment and plexiglass screens will become a common sight in many working environments, including retail, manufacturing and others, as businesses look for ways to stop the virus from spreading while allowing people to come into the workplace and get on with their jobs.
Organizations are also relying on one other to share best practices and discuss any successes or setbacks they've experienced in getting back to work amid the ongoing pandemic. Transparency has been one of the most positive trends to come out of the current situation.
For businesses that have lots of questions and uncertainty about adjusting to this new environment, Randstad, in collaboration with other HR services industry leaders, has produced a range of resources on getting safely back to work in the new normal.
You can access sector-specific health and safety protocols and information on best practices to implement within your own business.
2. staying competitive
Keeping people safe and healthy should be the primary objective for employers getting back to work during this health crisis, but companies will also be focusing on how they can maintain a productive, sustainable workforce that allows them to stay competitive.
In a sector like manufacturing, factors like price and on-time delivery are critical to business success. On-time delivery has been particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic, as retailers have had to respond to sudden increases and fluctuations in demand from consumers. In Canada, many staple items such as meat, baking supplies and toilet paper have been snapped up, leaving store shelves empty. Supply chains must be able to ramp up capacity respond to demand, without sacrificing employee health or profit margins.
Many businesses are responding to this volatile environment by rethinking their HR strategies. Goals like finding the right combination of permanent and flexible staff in your workforce have become more important than ever, as you navigate the challenge of balancing cost concerns with the need to provide a continuous, reliable service.
3. effectively leveraging HR tech
HR technology will play a crucial role as the pandemic drags on. When your shift and workforce planning needs are changing on a daily basis, for example, you need effective tools to help you adjust and meet your objectives.
Practices like remote hiring and onboarding have become more common in recent years as businesses have become more flexible, but the restrictions created by COVID-19 have raised their importance even further.
For many businesses, this will all be very new. It could feel like a significant departure from how you're used to working. The right HR services partner can help you meet these challenges and make the right decisions based on tech expertise, combined with sector-specific insights and local labour market knowledge.
4. coping with change and unpredictability
Perhaps the biggest HR challenge right now is adjusting to an environment where frequent change, volatility and uncertainty have become the norm. COVID-19 is very much an ongoing situation, with governments and health authorities around the world warning that the risk of fresh outbreaks of the virus remains high. Employers should be prepared for frequent changes in regulations and guidelines designed to prevent infection and keep people safe.
In this changeable environment, demand from consumers is likely to fluctuate in response to fast-moving trends and health concerns. Organizations will have to adapt quickly to these developments, which in turn will put more pressure on supply chains to be agile and responsive.
These fluctuations require organizations to examine their capacity and be flexible about what their workforce can realistically handle. Furthermore, the HR department needs to be mindful of the pressure the current situation is putting on the workforce. Physical health is clearly a priority right now, but HR managers will also be thinking about employees' mental health and how they can help workers cope in such difficult circumstances.
While this is certainly a unique situation at the moment, the current challenges are closely linked to priorities that existed long before COVID-19, like ensuring that workforces are future-proofed and sustainable. This will further emphasize the need for HR managers to collect, manage and analyze data on their workforce, the labour market and new HR tech.