Why HR Leaders should be focusing on purpose, experience, leadership and skills during this period of crisis.

It’s important to understand the economic context that we’re operating in. As a result of the pandemic, the global economy is projected to contract sharply by –3 percent in 2020. Goldman Sachs separately estimated that advanced economies will shrink about 35% this quarter​ — four times the 2008 financial crisis record; while JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo ​warned of a big contraction​.​ The economy, and market we had planned for in January has dramatically changed, and so are our business and people plans.

As business models are adapted and changed, the people and skills agenda will become even more important. Although cash flow might be the main priority to ensure a business stays afloat, you need a highly engaged workforce to deliver great products and services so that customers see the value in what you provide.

In this webinar I explain why we need to shift our thinking and focus our organisations to operate in a different environment and find our “new normal”. I think there are five key areas that HR Professionals should consider right now, and influence business leaders to do the same.

#1 Organisation Purpose and Meaning

Although not exclusively owned by the HR function, we should be reminding our organisation’s of the importance of staying true to this. In times of crisis, it can be easy to forget this and be driven by a desire to survive only -changing the way would have ordinarily made our decisions, and being driven by cash, revenue or costs only.
The difference between a successful transformation, and an attempt – is a sense of purpose: the sense that the transformational process you’re going through is aligned to purpose in the organisation. That motivates and drives the right kind of behaviours. The purpose is the thing that connects people to your vision.

#2 The Employee Experience

This quote from Maya Angelou captures the impact of the employee experience well.

As we’re about to go into recession, how to get yourself in the best possible position to ride this storm? Build up your employee experience so people offer more of their capability and potential.

But there is also a strong commercial reason for this too. ​Glassdoor research​ shows that there is a clear link between employee and customer satisfaction. On average, a 1-point increase in Glassdoor company rating is associated with a 1.3-point increase in customer satisfaction, measured by the ​American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI)​. It’s not about NOT making difficult decisions or giving difficult messages; it’s about how you consider their impact on your employees and manage that.

#3 Leadership Capability to deliver in this “new normal”

As business environments and strategy changes, we should change – or at least review, our leadership strategy. Due to the pace of change and variety of people and circumstances – leaders need to develop skills that on the face of it seem to be contractory. That’s where paradoxical leadership comes in.

Paradox theory is about understanding that demands, goals and expectations are dynamic, complex and interconnected. This type of environment needs us to embrace contradictory behaviours- because by doing this we can be flexible under pressure and more creative in what seems to be unsolvable problems. ​Harrison Assessment Technologies​ is underpinned by paradox theory and has developed a leadership framework equipped for this environment of change. As we are entering a period of recession, or at least re-growing; don’t we want leaders who can flex their style quickly and easily depending on the circumstances they face?

#4 Workforce skills, capabilities and talent

We need our entire workforce to have the skills to adapt and then grow in this different environment. The pace and volume of change is greater now than ever before. Rather than traditional static skills, we need to think about skills that encourage change, development and growth. Some examples being:

Learning agility
Versatility
Empathy
Curiosity
Collaboration
Emotional Intelligence

Data and analytics has moved on so much, it’s time we brought them into Learning and development too. Processes and systems will change, so stop aligning your training to your current process or system and instead think about the traits and human characteristics needed for success in your organisation despite the processes or systems used.

#5 Talent acquisition to support growth

It may seem counterintuitive to focus on hiring when many businesses are slowing down, but now is the time to revisit some key operations. You’re going to need to be able to hire in the traditional sense – filling the position you need today, and being proactive and hire the leader you will need to get the job done tomorrow. But also when needed, you’ll need the capability to hire a contingent workforce to fill gaps, or an agile workforce to fill specialised talent gaps.

Both these need different approaches, tools and systems, and if we are returning into a recession, where the future is unpredictable, how quickly can you pivot your hiring processes and turn your hands to both?

If you haven’t yet – now is the time to explore predictive analytics to shorten assessments, maximise useful data and increase hiring success. Explore those ​products​ that provide comprehensive and job specific assessments that measure personality, attitude, motivation, work values, interpersonal skills, engagement factors, retention factors, and behavioural competencies.

That was a whistle stop tour of what I believe should be turning our attention to right now. We can’t drop our employees safety and wellbeing – but we also need to include this thinking too. Covid 19 has been an immense shock – it’s sucked so much of our time and effort into supporting people through this period; and trying to keep up to date with changing advice, furlough and endless questions…

We do need to adapt now, and some of our traditional approaches to people management are holding us back. You can’t, and won’t, focus on everything I’ve spoken about today – but choose one or two, to get started.