Op-Ed: Pandemic human resources trends that are here to stay
A lot has been said about the post-pandemic “new normal” we’re fast approaching — from, all standpoints — individually, collectively, and organizations. As we move toward the expected herd immunity, we must accept that the pandemic changed the way we live and work forever.
When it comes to business operations, all survey results support the basic fact that more than 50% of the companies and 70% of employees have expressed an interest in maintaining a hybrid work modality. Both have experienced the benefits of this type of arrangement in increased productivity levels and commitment as well as on the costs associated with their operations.
However, there are many other human capital pandemic trends that are here to stay. A recent study conducted by the Colectivo HR, a group of management consulting firms in Puerto Rico (HR Remarkable Talent, Innova Management Solutions, Lux Advisors and Retention Strategies), with 50 organizations representing 15 economic sectors in Puerto Rico, revealed important aspects that shed light on the opportunities that organizations must optimize to enhance their human capital management potential.
- Talent Attraction and Recruitment: 61% of the organizations will increase their workforce this year, yet face challenges to fill vacancies with experienced, competent and culturally fit candidates. Do they have options? Yes. One could be reaching out to the Puerto Rican diaspora and recruiting talent residing abroad aiming at relocating them or offering remote-work options if possible; another is to resort to subcontracting through third party agencies. These solutions certainly have implications such as recruiting in other locations, costs associated with relocation and/or connection, employee communication, and promoting engagement. Nonetheless, challenging times call for outside-the-box solutions if we aim to be successful in a post-pandemic business world.
- Retention and engagement: Among the surprising survey results was the fact that over the past year participants conducted more exit interviews (55%) than engagement and climate surveys (51%), and only 11% conducted retention surveys (“stay interviews”). What opportunity does this present? Be more proactive in understanding how employees feel about their current employment experience. Instead of waiting for employees to leave to understand why they made such a decision, ask them now, and hen listen carefully to the responses. Another striking result was that less than 1/3 (31%) of the participants plan meetings of senior leaders with front-line employees. At critical times when senior management must gauge and understand changing employee and customer needs, organizational leaders absolutely must devote time to have that close contact with employees in the forefront with customers and listen to their opinions and ideas. Those conversations help organizations to be more agile and innovative.
- Total Rewards: Organizations that were able to pivot and successfully navigate the unchartered waters of the pandemic were those that had total rewards management structures and programs in place. These programs allowed them to make appropriate adjustments and successfully adapt to the reality of a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) WORLD. Many (67%) were even able to continue with their bonus distribution plans, something that was surprising to us. On the other hand, we see opportunities when it comes to employee recognition programs, as most organizations still prioritize using traditional criteria – years of service, for example – instead of recognizing critical behaviors related to culture, professional development and the application of new technologies that are aligned with the goals of the organization.
In summary, these results boil down to the fact that for organizations to be able to succeed in the “new normal,” leadership must be aware of the rather dramatic changes in acquiring, maintaining, and motivating the talent required for the organization to be successful. Top leaders need to be aligned between their talent and their growth strategies.
How to do that? First, learn what your employees really want by asking the right questions and truly listening to their responses. Next, take an X-ray of your current programs and ways of working. Is this aligned to what you heard from your employees?
And last — dare to experiment. If successful leaders learned anything from managing during the pandemic it was how to pivot quickly. Try some additional pivoting by piloting and experimentation new initiatives and programs. And, in doing that, communicate with your employees with authenticity what you are doing! They will become way more engaged when leadership shares, and the results are a more successful business enterprise.