In the media

We need to put the human back into our interactions

The HR Director

10 December 2020

This article was first published in The HR Director

2021 won’t all be about COVID-19

Every single business case that comes across a CEO or CHRO’s desk in 2021 will say COVID-19 is the reason for change. And for some this will be true – from thinking differently about office space to radically changing the way they make money. However, just pointing at COVID-19 as a reason to change is lazy and won’t get traction for the more meaningful transformations that are needed. Success will depend on a renewed sense of the importance of purpose driven by authentic leaders who empower their workforce to do the right thing. Believe it or not, the impact of the pandemic will fade and organisations will need business cases that stand the test of time.

Retaining talent is going to get harder

It is easy to think the economic difficulties and an uncertain job market will mean staff stay put. But the picture is going to be much more nuanced than that. The traumas of the last nine months mean experienced senior people may well be reviewing what they really want to do and spending more time at work could look less appealing.  Keeping them will need creative work life balance solutions or opportunities to let them do something good for society while carrying on working. Organisations can’t afford to lose those senior leaders before they have handed over their knowledge to newer talent.

In 2021 we’ll need to put the human back into our interactions

Technology has been a remarkable tool in getting us through the pandemic but our digital and virtual interactions now need more of a human touch. As more opportunities to use technology come along, it will be critical not to leave their development to IT. The HR team need to get digitally savvy and remind everyone that the people at the end of the process need to feel that there is something in it for them.

Drawing the lines between supervision and spying will get harder

Should you be digitally spying on your workforce? Finding out when they are logging on or off each day? There are really good reasons for wanting to have this data, not least to support employees. If someone is at their laptop all hours of the day and night, HR could use the information to intervene. The data can also give the HRD the ability to act as the employee voice and present a credible picture to senior leaders.  But the intrusion, fairness and appropriateness of this surveillance will need very careful debate and management.

There will need to be a collective conversation about who comes back into the office

There will be really tricky questions about home working. Is it fair to ask some of your workforce to come back into the office? Is it fair to allow working parents to continue to work from home or to let those working from shared flats come into the office for their own sanity? There’ll be demand for a fancy new HR policy to cover all this but that won’t be sufficient. There will need to be detailed discussions and judgement calls to be made. There is a real risk that 2021 will create new fault lines in the workplace by gender, demographic, geography or even personality type that could undermine approaches to inclusion and diversity. We will need to make sure all the introverts are not continuing to work from home. That means recognising that productive organisations need to have access to all their talent.

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