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2 Years After Lockdown – What’s Changed for HR?

First-hand accounts from members of our community on pandemic-induced shifts in HR and the workforce.

by Nikhil Bendre - January 26, 2022

After almost two long years, the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging on and reaching new peaks. The world is obviously very different from when the pandemic first began and we’ve all had to adjust nearly every aspect of our lives in order to stay safe from the virus. Additionally, the workforce has had to shift and adapt as well. As time goes on, we’re observing the impact that COVID and remote work has had on labor as a whole. In particular, HR has arguably had the most crucial role during all this, as they’re the ones that need to stay on top of workplace policy changes and prioritize keeping their teams out of harm’s way. To get a better idea of what these changes look like on a more individual level, we asked our community about what shifts stand out to them and the impact that they’ve had in their own professional lives.

The need for flexibility. Traci Bowen, Owner and CEO of BHR Consulting positioned the prioritization of employee retention at the heart of her response. She discussed that talented candidates are becoming increasingly more difficult to find, but the real challenge is keeping them from leaving. Bowen has realized that with the new structure of the workforce, the ball is essentially in the employee’s court. Companies need to understand that candidates have options and they’ve now realized that they are more than capable of balancing their professional and personal lives. To stay afloat, businesses need to adapt and offer flexibility in aspects such as “work schedules, opportunities to work with people of their choice on a new project, or the ability to work remotely a few days a week.” Essentially, Bowen claims that it’s time to take the phrase “work-life balance” seriously and actually put that sentiment into practice. 

Increased collaboration. Krittin Kalra, Founder of Writecream, chose to focus on the more positive side of COVID’s impact on the workforce. Kalra pointed out that he’s observed a shift towards a more collaborative attitude in the workforce. He links this shift to the increase in freedom employees have experienced with the normalization of working from home. This is a particularly interesting observation – one might think that COVID and remote work would inevitably result in more isolated work efforts. However, this change makes sense, as the lack of direct access to our colleagues makes us realize the importance and benefit of teamwork!

The humanization of HR. Adit Jain, Co-Founder and CEO of Leena AI, brings up a great point about how the nature and motivations of HR have adapted. The fact of the matter is that a lot of people didn’t have the most positive view of HR. To be fair, in pre-COVID times, the primary role of HR was generally understood to be to protect the interests of the company. Obviously, employee interests have always been a priority as well, but HR is often seen as the “police” of the company. With the drastic lifestyle shifts brought on by the pandemic, HR has adapted to place that primary focus on their employees. Physical well-being and mental health have never been more of a priority for HR as they are right now, therefore representing the emphasis on the ‘human’ aspect of human resources.

Dependence on technology. Adrian Pereira, CEO and Co-Founder of The Eco Pea Company, wanted to acknowledge the sudden increase in importance carried by technology in every aspect of a business. After all, how have we been communicating and keeping things afloat amid this remote era? We’ve all had to pick up some new skills and become a bit more tech-savvy to adapt to working during COVID. We should note that this sentiment goes beyond learning how to use Zoom. Entire company operations have had to move online, and that requires the digitization of processes surrounding conferences, day-to-day tasks, and most relevant to us, HR. The need for reliable HR software has never been higher, as tasks such as onboarding new remote hires need to be made as simple and efficient as possible. Most businesses have reported an increase in productivity when asked about remote work and it makes perfect sense that moving these processes online follows suit.

The demand for transparency. If there’s one word to accurately sum up the state of the workforce over these past couple of years, it’s “unpredictable.” That word also resonates uncomfortably well with our personal lives and the adjustments we’ve had to make to stay safe. That being said, it’s fair to say there is no room for the withholding of information that could impact us at work. Ezy Neumann, President of Hidden Talents ABA, agrees that full company transparency is an absolute necessity. In a time that is so unstable, it’s completely understandable that employees are demanding nothing but the unfiltered truth from their higher-ups. The unfortunate reality is that the pandemic has prompted job security issues for an alarming amount of people around the world. If something is happening behind closed doors that could eventually tamper with your ability to put food on the table, you’d want to know as soon as possible so that you can do what’s necessary to keep your head above water.

The common lesson that all of these observed changes carry is that the key to survival in these times is adaptability. Whether that means adapting our remote policies, organizational priorities, or skill sets, we need to be able to pivot quickly, especially since the pandemic is seemingly nowhere near over. Hopefully, these first-hand accounts from our community have made you aware of some pandemic-related workplace trends to work around. From all of us at GoCo, good luck and stay safe!

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