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The Role of HR and How the Pandemic Affects Business Excellence Initiatives To Relook Its Role and Scope

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Organizations across the globe have seen many ups and downs during this pandemic period, especially from supply chain disruptions, demand dips, and steep increases in raw material costs. It has been increasingly difficult to predict on any front like customer needs, as well as the skill sets and retain employees. Energy prices, global competition, sudden imposition of restrictions on goods and human travel per country, the pace of digitization, and the amount to be invested in future technologies all have to be considered as well.  Right from the last decade, the ability to proactively predict, monitor, identify, assess, address, and report emerging threats and opportunities was the need of the hour. However, the pandemic situation in recent years has thrown a real challenge to the techniques of environment scanning as the ecosystem has become too unpredictable. Coping with the uncertainties through the use of the advancement of technology is a good start. However, an employee’s motivation, retention, and wellbeing are softer issues that need to be tackled sensitively so as to keep manpower in a state to tackle challenges brought about by the pandemic.  As a matter of fact, it is HR that really has the uphill task to keep employees on board and on the same page. HR policies in the organizations have been rewritten to impart flexibility in the system to ensure the wellbeing of employees. These quick, innovative actions from HR are again under the spotlight in the wake of the new COVID-19 variant. Business excellence initiatives – be it EFQM model, BSC, six sigma, benchmarking, or maturity models – should have a renewed focus on digital technology and how these technologies can be leveraged into HR processes. Apart from the ‘Great Resignation’ trend in the USA, there is an unprecedented churn in the technology sector; although it increases ‘hiring intent’, at the same time, it sends warning signals to HR, which calls for them to have a nimble response. The renewed focus of business excellence initiatives should be on the following issues:
  • Employees’ retention and wellness
  • Increased employee outreach
  • Devising policies for virtual hiring
  • Smooth transition between work from home, work from the office, and hybrid
  • Addressing the question of salary during a pandemic and post-pandemic environment
Most of the HR processes have been migrated online; now, HR needs to rely on cloud technology to do their tasks. For example, hiring interviews are now online, but there are different software available for recording and analyzing the interview from verbal and non-verbal perspectives.  HR can use deep learning artificial intelligence to simulate the face and voice of key people – such as the CEO/COO for an awareness drive, special campaigns, training, or dissemination of information – without actually shooting the clip for each instance.  One such firm that offers this kind of service is Synthesia, a US-based tech company that developed the project and has a wide range of training tools. A client can choose from the available range of avatars for online training to be added with data and content. In a short span of time, the chosen avatar or digital trainer equipped with a realistic voice and video will be ready.  At the same time, the challenge to HR still remains for on-the-ground workers where human interaction is involved such as the medical industry, and one needs to vouch for innovative ways to see to a person’s wellness. Ensuring frequent testing, hospital tie-ups, teleconsulting with expert doctors, vitamin supplements, immunity booster diets, fitness programs, and support for dependent family members are key issues where HR has to play the lead role. In addition to having a technology-sufficient budget, it is also a prerequisite that HR has to plead with top management. The benefits ecosystem should now comprise of financial, medical, and wellness of employees.  These are just glimpses of the changes that are happening, as well as changes that need to be brought into the HR system. Business excellence initiatives should take cognizance of such developments and try to address these in their respective instruments. Audits and assessments cannot be limited to diagnostics; it needs to be taken a step further to suggest prescribed technology/innovative practices which can help in employee retention and creative output from employees.
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