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The speed and scale of disruptions to HR over the years has been increasing, transforming the traditional 9 to 5 with cutting edge technology and flatter hierarchies. However, none have come close to the speed with which businesses have had to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

Its transformational effect was overnight; business as usual needed to be delivered by remote workers; whilst working models were radically redesigned to make customers having to go into stores or employees going into production plants feel safe.

Here Paydata examines the lasting lessons that are already emerging from organising human capital in the midst of a pandemic and supporting individual wellbeing during this challenging time.

HR’s organisational value

The role of HR has never been more critical during the pandemic and many professionals are reporting that they are busier than ever. Implementing the furlough scheme, working from home and supporting employee wellbeing throughout organisations are key challenges facing HR. 98 per cent of HR professionals responding to our UK Reward Management Survey have been at the heart of business planning, helping to direct people on how best productivity can be maintained and disruption to the customer minimised.

Innovation that supports social responsibility

Before the outbreak of coronavirus, the focus of the future of reward was centred on aligning this to a greater social purpose and the environmental responsibility that organisations are increasingly acknowledging. Reduced levels of pollution are already indicative of the positive effect lockdown has had on climate change from fewer car journeys, as we have all had to stay indoors except for essential trips. Post-lockdown, serious questions will be asked of us all about how we can build on the gains made in this area. Practices that promote a more sustainable future will be crucial for companies such as travel policies, reducing employee commuting methods through walking and cycling schemes and wider business sustainability plans will be important considerations for HR.

The role of AI and how it will shape the workforce of the future is often discussed as either an opportunity or a threat. When thought of as an opportunity, the question can more helpfully be framed as how AI can be harnessed to drive productivity whilst achieving ethical practices? The scrutiny of companies over their commitment to tackling climate change can also be informed by AI, which can enable them to meet obligations in reducing CO2 emissions. Before the outbreak, Facebook and Amazon committed to significantly reducing their carbon footprint and Microsoft committed to becoming carbon negative. A growing number of roles are dedicated to meeting these obligations, such as Sustainability Directors.

Innovation that drives human connection

Innovative trends often swing one way and back to the other. This is being reflected in individual choice when it comes to automation. Before the pandemic, self-service checkouts were increasingly being replaced with face-to-face checkouts in response to customer choice and these are being kept in place with visors for staff to protect them. Human interaction is what we all value and can only be driven by greater planning that technology affords us.

The key workers currently keeping each of us safe, well, educated and stocked up with food and delivery packages have highlighted the pivotal role that each of these jobs has in society. Many are calling for greater scrutiny over pay levels for these groups operating at the heart of things.

Creative approaches to deliver value

HR practices challenging the status quo are increasingly prevalent in organisations that strive to remain agile, responsive and retain their competitive edge through a highly engaged workforce. Ongoing pay reviews, which are continuous, enable companies to respond to milestone achievements by teams and individuals. This could involve 360 reviews by colleagues where the manager can prioritise and target pay awards to drive productivity and motivation. Harnessing insights from pulse surveys and engagement surveys also enable employers to respond to what employees value in real time.

We increasingly anticipate that companies may switch from an annual process to a monthly cycle of pay reviews, that are informed by pay benchmarking data to keep pay in step with the market and provide timely acknowledgement of team and individual achievements. Live market intelligence and performance data is required to make this system work, but this may be the reality for many companies who report a prevalence of out of cycle pay awards operating over the year. 88 per cent of respondents in our last UK Reward Management Survey used out of cycle pay awards to adjust pay practices throughout 2019.

Collaborative practices designed with employees

Greater trust between employers and employees has been necessary to roll out a new normal in working practices. After the pandemic, this may be extended so that the employee has a greater say in their working environment and even their role description. With much more awareness about job roles and remits, employees may increasingly move to set their own salary – measuring their perceptions about their expectations and working conditions against the employers’.

Personalisation extends to current approaches taken by employers to ensure employees feel recognised for their individual contribution at work. Employers offering Total Reward Statements prefer a personalised tool to ensure it doesn’t become background noise and that value can be attributed to it through its ability to show recognition for each employee’s hard work.

Productivity post-lockdown

Many employers have said that the circumstances demanded changes in the working environment that would normally have taken them months to achieve. Questions such as whether employees have suitable equipment to work from home and technological challenges all had to be answered within days. Many companies have already said that office blocks with thousands of workers could become a thing of the past and that flexible working will be the norm, including Barclays who have 70,000 staff working remotely.

Employees may increasingly set their own conditions within the workplace. Working from home, unlimited holiday and setting your own hours may be featured in the flexible measures introduced in the new normal post-lockdown. Employees may be offered a menu of options based on the blend they need to achieve a work life balance.

Get in touch

As organisations grapple with how the workplace will change as we emerge from lockdown, get in touch if you’d like to discuss your approach further. Receive a free report into HR and reward trends by contributing your experience about how coronavirus is shaping your workplace and views on how the landscape will be shaped post-pandemic in our ten-minute survey.


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