While the COVID-19 impact can be felt by organisations across sectors, 72% of the organisations stated that its impact will be felt beyond six months, according to an EY survey titled ‘HR resilience planning – COVID-19 impact and preparedness’. Around 70% of the organisations believe that the single biggest concern for continued remote working is fall in productivity. The crisis is also forcing organisations to re-look at the HR processes and operations through a digital lens. More than 70% of the organizations are now moving to virtual methods of recruitment, and emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Robotic Process Automation and Machine Learning are leading this change.
The survey incorporates first-hand perspective of HR Heads/CHROs of over 100 organisations across sectors in India on the impact of COVID-19 and their preparedness to tackle the current situation.
Anurag Malik, Partner and India Workforce Advisory Leader, People Advisory Services, EY India said, “Today, organisations are grappling with an unprecedented crisis that is fundamentally different from what they have ever experienced. In this hour of crisis, the HR function has to be a business partner in anticipating change, co-creating a range of scenarios and planning for the future. It is also the right time for the HR Heads to recalibrate their priorities, focus towards managing remote workforce, digitalize the HR function, and re-imagine workforce models.”
Gopal Nagpaul, Partner, Workforce Advisory (Africa, India and Middle East), People Advisory Services, EY India added, “Initial priorities of IT infrastructure, basic communication and operations support are now fading into the background as new priorities emerge. Going forward, we need to focus on sustaining productivity in the context of remote working & shutdowns, ensuring wellbeing & engagement in case of sustained remote working, and building cost management options in case we face a deeper economic downturn.”
The changing ways of working in India
Around 87% of the respondents currently have travel restrictions in place in addition to the mandated ones. At this time of crisis, organizations must adopt to the changing ways of working, and invest in the right IT infrastructure and build in structured mechanisms to institutionalize remote working.
Organizations that were not accustomed to virtual working have faced the heat and have had to mobilize IT infrastructure and set up data security protocols at a very short notice.
According to the survey, ensuring workforce productivity while working remotely is a concern area. “Organizations will need to focus on building work alignment and work control through a structured work allocation and communication protocol. Providing meaningful work to employees, increased focus on business improvement and transformation initiatives, and e-learning and certifications can be explored in this time of crisis,” added Gopal Nagpaul.
An important dimension that organizations will have to consider is the psychological impact of the crisis on their employees. While some organizations have started virtual yoga and psychological counselling sessions, a holistic approach to employee wellness will be imperative.
“Going forward, the opportunities for organizations lie in institutionalizing digital ways of working, rethinking workforce models and resource plans, revamping traditional employee engagement models and techniques, redesigning the performance management process and restructuring benefits and policies, added Anurag Malik.
As the current crisis has changed the way of working, there will be a cascading impact on the different HR processes as well. Most organizations agreed that in the near term, one of the most impacted processes will be talent acquisition.
From a medium-term perspective, organisations need to focus on business continuity (i.e. reviewing hiring pipeline, prioritizing critical positions and high cost replacements to be reconsidered) and smarter ways of delivering work (i.e. leveraging gig economy for workforce rationalization and agility, talent redeployment and job rotations). However, from a long-term perspective, role profiling & workforce alignment and technology adoption will be two key aspects for organizations to consider for organizations.
55% of the organizations foresee medium to significant impact on employee cost, while others are still unclear. Many organizations have adopted an employee centric view and trying to protect the junior management, a few are also offering additional pay-outs, hazard pay to support their workforce through these tough times.
Only 22% organizations are thinking about manpower optimization in the short term (maintaining an employee centric view), while 35% organisations want to look at optimization in the future basis business impact and in line with the newer ways of working.
Cost efficiencies are an imperative for business sustenance and given this, organizations should further focus on the following ways of reducing cost – effective pyramid management (i.e. optimization of layers, span of control and bands; career progression and driving discipline on promotions policy) and compensation management & driving pay-range discipline.