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A few months ago, I set out to articulate the most pressing short- and long-term challenges facing HR and business leaders from the coronavirus pandemic: business agility, wellbeing and leadership. Today, considerable uncertainty, stress, anxiety and even “pandemic fatigue” remain as the crisis continues to weigh on employees, HR professionals, leaders—heck, everyone.
Just a few weeks ago, many of us felt things were trending more positively: Cases of COVID-19 in the earliest and hardest-hit regions of the country had started to slow, while other regions were beginning to re-open workplaces and return to something close to “normal.”
John Sumser, founder and principal analyst for HRExaminer, has witnessed change in the HR-technology realm that puts him among the pantheon of advisors and observers.
But he’ll be the first to admit that nothing could have prepared him for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on HR, including on executives and decision-makers who are representing employers of all stripes, sizes and industry sectors.
Laurie Ruettimann doesn’t mince words.
When asked her outlook on gender parity in corporate leadership, she didn’t sugarcoat things: “I’m not optimistic. According to the World Economic Forum, a woman would have to be born in the year 2255 to get equal pay at work. I’m irritated. How about we speed this up, OK?”
That straight talk will be at the heart of the closing session of Women in HR Tech this fall, as Ruettimann moderates a discussion on the long game of achieving gender parity in leadership ranks, which will feature PlanSource’s Nancy Sansom and Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Tomya Watt. The speakers will discuss the progress and pitfalls of gender equity in the workplace and share their personal experiences climbing the corporate ladder, a journey that, for Ruettimann—a corporate trainer, speaker and author—has taken some interesting turns, which she recently shared with HRE.
Pandemic, massive racial and political unrest, economic disruption, men in space, generational conflict, cities burning. You could be forgiven if you think we’ve been transported back to the 1960s. For a long time, nothing much happened. Then, whammo. It’s all happening at once.
The progress toward a society rooted in equality stalled some time ago. It took a political administration that says the quiet part out loud to pull the covers off the thing we didn’t want to see: We live in a class-driven society. And the primary determinant of class is skin color. Our organizations are reflections of the structural forces that drive unequal access to resources, education, jobs, and technology.
In my last column, I set out to articulate what the team at H3 HR Advisors was considering the primary challenges facing HR and business leaders as they continue to deal with the coronavirus impact today and to plan for a still-uncertain tomorrow. One month later, while perhaps a few elements of the complex array of moving parts impacting work and business have become more clear, many — if not most — have not. And, while perhaps some of us are working more actively toward the restoration of the “normal,” most of us are probably not quite there yet.
Much has been written in the past weeks and months about the business impact of the COVID-19 crisis. I, along with many others, have written extensively about the almost-overnight transition to remote work, as well as many other changes companies implemented to adapt. Now, I will be focusing on considerations for returning to work.
I’m not sure if it is too early yet to be thinking of the post-pandemic world, the so-called “new normal” or whatever phrase gets coined to describe the changed environment and workplaces that we, collectively, are going to concurrently inherit and create.
This pandemic has demonstrated just how brittle our society is. A tiny virus has drastically upset our lives, our economies and our societies. In a time like this, resilience—the ability to adapt and bounce back—will be one of the most important characteristics that will help us recover.
But how do we design our organizations for resilience? Here are four things to consider:
As workforces around the world adjust to the changes being ushered in by the coronavirus pandemic, technology will likely be more important than ever.
At IBM, the company’s investments in online learning and collaboration tools are paying off, says CHRO Diane Gherson. Employees are using the tools to aid other employees in addition to getting their own work done.
“Every minute, I’ve been getting messages about employees assisting each other on these platforms,” says Gherson, HRE’s 2018 HR Executive of the Year. IBMers have created pages of resources on topics ranging from technical advice to taking care of toddlers while working. “It’s been incredible, this rallying around. It’s led to a community that people can go to for help when they have specific questions.”
Even when the bulk of IBM’s workforce returns to the office (as at many organizations, a number of IBMers have continued their on-site work), health and safety will be paramount, says Gherson.