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HR Covid 19

HR and the Covid-19 crisis: changing strategies and KPIs (Video)

HR and the Covid 19 crisis: working remotely has completely changed the way companies do business – and one of the most striking changes is how they work with their employees. We discussed in our webinar last week some best practices to keep your teams engaged and productive, as well as ensure their wellbeing in these unprecedented times. However, it goes beyond that. HR policies will need tweaking or changing completely and companies need to act on this immediately.

We spoke to Kerry-Anne Fennelly, People Operations Lead at AND Digital, and Toni Georgieva, HR Manager London at Kapten.

Here are the main current KPIs in HR, and see how our speakers think they need changing:

  • Hiring costs
  • Employee turnover
  • Absenteeism
  • Job satisfaction
  • Performace
  • Engagement

Get your actionable insights in bold, below:

What are the immediate changes that need to be made from an HR strategy perspective, in order to keep your teams on track for this business year? Main KPIs that will change and which ones will stay the same? 

Toni Georgieva: As HR leaders, we need to first at what the overall impact of the changes in our business is and how that has affected our people. No matter what type of plans, whether they are immediate, mid-term or long-term, the decisions need to put the human element first.  In some areas of business, management costs are higher especially on the recruitment side, onboarding newcomers and the satisfaction of that experience was one of our KPIs, but that will have to be re-evaluated and adjusted to the new circumstances. We still look at how we can help employees with wellbeing and in terms of engagement and learning, we look at contingency plans for that area. 

Kerry-Anne Fennelly: We are still working towards a strategy and we still have KPIs. The question now is how can we deliver these differently? How do we look at these deliverables outside of the box? We are used to doing things in a certain way but now we have to look at delivering things in a different way. For example, our KPI for learning won’t be badly affected. We now have virtual learning and learning looks differently but will our strategy for learning change? Probably not, we will simply take a different approach to what we had planned to do at the beginning of the year

Face-to-face interaction is crucial during interviews, so how do you manage online interviews?

Toni Georgieva: I see this situation as a chance to be creative with recruitment and selection. We can be more inclusive in our recruitment. Now we are looking for skills such as reliability, being able to manage a project completely remotely, being able to communicate completely digitally. It is a chance for companies to change their recruiting processes and streamline their communication processes in recruitment and selection. Also, HR now has the chance to increase skills among current employees. Now is the time for companies to change their processes. These changes will only add to the company, not take away anything from them. 

Kerry-Anne Fennelly: Face-to-face interaction is very important for both interviewers and interviewees. Will the recruitment process be as successful? I hope so. Are recruiters just as good a finding the best people for the job? I believe so. Recruiters have their expertise to rely on and we will have to face the fact that, in the short-term future, there will be no face-to-face elements in recruitment. 

How do you ensure your people receive the right training, especially since it will have to be done from a distance? Will this be a significant cost for companies?

Kerry-Anne Fennelly: It depends on what a company has available. We have a whole host of expertise on LinkedIn and other platforms that are offering resources and classes for free. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel but make use of the resources that are already available. A big positive of what we are going through right now is that people are offering resources and classes for free. People are sharing more. Companies need to adapt and offer employees learning, but there are people out there that are more than happy to share information.

Toni Georgieva: It doesn’t have to be a drastic change – not at all. Also look internally, since you probably have a tonne of expertise. It doesn’t have to cost anything apart from a couple of hours someone puts in to create a resource and share it with the team. It doesn’t have to be a full 6-weeks course or anything that big. People are looking for purpose in these times and sharing knowledge is a great purpose for them to have

Kerry-Anne Fennelly: Employees are also sharing with each other. I see a lot of “Hey, guys! I will be doing a session on x, y, and z who wants to listen?” so there is a great deal of internal sharing

Does it take a company of a certain size to be nimble and flexible to adapt to the current situation? 

Toni Georgieva: I would say it is easier to be nimble as a startup but we are all able to adjust. The benefit of working in a start-up is that we can create resources that everyone can access more easily, and that will allow us to establish new processes faster. In a larger company, it is a bit more challenging but now is maybe the time to change things and shake things up. That might be the push that everyone needs. It might be more challenging to change processes but everyone is making those changes.

Kerry-Anne Fennelly: Larger companies might have bigger resources at hand. But regardless of size, the two dilemmas are: do we as a company sit still and wait for things to finish or do we change and adapt? I would say that most companies won’t wait for things to stop so we are all forced to change how we do our roles. I see this as a positive journey and I focus on how we can go on until we get out of this. 

There are companies that have been doing a lot of things from the get-go to adapt but there are also companies that haven’t really done much yet. What would you say are the most important things for companies in that situation to do now? 

Toni Georgieva: I can only speak from a startup perspective and one of my priorities has been what this situation means for employees and that has to be immediately addressed. From the HR perspective, I would say stick to KPIs. The question is how do we continue to be aligned with values? We have to be clear and transparent in our communication, be prepared and informed

Kerry-Anne Fennelly: On the business side of things I would say a normal challenge will continue to be costs. But also, we still have clients so how can we still deliver our business? From an HR perspective, the main question is what is the impact on people? I am fortunate to work for a company whose top value is “people first”. As a company, we have a duty of care towards our people. People are generally not great at isolating and working remotely. So every business decision that is made is related to the question “how does the decision reflect on our people”? The three aims are to protect the company, protect the business and protect the people. 

Assessments often include soft skills on top of figure-driven KPIs. How can team leaders solve for that, when networking, in-person mentoring, and socialising are not a part of the daily work-life at the moment?

Kerry-Anne Fennelly: We have chatrooms about mental wellbeing, virtual coffee time, at midday we have a quiz or a virtual game. So bring in some fun, it’s necessary! We look after everyone and especially parents. We help them with how to keep up their jobs and homeschooling. We have done a lot of things like seeing if we can help them by sharing their workload with other team members. Other members are sharing what they are doing with their children. 

Toni Georgieva: We had a couple of mental health workshops as a company last year so we have a foundation set up for our mental health strategy. We have regular individual check-ins with the managers and team check-ins just asking people “how are you doing?”. We have team breakfasts, team tea time. Our responsibility as HR leaders is to communicate with employees. Their biggest worry right now might be “is my job safe”? Clearly communicate with employees about this situation so they can focus on their work instead of worrying

What about CSR? How are companies managing to keep doing good at a time like this? 

Kerry-Anne Fennelly: There are still ways and means for corporations to volunteer. As a company, we encourage people to volunteer, to feel they are adding value to communities that need help at the moment. We see so that so much help is needed and people in our team have the necessary skills. It is also within our human nature to feel good when we help, those are valuable positive feelings at a time like this. 

Toni Georgieva: I hear so many creative ideas from our teams and we value that. The stories we hear on a daily basis about people helping are amazing. For example, people volunteering to make free training resources or to deliver food for free. 

How can HR help employees on furlough and how do you engage these employees? 

Kerry-Anne Fennelly:  We have set up an opportunity channel on our Slack platform and we are looking at ways to engage employees on furlough on training.  We give them the opportunity to volunteer or up-skill if they want to. Furlough is very much about voluntary engagement through upskilling. It can be any type of opportunity to learn something new, I’ve seen some virtual technology seminars on our channel. Some of these opportunities are a lot less technical, someone in my team said they would organise a story-telling class for children. It’s about sign-posting what opportunities there are but also keeping within the furlough regulations.  

In what other ways could HR leaders help parents working from home? 

Kerry-Anne Fennelly: We’ve had very practical discussions with working parents. How can we set up days when they can work? What are the productivity levels we should expect? We’ve had honest conversations about homeschooling, honest conversations about what they can and cannot do. Some people can only do 25% and that’s ok. We need them to be 100% well mentally and physically and we need to keep checking in. Some people told me they could do 100% of their work but actually that is not realistic. So I say to them: “Well actually, do 50%, 50% is good and you are contributing to the company.” It’s about having honest conversations and then you can change schedules accordingly

Toni Georgieva: I agree that it’s a case by case conversation and it’s more about allowing parents to state what they can and cannot do and not be apologetic about it. Another team member can also pick up the work. It’s really good for someone to hear that their work won’t be dropped but that someone else will pick it up and that we are going through this crisis together. It’s important to have that honest conversation as soon as possible so we can plan. 

Are people working from home more productive? 

Kerry-Anne Fennelly: I think so. I can say from a personal point of view that I am more productive. I miss people because my work is so much about people but my working pattern is much more organic. You still have deadlines, so you still have constraints but you can decide what you are doing and when. I am eating healthier because there are no more biscuits like there are in the office. My productivity has definitely increased. It all depends on how quickly you adapt and how you can split your day in a way that works for you. 

Toni Georgieva: From and HR side, I can finally say that I am in charge of my own calendar. I have heard this also from anecdotal feedback from team members: better routine, I have more time with the manager than when I was in the office. People are doing good despite the bad situation. 

Will remote working become the norm?

Kerry-Anne Fennelly: I hope it does. There needs to be a balance between remote and office work. It’s also down to trust. We all have worked with people who were not as hard-working in the office and this situation won’t change that. People who always worked hard will continue to work hard even at home. But I hope this situation will give us a more positive appetite for remote work. 

Are companies still hiring? How do you onboard new employees? 

Kerry-Anne Fennelly: We have remote onboarding, a 3-week online boot camp. We switched everything to remote, we’ve had to be agile with what can be done remotely.  New people coming into the company are still important. In terms of the job market, I see a surge in HR jobs as companies who didn’t have a strong HR department suddenly realise they need one. And of course, there is a surge in delivery jobs. And we are still recruiting, but it is a matter of postponing the starting date. At the end of this pandemic, we will still need the specialists but it’s true that there will be a slow recruitment drive in certain places. 

Toni Georgieva: And not to forget that certain industries are booming. There is going to be a skill shortage in two or three months’ time, so it’s important to have a plan for when spending starts picking up again. In terms of onboarding, it can definitely be done, some elements are better, others are not as easy. An internet connection is important for providing onboarding during the quarantine. You can provide a buddy or make sure the person has group connections. Make sure that new employees still feel at home and part of the company. 

What resources do you recommend for people to use while working from home?  

Toni Georgieva: We use a lot of Google services such as Google slides and other project management tools.

Kerry-Anne Fennelly: Whiteboards, idea boards. So many technologies have one-month free trials, so take advantage of things that offer a trial version. We don’t lose anything by not being in the office, it can be all virtual.


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