‘Our HR department is too reactive!’ How often have you heard this phrase, or perhaps said it yourself? In our latest catch up with Mike, Managing Director of Vero HR*, we discussed how post-lockdown working is an opportunity for HR to be more proactive; to be at the front of their organisations as they troubleshoot how to operate in a business environment that continues to change.mike vero hr

Mike, why do you think now is a good time for HR to be more strategic?

Organisations are exploring new ways of operating. As decisions are made about what post-lockdown work will look like, HR’s mandate will be to solve the people challenges resulting from the business’ decisions. Anticipating and devising innovative solutions for the arising challenges will require HR to step outside of their day-to-day  duties to be at the front, leading how the new ways of working will actually work.

What are the top questions HR needs to ask to make home or hybrid working, work?

A lot of important HR processes were inhibited by homeworking over the last 12+ months. If a business decides to embrace some form of homeworking long term, HR needs to be clear about how they will:

  • onboard new employees
  • impart company culture and values
  • keep their workforce engaged and informed
  • manage performance, and
  • manage underperformance.

HR will also need to decide how to manage wellbeing. Some roles suit working in isolation, but others benefit from the casual office chit chat that can help reduce stress and conflict between workers. HR needs to ask how they will monitor the wellbeing of their staff. Will it be via employee surveys? How will they pick up on changes over time?

Why is it important for HR to think about employee disengagement?

For businesses who choose a fully remote working model, there is a risk that over time people will become disengaged due to working in isolation. You have to work harder to keep homeworking or remote-working employees engaged.

An important element in solving disengagement is keeping the organisation’s culture and values alive. Culture can often feel more tangible when it’s reflected in the people physically present in the room. HR will need to come up with ways to maintain culture when the organisation is geographically dispersed. Regular one on ones between employees and line managers, 360 feedback on performance, and training for managers on how to manage remote teams will all be useful.

What are the concerns around knowledge sharing?

If an apprentice was to join your business today, and you have some or all of your workforce at home, how will you teach them how to do their job? How will you show them the organisation’s values? For young people new to the workforce, or staff learning a new skill or responsibility, having to do this while working from home can make the learning curve very steep.

HR will need to find a way to enable experienced employees to lead by example, demonstrating to new employees, or those taking on new responsibilities (such as managing people for the first time), how it’s done.  The challenge will be that even experienced employees may still be working out the best ways to perform tasks from home, so they’ll have to teach while learning themselves.

How do homeworking expectations impact recruitment?

Following widespread homeworking due to COVID-19 lockdowns, people are likely to apply for vacancies from all over the country, thinking they might be able to do the job from home. If it’s not already happening, HR professionals need to be prepared for people from far outside their worksite’s location to apply for their vacant roles.

The risk with this scenario is that a hiring decision based on current homeworking arrangements might not be suitable in the long run. So, HR needs to be clear about what the business really needs, and then be honest with applicants about long-term expectations upfront.

What does HR need to keep in mind to shape homeworking performance management processes?

When I did my masters, we studied some of the elements of managing remote workers**:

  • how will you direct work to remote employees?
  • how will you monitor and evaluate that work?
  • and, how will you reward good performance or manage underperformance?

HR and business leaders will need to consider what remote working management techniques (for example, monitoring people via technology) they want to adopt, and set clear protocols for employees around remote working.

HR will also need to establish homeworking expectations in terms of professionalism – if on-site employees are normally in corporate attire, will this also be expected for employees working from home and seen over video calls? Post COVID-19 lockdowns, will it be appropriate for employees to still be working from their bedrooms? And what about data security – how is this achieved with homeworking?

Why does bullying and harassment need more attention for homeworkers?

With one-to-one communications more common in homeworking environments, organisations might see an increase in bullying and harassment claims. HR will also need to contend with keyboard warriors and video-call warriors – people who might be completely different (and much more reasonable) in person. And we all know that written messages between colleagues can leave much wider room for interpretation than face-to-face communication which includes visual cues.

How do we move forward?

As HR professionals, we all need to be re-evaluating our guidance, support and processes in light of what our organisations decide in terms of homeworking, hybrid working and on-site working. I’ve raised some of the questions you might want to start thinking about, making adjustments or keeping in place what you think is still fit for purpose.

Now is also a good time to revisit how HR technology might be able to help you manage these challenges. Book a free demo with Cezanne HR to find out how their software can help you.

* Vero HR

** R Edwards (1979) Contested Terrain

Shandel McAuliffe author image

Shandel McAuliffe

Now based in sunny Australia, Shandel is prolific writer and editor - particularly in the world of HR. She's worked for some big names, including the CIPD and the Adecco Group. And more recently, she's been the Editor for new HR publication HR Leader.