Despite the massive personal and professional disruptions of the pandemic, there are some important silver linings for HR.
That was the consensus of a roundtable discussion hosted by iCIMS today at HR Tech. Featuring a discussion led by iCIMS Chief Marketing Officer Susan Vitale and Vice President of Strategy Joe Essenfeld, along with William Tincup, president and editor-at-large of RecruitingDaily.com, the session explored the most likely lasting impacts on HR from the pandemic. Here’s what they zeroed in on:
HR’s moment is now
While HR and talent acquisition leaders were essential to the business before the global crisis, companies are increasingly recognizing their value.
“Organizations desperately need you,” Tincup said. “They need that communication, they need that innovation to come from you, and they need it now. They needed it before, they just didn’t know how much they needed it.”
“The glue we are as HR has become more valuable and absolutely necessary for organizations because they no longer have that in-person crutch to rely on.” Joe Essenfeld, iCIMS
“The people we all rely on are no longer in front of us,” Essenfeld added. “The glue we are as HR has become more valuable and absolutely necessary for organizations because they no longer have that in-person crutch to rely on. It took that change in the workplace to where we’re now working from anywhere for different business units to understand how important talent really is.”
Reevaluate your tech
HR and TA leaders should maximize that value by guiding their organizations in the direction of smart HR tech investments, the speakers said.
A major disruption like COVID-19 is an opportunity, Tincup said, for organizations to reexamine the three Ps: products, processes and people. When it comes to products, HR can provide insights into which parts of the HR tech stack the organization has been more heavily leaning on throughout the pandemic and which have become redundant.
This is also a good time, he added, to have deeper-dive conversations with your vendors. Ask them where else your organization can innovate with their products.
“These vendors are sitting on top of thousands of deployments of software and have insights into the collaborative, innovative stuff being done,” he said. “But you’d be surprised how little they get asked about innovation [from customers].”
Remote work has changed the landscape
The “air’s out of the bottle” when it comes to remote work, Tincup said. He noted that recent research has found the phrase “remote work” to be the most common job-search term, as candidates shift away from looking for geographically limited positions.
As such, he envisions the “new normal” of work to feature much more autonomy about work location.
“One of the things we will see is choice,” he said. “Whether or not you choose to work in an office or to work remotely, employees and candidates are going to be having more discussions around that choice.”
For those who stay remote, Essenfeld noted, it will be up to HR leaders to help them navigate the skill sets they need to develop to integrate work and life long-term.
“It’s a new skill that we’re all going to have to develop because employers are going to be flexible for a period of time,” he said. “It’s going to be a dual learning experience for employers and employees.”
Don’t lose the connection
Much has been said about the growth of empathetic-driven business in the wake of the pandemic, which the speakers agreed is one of the primary silver linings of COVID-19.
Vitale started the session by cautioning listeners that a neighbor was having a tree cut down if they heard any noise, highlighting a reality Tincup noted remote workers have all experienced throughout the last few months. Recently, his own 11-year-old son walked into his office while he was conducting a webinar, so he allowed him to take his headset and introduce himself to the audience.
“A year ago, I would have been embarrassed, but now that’s normal. That’s life,” he said. “The pandemic has made the work we do more human. People know there are going to be dogs barking and kids screaming.”
Vitale, who has a toddler at home, said many workers initially sought to keep up the divides between work and home life–but that eventually became too harrowing. “It’s a bit of a relief to say, ‘There’s a lot more going on here and sometimes it’s not all rainbows and unicorns,’ ” she said.
With those barriers broken down, empathy has blossomed.
“Every call now starts with, ‘How are you? How’s the family? How are the kids?’ And it ends with ‘Stay safe. Wash your hands. Wear a mask,’ ” Tincup said. “It’s dripping with empathy whereas, in December, those same calls didn’t start like that and didn’t end like that.”
Once the pandemic eventually subsides, among HR’s mandates will be keeping that empathy flowing.
“Let’s not lose that connection,” Tincup said, “as we go back to whatever the version of normal is.”
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