Human Resources after Covid-19

Apr 16, 2020 | Events & Meetings

We are all going through a life transition. It’s as though we are all going through a forced period of ‘maternity leave’. We’re at home, continuing to work, and lots of our roles are overlapping and accumulating. Just like every transition, the current Coronavirus pandemic has required us to rethink things, both at a personal and social level.

To better understand how companies are preparing for life after Covid-19, we met with 4 Human Resources Directors of 4 different industries that collectively manage 10,000 people. We asked them how they imagined the return to “normality” and how they are preparing for life after Covid-19. Here’s what they had to say during our Life Ready Conference held on the 2nd April.

Fabio Comba, HR Director KPMG

Crisis has a tool to evaluate performance

“As complexity continues to rise within companies, human resource management has become essential. Inevitably, even in this unique situation we are going through, the spotlight falls onto the HR director. Those who haven’t yet been a part of decision making processes have started to talk with the higher levels of the leadership team. It’s become a chance for HR to play a leading role within the company.

Looking at the bigger picture, leadership in general has been put to the test. It’s allowing us to identify the key factors that make a true leather, aside from any performance evaluation tools that we use. The crisis has highlighted leaders that are able to give a clear direction, without any vagueness, and able to provide strategic positivity to their communications. These two characteristics allow you to achieve key results. 

This crisis has also given us flexibility across the board. Technology has been accelerated by Covid-19 and will bring us back to a world where delegation and objectives will be essential. We hope that remote working will become commonplace, but it needs these two elements to be able to work effectively”. 

Sonia Malaspina, HR Director South Europe Danone Specialized Nutrition

In times of crisis, you need to work on psychological and emotional support for your people

“Over the past few years, we’ve been on a journey with Life Based Value to value parenthood experiences, taking account of motherhood and fatherhood. When I started my career 20 years ago, motherhood was a taboo; now we know it’s a huge source of resources for organisations. Top management is aware of that, thanks to the data we’ve been able to give them regarding improved skills and productivity levels following periods of maternity leave. Thanks to this crisis, we’ve been able to translate the maternity experience across the whole company; is as though we were all on a period of leave together, which can become a great opportunity. 

Organizations are held up by four main pillars: economic, organizational, cultural and psychological-emotional. In all crisis experiences, not just the one we’re currently going through, you need to prioritize and focus on the psychological-emotional pillar within the organization. Organizations are made up of people who have feelings, fears, anxieties and reactions. Leaders, from the Managing Director to their top-level management, are called to manage the psychological-emotional element too, even though they are also just as worried abou the future of the company. In Danone, we’ve made a global commitment: Danone has declared that nobody will lose their job because of Coronavirus.

In this way, we have left space for people to express their creativity, and we’re re-writing our Business Model with them to introduce new ways of working. Every person across every level can have a creative idea, but they will only express it if management creates a trusting and comforting environment. Let’s put ourselves in other people’s shoes and care for their whole beings, not just seeing them as professionals. That’s the only way we can see a great return.

I believe that this crisis will leave us with so many more ideas, everything that we’ve thought of to face this crisis and reinvent ourselves will remain true after it’s all over, becoming part of our company’s heritage”.

Marco De Rosa, HR Director Italy & Switzerland Alstom

New future mantra: new skills and sharing

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve made a series of urgent and necessary steps, from safeguarding people with health protocols and introducing remote working to all of our employees to social safeguarding and the adoption of salary integration tools. Psychological safeguarding is also layered on top of that, which is something we’re working on right now: we’re about to start a listening space and a range of seminars on personal balance. Work is a key part of our lives and our routine has been disrupted over this time: we’re forced to live indoors, often in a small space with our family, which requires a different type of balance.

The first steps are the most complicated and difficult ones to define. Because we don’t know long the social distancing rules will continue for, but we also know that ‘it will be difficult to travel across the metre that separates us’ (to quote the head of Protezione Civile, Angelo Borrelli). The question we must ask ourselves is how can we keep the social distancing, that will probably be left in place for a long time after the emergency, but still increasing inclusion? This is one of our objectives. For example, think about how valuable a coffee break can be: when will we be able to do it again? And how will we replace it?

The areas that our company needs to work on are the following. 

  1. The need to rethink spaces. We need to think about how our offices, open spaces, factories, canteens and meeting rooms are organized.
  2. The need to rethink training. We do a lot of it, especially technical training, which usually happens in the classroom. This will need to be looked at again, as we know tat we can’t just think about webinars, but need to find other ways of learning. 
  3. Organize remote working. Remote working isn’t common in our sector, but it’s probably going to be a structural change. Technical employees will need special equipment that’s not just a need within our company, but the whole country. This about the networking infrastructure technologies: as soon as we start to work from home, we find that the connection is often weak and unstable.
  4. Finally, communication remains key. This crisis has highlighted the importance of communicating with the entire corporate population. Our ‘blue collar’ workers are at home right now, the building sites are closed, and we need to define a new way of communicating with them as they often don’t have laptops or, in some cases, an email address.

In summary, my mantra for the future will be: new skills and sharing. We need to reinvent ourselves, and those who have been generous with creating and listening to their network will create a clear competitive advantage”.

Guido Piacenza, HR Director Santander Consumer Bank

The skills that we had previously learned on paper are now being put to the test through the pandemic, and tomorrow they will be our new way of working

“Up until yesterday, when we were able to experiment with lots of different training methods, we ‘played’ with soft skills training, such as creativity, being open, innovation, showing initiative and entrepreneurialism. All of these skills, that we’ve been training on paper up until now, will become our new ways of working in the future.

But training isn’t the only aspect that we need to rethink. Another area is internal communication. We are now communicating with our employees each day through our corporate intranet: we are translating new laws, modules and simplifying information that the government has provided to make it easy for our employees to understand. But that’s not all…we also have an app. It’s usually used for corporate events, but we’ve converted it into a way of feeling closer to each other. Each week we suggest a new talking point, and we can all contribute in a continuous way. It’s also a way of generating new ideas on how to manage returning to ‘normality’ once this is all over.

On this topic, we’re also looking to create a network with other businesses, especially those within our own sector, to better understand what they are doing and discover new ideas that we can rework and put into action within our own company. 

Some of our previous choices have been key over this period, others have needed to be thought through again. For example, two years ago, we opened our new headquarters. At the same time, we gave all of our employees a laptop, experimenting with unlimited remote working, trusting that our employees would use their common sense with it.

Another key point for us is that we have the chance to teach other countries something new. We’ve been considering ourselves a small Business Unit, performing well but looking at the bigger companies within the group. Now we’re still seen as a Business Unit, but one that can teach something to the bigger players. Partly because this happened 4 weeks earlier in Italy, partly because our ‘latin’ edge has bought out innovations and ideas that have become other people’s best practices”.

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