HR and Corona – What’s “normal” these days?
Hygiene measures, furlough, and virtual leadership – these topics currently characterize my daily work. If someone had predicted this at the beginning of the year, I probably would have shaken my head. But unfortunately, this is now the bitter reality. The Corona crisis confronts us with a situation none of us ever experienced before. Employees are insecure, anxious, and stressed. During these times our role as human resources managers is more important than ever and goes beyond the daily business. We oversee various business topics which now must be managed from home: the onboarding of new employees, administrative tasks, supporting and coaching the managers, and motivating the employees. This shows what tension the HR department is currently exposed to and demonstrates many new challenges that result from the crisis. These challenges are even intensified due to the fact that you cannot interact with your colleagues the same way we are used to: although we are in constant virtual communication with them I as a human resources manager miss the people and the one-on-one dialogue with them.
During the last weeks, I have often read, that in times of crisis, it is particularly important to regain a certain degree of normality to give the employees the assurance they need. But I was asking myself what is “normal” these days? Suddenly there are no spontaneous encounters at the coffee machine anymore, much less a “Do you have a moment? There’s something on my mind”. Instead, you must coordinate much more, find the time for such conversations, and plan them. The communication in a group chat does not reflect all reactions immediately despite all the great tools we use. This way employees’ personal feelings cannot always be paid tribute to right away, which makes it a much harder job. Especially now, when it is particularly important to find the right words communicating new information and changes to employees to take away their anxieties.
As an HR professional, I am currently in permanent crisis management mode. I learn about topics that I never thought would become important in my daily work. That includes special hygiene measures, virtual leadership, furlough, etc. Suddenly there are rules that did not exist before. That does something to you. Combined with the general uncertainty, it doesn’t always feel good. And that’s why it’s even more important to regain a bit of normality and stay in close contact with your colleagues, for example by sending postcards to all of them for Easter:
The current situation requires courage from all of us: the courage to try something new, the courage to fail, the courage to change. Many structures and processes must be adapted to the current situation. But this also offers an opportunity. Many positive things may develop from such a crisis: our team is now working from home, which was realized very quickly, and unbureaucratically. Everyone pulled together to continue working virtually. This has resulted in new routines and forms of communication: What is useful right now? But also: What do I learn from the crisis? And above all: What practices do I keep?
I already know what I have learned from this crisis:
1. I have chosen my profession because I like working with people. I need direct, social contact. Even though I appreciate the advantages ofworking from home, I miss my colleagues. I don’t just want to see them on the screen. Even if it all works perfectly. We are wellequipped to work remotely. There are a lot of helpful tools. For example, I’m currently looking at how I can adjust the recruiting process if the situation persists. I’m also busy planning and designing remote workshops, but virtual communication is no substitute for a face-to-face dialogue.
2. I also like the newly created structure, which is now more needed than ever and has become more “normal”. The “daily check-in” is one of those little new routines that I would like to keep when I am back at the office with my colleagues. I know that this learning is not new and world-changing. But it has been successfully “tested and approved”. New routines and communication formats we only brainstormed about before the crisis are now put into practice. And I am sure that there is still a lot of potentials out there we can benefit from.
3. At the same time, I havelearned that a pandemic is not normal, but rather frightening. It challenges me every day anew to constantly balance between caring for the individual and the organization.
I think the developments and learnings that are emerging from the crisis are great and I am curious which of them will establish themselves in a long-term perspective. But despite these learnings, I can hardly wait to return to the office. Even if organizing the return means that I again will have to deal with topics I only have limited knowledge about yet. But I’m happy to do that because I look forward to seeing my colleagues again.