After the war between mankind and virus, there will be a serious shortage of morale since lives and livelihoods were both lost. In addition, the pandemic has added its own twist to the tale by socially distancing people, cities, nations and continents yet virtually shrinking the longest distances.

Whether the re-launch is a big bang or a gradual crescendo, there is no doubt in history, and statistics predict, that mankind will triumph.

So, what?

Can we pretend that the past never happened and smoothly restart from where we stopped?

Are we prepared for the post-Covid onslaught of a different kind of business that will need to be run, in the new normal?

Do we have any learnings to lean on after global catastrophic events?

What then?

After wars which had mankind fight mankind, there was a serious shortage of people for rebuilding the world, since lives were lost.

After the war between mankind and virus, there will be a serious shortage of morale since lives and livelihoods were both lost.

In addition, the pandemic has added its own twist to the tale by socially distancing people, cities, nations and continents yet virtually shrinking the longest distances.

Digital Spaces have replaced Physical Spaces to the extent that homes and coffins seem to be the only physical space requirements of an individual, in the new normal. Everything else seems to have a digital option.

So then, in the après Covid era, are organisations prepared for the change in demand for their products and services?

Are organisations prepared to make their revamped products and services with a workforce that is partly skilled, partly ready and partly motivated?

How can organisations rebuild and reinvent in the post-Covid world?

How can they manage the employee lifecycle in a world that has redefined normal?

Let us give it a shot from an HRM Perspective and using the lens of employee lifecycle:

Recruitment & Retention

For organisations that have had to let go of people to balance their spends, the new normal will usher in a need for quick solutions that can either do without people or get people in a jiffy.

For organisations that have held on to everyone and yet balanced their costs by capping their payroll spends, it’s perhaps time to map competencies to new roles and new skills that can keep pace with the demands of the new normal.

Either way, there will also be a need for a revamped retention strategy that can keep competition at bay. And competition will be perhaps far more in the après Covid era, what with innovations, diversifications and Covid-smart products and services vying for consumer attention!

Learning & Development

The skill requirements will have changed in an industry and function agnostic manner. The old normal was democratically phygital while the new normal will be lot more digital than physical. After all social distancing got even school kids onto the much-restricted smart screens! Now that it’s happened, it’s here to stay.

As the playground has changed, the players definitely need a makeover. Despite the remote and digital operations, customer relationship management needs to be closer, more real and far more empathetic; Design and Production need to gear up to the après Covid imperatives of functional and emotional values.

Service and maintenance need to pull up their socks and get valued for money as well as safety plus hygiene, while sales needs to be slicker and smarter to suit the screen savvy and reviews-hungry evolved consumer. Marketing, of course, will be digitally enhanced and (post)pandemically clued-in.

The much-needed makeover spends will therefore entail both capex and opex owing to IT infrastructure needs as well as training costs not to speak of the cost of re-training the trainers!

And all this at the speed of light before the new world, moves on.

Performance Management

Tracking performance in the post-pandemic era will be as phygital as can be. What with WFH raking in the benefit votes from organisations as well as employees, tracking will need to be result oriented (as opposed to brownie points for effort) and hence more quantitative than before. Goal setting needs to perhaps increase in frequency rending towards milestone setting. Formal quarterly/annual/bi-annual reviews will therefore make way for collaborative reviews on the go with self-pacing and mentoring taking the cake. After all, most prefer to be parked on the couch and would possibly find across the table discussion modes a bit superficial and entirely unnecessary.

Self-discipline would top the chart in behavioural competencies as each of us now will be a Jeffrey Archer with a writing (working) schedule like a military regime. Of course, we can choose to be Roald Dahl and build a writing(working) hut for intense involved bouts. 

Either way the spirit will align to Dahl’s philosophy which said ‘When I am up here, I see only the paper I am writing on, and my mind is far away with Willy Wonka or James or Mr Fox or Danny or whatever else I am trying to cook up‘.

Employee Engagement

While the vaccinated world may open up to gatherings and celebrations, perhaps the locked-down heart and mind need a perk up, that’s more meaningful. 

Think of the prisoners of the civil war, when they were finally released, the adjustment to a new world was not easy. The realisation that the old-world charm of assured wealth has been replaced by a mad rush to fend for oneself, many just crumbled and gave up even before they started. Families that adjusted and innovated to keep the home fires burning were able to restore sanity and keep up the morale of their bread winners.

The organisation will now be that family which can meaningfully reassure, empathise, encourage as also innovate enterprising ways to reach out and egg their brood onto newer platforms, faster changes and revised priorities.

Psychological and Medical benefits will also go a long way in making the engagement last. Emotional support in terms of counselling and sharing not just knowledge but experiences and challenges to convey that ‘we are all in it together’, will replace workplace activities that provided fun and reprieve in the pre-Covid times.

Remote working, which has now proved to be a smart option for organisations as well as employees, has changed homes forever. Remote schooling has piled on to make homes mini-factories which run on multiple shifts. The lady of the house, juggling many more priorities will be ever-ready to snap up any hack or trick to keep her sanity. The man of the house will sorely miss stepping out in style with sense of importance that was a convenient smoke screen, lending obscurity to domestic challenges. Now that organisations have crossed the lines of privacy under the guise of Covidisation, they need to make new rules that respect domestic boundaries, restore domestic sanity and resolve domesticated work challenges. Women and men alike would seek forums to vent out and sort out the fuzzy logic that discerns work-from-home from work-for-home and work-of-home. Instead of leaving it to outsourced life coaches and women’s lib, organisations would do well to own up to the need and reap the benefits of engagement.

Inclusivity in business decisions across functions, levels and geographies would also contribute towards a sanity check in the face of salary cuts and payroll revisions, which are unlikely to disappear overnight.

Communication therefore will rev up its EQ, retain its IQ and play a pivotal role in keeping the CQ (Crisis Quotient) of the company-ship from turning Titanic.

Rewards & Recognition

While rewards can be of all kinds, the reason for rewards is heading for a change. With self-discipline and self-pacing demanded by higher levels of unsupervised performances, the importance of values that add impetus to a sense of ownership, sense of belonging and sense of pride, across oceans and continents will take the front row.

If I delegate or escalate more than my share, I shall forfeit my claim to fame. After all, I do not have the luxury of slipping through cracks aided by the out of sight- out of mind syndrome when the whole world can watch, record and replay all my moves.

In addition, new normal friendly solutions and product-process innovations will surely deserve laurels.

Manpower Optimisation

While VUCA and Covid together have complemented each other to accelerate everything that gets bracketed under the new normal, survival will be reserved for the fittest, true to the evolution of a crisis-prepared and mortally-vulnerable mankind. It will be no different for the representative sample of mankind that populates organisations.

HRM will, therefore, wield the responsibility of strategically managing the inflow, development and outflow of competency holders, in a world that can swing both ways.

While business is likely to ride steeper roller-coasters, the onus on HRM will demand empathetic yet financially prudent solutions for manpower optimisation.

And that brings us to a point where we peer through the looking glass, shoulder to shoulder with Alice and Lewis in eager anticipation of the wonderland called après Covid.

What happens next?

“With great power comes great responsibility.” — Peter Parker Principle

“In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” — Charles Darwin

Après Covid in organisations will continue to be the age of Darwinism, with HRM playing Spiderman.

And so, the web of support, called employee lifecycle as well as the speed of response to après Covid markets, both will count.

Spiderman Mask anyone? We have a web to spin.

– Sowmya Raghu Raman

Published in – Economic Times