This article is a guest post from our recent webinar speaker, Mark Edgar, a recovering CHRO, who spent more than 25 years working across multiple sectors before taking the leap and starting his own business, Goat Rodeo Project.
For those of who don’t know (and there are many), a goat rodeo is a slang term for something being a complete train wreck. Goat Rodeo Project is designed to help you predict and avoid organizational train wrecks.
For the avoidance of doubt, the global pandemic that we are managing is a goat rodeo. A health crisis that has led to an economic crisis with deep and far reaching social implications. In my discussions with CHROs, it is clear that if the 2008 financial crisis was CFO led, then this was one for the CRHOs.
It’s been inspiring to watch the HR community step up to this challenge and provide leadership for their businesses to ensure their people were safe. On the webinar I talked through the four phases to managing COVID-19 as a HR department.
While every situation is unique, the framework is designed to provide direction of travel and some much needed hope for organizations. The React phase is all about crisis management and ensuring your people are safe. The Respond phase is about shifting your people to work on-line and about their mental wellbeing. Unsurprisingly, the poll in our recent webinar told us that the majority of participants (51%) were in the Respond phase and shifting their thinking to Reconnect and Reimagine. We will focus on these two stages, not because React and Respond are not important – they are critically important – but more as a reflection of where the long term opportunity lies.
Let’s start with Reconnect.
The world is slowly thinking about reopening and while it’s concerning that some territories are doing it perhaps too quickly, it’s an important stage. I see the response from HR folks falling into two very different categories – I’ll call them the Head response and the Heart response.
The Head response is focused around new working protocols that need to be developed to ensure a safe work environment is being created. Guidelines will be produced and should be used to ensure you know what needs to change in your workplace. Imagine the world moving to 100% contactless and that will give you a sense of how seismic this shift will be.
When you add social distancing into the mix then you need new working protocols that cover the number of people who can be in the lift, the office, the corridors, the kitchen… dare I say the toilets? Many organizations will implement a phased approach and prioritise who needs to come back to the office first. Many won’t come back at all.
Organizations will also need to increase their medical capabilities. This includes testing, PPE and protocols on how to deal with absence.
I’m confident HR departments will take their Head responses very seriously. Risks will be identified, robust plans will be developed and they will be implemented thoughtfully. We’re good at this stuff. Who wouldn’t want to have a HR person by their side in a crisis?
I believe consideration of the Heart response is where you’ll bring long term value to your business. It’s less tangible, but critical and the window is short. There are three elements:
- Welcome people forward – this unusual term resonated with many in our webinar. The people in your organization have been through a unique and shared experience. While the impact and their response will be different, the experience has been the same. The idea of welcoming people forward (rather than welcoming them back) is to acknowledge this shared experience and provide your people with the chance to thoughtfully transition to the next phase.
- Gather insights and learnings – the best way to welcome people forward is to get their feedback on how it went. What did people notice during the pandemic? How did the culture of the organization hold-up? How did leaders show-up? All this learning will help inform future plans as you start to think about how you Reimagine your workplace.
- Enhanced wellbeing support – our focus on wellbeing needs to continue through to the Reconnect phase and will become a constant capability in organizations if it isn’t already. People will be anxious about returning to work, worried about their loved-ones and depending on their circumstances nervous about their future livelihood. Empathy will need to continue to be a focus as we all continue to all be CEOs – Chief Empathy Officers.
All phases are critical and as a HR professional this is our moment. People have stepped up and will continue to do so. I’d encourage everyone to be focused on where they are today and where they want to be tomorrow – this is about small steps, making quick decisions based on limited information and being ready to pivot.
Welcome to the future – and HR’s big pivot. Stay tuned for my next post which will delve into the reimagine phase.