Averbook: 4 things HR needs to get ‘right’ in the COVID era

Jason Averbook shares some ideas of what “right” might look like in your organisation, today and going forward.
By: | August 12, 2020

By Jason Averbook is a leading analyst, thought leader and consultant in the area of HR, the future of work and the impact technology have on that future. The article was first published on Human Resource Executive.

We are living in, perhaps, the most fascinating, exciting and challenging times we’ll see in our lives.

I can imagine that, each morning when we wake up, many of us simultaneously feel thankful for our health, worried about the future and completely awed at the magnitude of worldwide panic and upheaval playing out before our eyes. Each day is another filled with sorrow, opportunities, challenges and decisions—each of which may seem like the most important we will make during our lives, both personally and professionally, as we navigate the new now of work.

Organisations recognise the challenges and opportunities presented in these unique times, but they still struggle to know what to do. When I’m asked for counsel, the word “right” keeps coming to bear. By definition, “right” means that which is good, correct, honorable and justified. These are a few ideas of what “right” might look like in your organisation, today and going forward.

The Right Communication and Experience

As I have stated in previous columns, my strongest recommendation to all organizations is to take all travel budgets and other spend tied to HR/workforce technology and allocate it to workforce communication and experience. Today’s workplace requires more communication and a better workforce experience than ever before, based on the variation and distribution of work. Communication and experience were easier to manage, one might argue, when everyone went to an office or worked in the same manner—not easy, exactly, but maybe easier. Now that we have workers of different types and statuses working from different places with different leaders and with different national, state and local requirements, we desperately need a real-time communication and experience delivery vehicle. If this is not in place already, it should be an immediate priority.

We also need to ensure listening—with clear action based on what we hear—is tied directly to our communication and experience strategies and plans. Communication and experience are multi-directional and based on the agility and fragility of business and the workforce today; if this is not working, we have a major problem in our ability to move the workforce forward.

The Right Talent Management

Agile and necessary business transitions forced by COVID-19 changed talent needs, essentially overnight; at the same time, demands for social justice and equality shined a new light on diverse and inclusive talent practices. Prior to these talent shifts, we were already working with processes, not journeys—processes that were decades old, added little to no value to managers and employees, and failed to produce true business outcomes. We must break talent management as we know it and deploy the right talent strategies for organizations in the now of work.

While doing that, we must reset talent management in the right way. Diversity and inclusion have to be infused in talent strategy and practices; holistically, by default, embedded in process and technology; and not siloed and separate.

The Right Operating Model

As the HR function shifts its focus to consider and support an organization’s true competitive differentiation, our operating model must also shift. We must break the silos once again between HR and IT that have caused dysfunction, as well as those between each Center of Excellence that takes our eye off the total workforce experience picture. And we must reframe our operating model around the total workforce (employees and contractors), with a holistic view on talent and a centralized model around data and insight strategies. The operating model of the 2010s will not allow us to survive in the 2020s and beyond.

The Right Active Roadmap

Following a roadmap is easy; following an active roadmap is difficult. What is the difference? We must be constantly assessing the needs of the business as priorities change on a weekly basis. We must be constantly aligning the needs of the business with the goals and objectives of the people function. And we must act quickly, efficiently and with agility to deploy those strategies to the organization. The right roadmap is one that is active, one that is fluid and one that is immediately responsive to the organization as it traverses the changing world we live in today.

Doing things is easy. Doing the right things is hard. Doing the right things requires strategy, deployment excellence and continuous improvement. The sooner we stop focusing on doing more with less and instead focus on doing the right things in a more agile way, the better equipped we will be to position ourselves for both short- and long-term success—and, ultimately, to achieve the outcomes the business is looking for.

This is not time to do more; it is time to do right.