By Kerry Nutley, HCM Strategy Director UK & Ireland, Oracle, Suki Bassi, Chief Happiness Officer, HappyMaven and Hossam Hamdy, Senior HCM Solution Engineer, Oracle
In the face of a global health crisis, many of us have done our best to set up new routines within our households, managing families and juggling work commitments at home.
Some may still be working, while others may be on reduced hours, find themselves furloughed or even out of work. Some of us may be living, working and coping on our own, and coming to terms with no human contact. Some may be grieving from losing someone to the illness or recovering from it ourselves.
We have all had to find a way of coping with the ongoing crisis. If there is a positive
to be found within the disruption, fear and anxiety generated by the global crisis, it is the empathy and humanity that we have witnessed, both at home and in the workplace. Both at work and home we have created virtual exercise breaks, talking and checking in with our neighbours, calling our family more, buying shopping for strangers that were self-isolating, offering whatever we could to critical workers and healthcare staff – even leaving things to swap or donate on our doorsteps.
As we moved into survival mode, we lost our ego; status became less important, and support became our main focus and priority. As the divisions between work and home disappeared, suddenly having barking dogs in the background is perfectly acceptable on conference calls. Children jumping on screen for hugs with Daddy is no longer a viral moment of embarrassment (remember BBC Dad?) but a great conversation starter and ice-breaker.
For some, such empathy and humanity in the workplace may have already been key organisational values. We see this with many of our not-for-profit customers.
One of our customer's Co-op, a UK co-operative, lived by these values pre-crisis and went even further over the last few months by supporting communities and employees as shown in their video.
Working in the New Normal
So, the question we now have as HR professionals, as we start planning the processes, scenarios and business continuity plans to move our colleagues back to a new working normal (whatever that might be), is: how do we maintain this new level of shared humanity and community, and not lose this as we return to the daily commute and BAU?
We posed this question to Suki Bassi, Chief Happiness Officer at HappyMaven, who kindly offered us the following recommendations for HR Leads and organisations:
- Humanity starts with an organisational purpose. Truly living the values of that purpose starts with modelling from the top and empowering empathetic decision making across all levels of the business. During the crisis, many organisations communicated openly with honesty and humanity; understanding that was not only what they did, but how they did it that would be their legacy post-crisis. Moving forward, this transparency and authenticity will need to remain within the leadership.
- Support employee wellbeing. As employees move back to a new working normal (whether that remains remote, or back into an organisational building), it is critical to understand that work has a significant impact on people’s wellbeing, purpose, human connections and economic security. Employees may still be juggling work and schooling, supporting at risk elderly parents or neighbours, and be both mentally and physically impacted themselves (and the dog still barks when the doorbell rings).
- Communicate check-ins and Employee Assistance Programmes. It is a natural human reaction to feel fear and anxiety upon returning to work during such periods of uncertainty. Whether that's an immediate or a delayed response, being mindful and acting considerately to these concerns, ensuring employees feel listened to will be important to ensure hearts, minds and feet are captured. Offer to schedule regular one-to-one check-ins and clearly signpost access to employee assistance services. Another consideration may also be survivor syndrome; where people who have been able to remain working feel guilt for not having been financially impacted.
- Maintain flexible working. During the crisis, we empowered our employees to work flexibly. That could have been in terms of location or in terms of hours and time worked. As restrictions are lifted, consider retaining a flexible working model if it suits your people and your business. Empowering employees through giving them more trust, accountability, technological resources and autonomy over their schedules and working patterns will ensure that companies retain the human-centred approach garnered through this experience.
- Give employees more control. Adam Grant, Professor of Management and Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, proposed to the World Economic Forum in a recent interview that there may also be some post-traumatic growth, in which people realise their inner strength: “That might mean redesigning jobs to make them more meaningful and motivating, trying to build cultures of creativity and generosity in teams, or even trying to make entire organisations more productive”, he said. Be mindful to this and let people grow in ways that suit them.
- Set a clear, bold CSR agenda. During the pandemic, we also saw companies and employees stand alongside wider society in terms of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Moving forward, a clear (and possibly very local) CSR agenda that drives a true purpose-driven culture should be considered. Helping your team find meaning, even in the small moments, strengthens company culture and reminds employees that we're all in this together.
- Share your experiences. We also saw in the crisis that we need increased clear communication, genuine teamwork and the strength of having the humility of asking for support from others. We all pitched in, whatever our grade, our role to help and do what we could. Therefore, taking time out as teams and asking what people learnt from the crisis will be a good way to share experiences, mitigate possible anxieties and consider implementing improved ways of working. Things people want to do more of, remain as-is or try and return to. A culture where it is not the responsibility of just the manager who has all the answers, but one of high challenge and high support, is something that will support us moving forward with resilience and agility – whatever that might be.
So, as HR Professionals and as leaders, we now have an opportunity, individually and
collectively, to centre empathy and humanity in the blueprint for the future of work. To take our collected learnings from this experience and use them to manifest a 21st Century workplace that we can all contribute to and be proud of.
How can Oracle Cloud HCM help?
Oracle’s Cloud HCM platform can support organisations through some of the following functionality:
Oracle’s My Volunteering provides a solution to help increase the level of volunteerism.
It’s an easy way for both the employees and central volunteering projects to be posted, approved and promoted, to increase workforce participation and awareness.
Oracle’s HCM Worklife, My Wellness is a motivational tool that helps employees and organisations set and reach wellbeing goals. Wellbeing activities can be tracked personally, and if desired, other co-workers can be invited to a fitness challenge.
Oracle’s Global HR and Oracle HR Helpdesk provides HR with the capability to acquire continual feedback from employees via pulse surveys as well as to analyse survey results by topic and questions.