SynFiny Advisors kicked off series of HR breakfasts with HR Directors and Organization Development Directors.

As of June 1, a number of lockdown constrains were lifted which included gradual return to the new normal in office spaces. Post the first lockdown period, with some relaxations of constraints, became a good moment for HR professionals to get informally together to exchange learnings, best practices, pain points, emerging trends and issues.

Remote working

Overall, remote home offices were quickly established, no major technical issues faced. Companies that practiced work from home (WFH) prior to COVID-19 embraced it further, companies that were new to it had a quick positive response from employees and management. However, some companies faced situations with line management being strongly concerned whether employees were indeed performing their work to the same extent as in the office. Fearing losing touch with the organization, resulted in situations of rigorous control by individual managers, including top managers, over tasks performed. HR Leaders stepped in to sense the situation thoroughly and work with line management on a range of organization related topics and individual coaching sessions including psychological insights. In general, the situation had once again proven the fact that high and good performers sustained their effective performance levels; same was proven for poor performers with sustained poor performance level and accelerated the thinking about exit plans.

On the employee side, WFH became a huge challenge of multitasking since culturally home is not perceived as the place where you work. In a majority of situations, homes are not designed and equipped to be used by family members as their place to work and study.

Additionally, many extended families live in one household trying to accomplish their work, help their children of different age groups with remote learning and connectivity, while continuing to perform daily household tasks – cooking, cleaning, etc. Engagement levels significantly went up which is supported by pulse survey data. The dividing line between working and non-working hours with the WFH setup led to ongoing non-stop working hours including weekends and bank holidays. The increased need for personal space, time and even moments of silence became key.

Colleagues and professionals from a local employee assistance company shared insightful statistics to their hot line/call center specialists. The index of calls in May was up by 12% vs March and up by 85% in June vs March

Key Issues Addressed

  • Financial – Liabilities for schooling, loans and penalties.
  • Medical – COVID symptoms concerns and personal protective equipment effectiveness.
  • Psychological – Conflicts with family members, motivation factors for small children, need for personal time and engagement with a professional psychologist.

With the lockdown being over, yet the statistics maintain at relatively high level, this confirms the fact of existing and growing concerns and should serve as food for thought for employers of different sizes. Individual and human touch must be leveraged and addressed via corporate programs, tools, pulse surveys and Employee Assistance Programs. Employee Assistance PULSE surveys provide anonymous summary of the organization health based on the content analysis of individual calls and enables real time sensing on what’s on the minds of employees. This is practical and insightful data for employers to take appropriate and timely action.

Business processes adjust to online, followed by full transition to online

The lockdown situation urged many processes, traditionally supported face-to-face with paper and pencil, to move to online. This included but is not limited to such big areas as:

  • Recruiting – Online testing, interviewing, final interview and job offer aspects are successfully being used, require less effort and time, allow all involved staff to work flexibly.
  • HR Admin – Employment contracts and labor books were performed offline with few resources involved, as well as online where online processes were either in place or were quickly moved to online.
  • Training – Regular and customized sessions were moved and successfully performed online using all possible technology enablers of working in groups, pairs, in a virtual classroom with live discussions. Many delayed and relatively expensive trainings were implemented online effectively and with minimum funding needed. In particular leadership were trained on resilience – personal and professional.
  • Communication
    • Quarterly townhalls moved to online with 100% attendance and then transferred to monthly and in some places even weekly basis
    • Leadership committee meetings moved from weekly to 2-3 times/week
    • Individual in touch meetings between line managers and employees happen more often and have a greater focus on where help is needed

Emerging issues and ways to handle

Some participants mentioned new hire voluntary attrition during the first 3 months of the trial period is of a growing concern – unwanted, initiated by employees due to the hard adaptivity, lack of corporate connectivity and link to live corporate culture. More global companies with global systems and institutionalized practices are not experiencing this issue but share the concern on new hire onboarding. This is big area which requires special effort, attention and adjustments vs existing practices.

Office return survey statistics

Sensing received from HR community on office return readiness:

  • 50% of employees are ready to return to work from office.
  • Working in teams, personal touch and working with very specific documentation are key drivers to return to offices.
  • The fear of getting COVID19 while using public transport, infrastructure and common office areas remain key unaddressed concerns.
  • Approximately 10% of employees would like to work from office on ongoing basis and the remaining 90% would like to practice different variations of WFH (1-2 days/week, 3-5 days/week).

The series will resume in September after the summer holidays season and return to the new normal is back on track.

SynFiny Advisors Eastern Europe