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Putting People At The Centre of the Coronavirus Recovery

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How do we, as HR professionals, put people first when we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. Lesley Kaye, Associate CIPD Tutor shares her thoughts.

It is heartening to hear a discussion on the positives we have learned from the Covid-19 crisis, and according to Sir Ian Cheshire, that CEOs are much more aware of the state of mind of their teams than they were before and suggested HR professionals should be very forthright in chasing CEOs to make sure they don’t go back to taking people for granted.

The challenge is how we continue to put people first when coming out of the furlough scheme and in making some difficult decisions. Valerie Todd of Siemens said that good practice, from an HR perspective, should not go out the window; consider what can be achieved in the shorter term of, say 10 to 16 weeks with good resource planning. It should not be an arbitrary decision but well thought out including reskilling people, not just as future employers but in entrepreneurial skills etc. and long range planning to try and avoid redundancy, which was echoed by the CIPD’s Chief Executive. Having a talented and truly diverse and capable workforce is about building success of the future business, not cost saving in the short term. Certainly, from my experience of working with organisations before and during the last recession in 2008, those who effectively motivated and retained their talent were able to recover far more quickly than those who did not.

Four female office workers gathered around a table examining a laptop


Natasha Adams of Tesco suggested that we now need to move very directly forward, focusing in a laser-like way on the imperatives, which has been echoed in other Festival sessions. One of those imperatives is in planning what skills are required for people professionals now and in the future as we should be trying to get the HR agenda owned by the whole leadership, not just HR or the CEO.

A key discussion point was around developing a positive culture by putting people front and centre, and ensuring that we really listen to their voices, getting them involved and using the might of the workforce as they have the solution. We have seen a breaking down of hierarchy away from the command control status as, after all, in a Zoom, Skype or Teams meeting, the CEO has the ‘same size square’ as everyone else in the meeting and this is an opportunity for a real cultural shift in organisations.

In the ‘new’ world of work purpose will be even more important in engaging and motivating employees – to keep serving the ‘customer’ and a level of pride in the organisation because they are doing something to do so. It is also an opportunity to change the way we think about inclusion, for example, people who could not previously travel to an office, it has now been proven that they can work from home.

All the speakers were asked for one thing HR professionals need to take away or stop doing as a result of the crisis. The general view was that this has given HR an opportunity and that HR professionals should stand proud, confident and courageous; HR has an opportunity to be instrumental in creating the workforce of the future to drive business, serve customers, radically raising the level of ambition of what the organisation could do. This certainly echoes my thoughts and many of the students who have studied with me will know that I speak passionately about the value of ‘high support and high challenge’, providing the tools and support to assist employees to be engaged with the organisation but also deliver the best performance, which retains staff and drives business performance. A win / win situation.

Blog written by Lesley Kaye, Consultant & Associate CIPD Tutor

FCIPD, Coach, OD and Change Consultant Lesley has delivered our CIPD qualification programmes in the UK, Bulgaria and Dubai. She worked for more than 15 years in senior HR management roles within construction management, defence and gas service organisations before embarking on a successful consultancy career in HR development, working with wide range of clients in the public and private sectors.

Find out more about Lesley here.

Contact Lesley on LinkedIn:

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