The current ongoing pandemic of COVID-19 has radically altered the way we work and as we transit from crisis mode to the new normal of work, this would involve a period of accelerated change. Thus managing the work-force has become an important challenge whilst also offering an opportunity to transform and modernize ways of working. Organisations will need to re-think their business strategy essentially requiring employees to be at the center of this debate and ensure that employee well-being is at the core of their strategy. It is essential that employees along with their managers weigh the present and think about the desired future scenario. Employees would need to be facilitated by their managers to understand and own this transformation. Here the science of Human Resource Management becomes significant as its fundamental purpose is to achieve organizational success through their people and the concept of the Human Resource policy (HR) policy becomes noteworthy.

The (HR) policy sets the guidelines that elucidate the organisational values, principles & norms that can be prescribed and translated into HR functions, procedures and HR matters. Hence the HR policy is essential for making clear to the employees what the organization upholds and considers important. The HR policy is dependent on the type of organization, its phase of growth and development and external competitive pressures that are impacting the organization. Consequently, the current changing scenario of work gives prospect to HRM departments and HR managers to push forward the HR Business Partner agenda and carry out advisory and consultant roles in conjunction with the CEO’s top management and business leaders for developing a well thought, collective, comprehensive & consistent HR policy that would be most suited to current times. This would imply having and showing renewed commitment towards managing the human resources commendably as this ultimately leads to organizational success and can be a propelling factor towards boosting the economy and productivity of the country.

In the new normal the world of work be it private, public and SMEs have to face many unsought challenges such as such imminent closure, continuity with cut budgets, restructuring, downsizing and rightsizing, moving towards being technology driven, digitilisation, remote working and home working. Thus in these altered situations human resources needs adaptability, skills, resilience, multi-skilling & flexibility, job security and providing a positive employee experience that needs to be highlighted in  the HR policy. Subsequently, some shining examples of HR policies that can enable organisations to cope with the current and future circumstances could be as follows ‘We see this pandemic as an opportunity to reconnect and strengthen our bonds with all our employees’, ‘We do not believe in laying off employees and reassure employees that we all are together in this.’ ‘We will ensure that all employees will be given the requisite learning to adapt to new ways of working under these changed circumstances in the present and the future’.‘We want to treat our employees as the most valued asset and we will do everything to ensure that they are empowered and given the requisite skills to adapt to the new normal of work’.

HR Policy has three main stipulations

A comprehensive and well defined HR policy wants to enhance the employee experience and is hinged on these three-fold stipulations: It should be based on equity and fairness that takes into consideration the circumstances affecting employees, and how the organization will view, treat and manage their human resources. It clearly sets the tone that organisations should move towards becoming ‘learning organisations’ that facilitate the learning process by the employees. It wants to enhance organisational performance based on nurturing employees through continuous learning, goal clarity and mutual expectations. These stipulations are thus ideal and most suited to the new normal of work and gives opportunities to lay a fresh emphasis on creating a culture of well-being, exploring employee creativity, and boosting employee morale and connect, whether face-to-face or in a virtual way. The purpose being to empower employees to go through transitions of change and to anchor and steer employees to be able to remain motivated, committed and engaged in work-places that are in a persistent state of instability. It is also vitally important to ensure that line managers and departmental heads are made aware of the HR policy and are involved completely in the implementation. HRM departments along with the support of top management should make sure that they transfer, construe and sensitise line managers about the necessity of HR policies. They would also need to provide training and support as ultimately the onus of the implementing these HR policies lies with the line managers who are on regular daily contact with employees and have to make crucial choices about their employment.

Re-engineering the HR policy

In current times there is an urgency that the HR policy be re-engineered to reflect the new normal and must prescribe innovative HR practices such as flexible working, multi-skilling, home-working, remote-working, using online tools for communication purposes and information handling and storage & digitilisation that gives scope for making the most optimum use of people with the right person doing the right job, secure job contracts with a remote likelihood of laying of people even in these evolving conditions and the ability to re-strengthen the bond with employees despite social distancing or in a virtual work-context.

Home working and Remote Working

On a concluding note a special mention should be made of the importance of home and remote working in current times. Home working or remote working which if managed and handled properly gives an excellent opportunity to boost employee morale, offers flexibility & allows parents to work around their parental duties. They offer benefits such as enhanced organizational performance because of better work-life balance, nil commute time and improved emotional well-being. For home and remote working to have good results it must be implemented properly and these are some important considerations; it becomes crucial to provide employees with the correct online tools, ask them to create a suitable space for home-working and provide them with some training so that they have a positive experience. The different options could be video conferences that are great for generating dialogue and debate about crucial matters and creates a sense of togetherness which is important for dispelling the isolation and alienation usually associated with home working. Furthermore, chat based collaboration software is good for quick harmonization, finding solutions and queries can be easily answered.  E-mail can be used to record outcomes and communicate more formally. The leaders and top management should be synergetic, set a clear direction and strong vision, and inculcate a realistic outlook as this can have a powerful effect on employee motivation and engagement across the organization. It is also important to create cross functional teams so that all matters can be clarified and the work process is dynamic. There is a need to foster a result oriented culture that empowers and holds teams accountable for getting things done, while encouraging open, honest, and productive two-way communication. Hence even in a void of physical interaction, managers need to show empathy, to be there to listen and show care to employees as this can enhance employee motivation, involvement and psychological safety. They need to be inclusive in decision making, and offer perspectives in challenging moments, stay closer to what is going on, bring important issues to the surface, and help their teams solve problems effectively. It is also important to increase social interactions within the team with small tokens of appreciation to those teams that do well. Employee counseling can also facilitate one-on-one catch-ups that show employees that you value them and their tasks as this guards against feelings of isolation and demoralization. It also creates space for people to speak up and share their thoughts such that they feel a sense of connectedness and altruism with their jobs even in these times.