Gazing through the crystal ball
  • Maneesha Garg, Partner |

- Co-authored by Roli Pawar

COVID-19 has led and accelerated one of the greatest workplace transformations of our lifetime. In these turbulent times organisations are rediscovering their sense of purpose, innovating rapidly and getting closer to the communities. Mastering deep, meaningful and human connections with customers and colleagues/employees has become even more important to business leaders. Firms that invest in trust-building and emotional connect and kindness now, shall secure long-term loyalty and ethical allegiance of their employees. 

With offices moving to home, there has been a fundamental shift in how we lead our lives and continue to do business. Fueled by smart technologies, artificial intelligence and mobile supercomputing, we are already seeing companies innovating rapidly to cope with the uncertainties ahead. Pre-empting the need for emotional support, finding unique ways to connect with employees through virtual medium rather than physical or team-based approach has gained importance during these times.   

How will HR practices adapt and evolve?

With plans to stagger the physical presence of employees in offices, fewer people in one confined space may not only mean fewer human resource issues but it will also mean need for innovative approaches to retain critical connect within teams as well as with organisations at large.

Impact on hiring practices: There has been a demonstrable impact on the hiring process. Effective use of applicant tracking systems through online application process and virtual interviews have been some recent changes in the hiring process adopted by organisations.

Diversified supply chain of consultants, vendors and third-parties: Recent disruption has forced several small and boutique players to curtail their operations or close shop temporarily due to liquidity crunch. In this scenario, business continuity planning has taken a completely new dimension where organisations would need to broaden their third-party ecosystems (recruitment firms, consultants, background screening service providers) with a critical view of their partner’s financial health and their expertise to navigate through difficulties with better automated and digital solutions. The availability of service partners to support client business requirements with minimal disruptions may gain importance.

Impact on employee background screening: As the situation evolves, we expect to see a shift in the focus and a re-prioritisation of operational and human risks as firms come to terms with managing dispersed workforces. The industry is at risk from heightened levels of fraud, including cyber fraud, as criminals attempt to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the coming months, these will become more apparent and we will look to provide comment and insight as to how the sector is responding to emerging threats such as fraud, data security, reputational impacts and employee due diligence (EDD).

The risk of internal fraud will potentially increase due to remote working and associated reduced oversight and challenge. With increase in remote working and access becoming the norm, there would be greater accent on checks that have amenability to be sourced electronically or through robust databases. A mindset change is already in the offing and gives credibility to the idea that now digitised verification and checks would be far more acceptable than a physical check such as address or even a police clearance check. This would be driven not just with availability of digitised information but also service partners ability to navigate and get credible information available in the public domain through focused automated searches. The flip side is that with a more digitised work domain, there is a greater requirement to ensure protection of personally identifiable information.

Ethics helpline and Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH) concerns – When there is a scramble to cut the last spend to add to the bottom line, it is often the HR regulatory imperatives find themselves alleviated to a lighter version in the overall regulatory framework of enterprises. For e.g. curtaining the calling channel which is more expensive to offering just an email address for ethics helpline. Organisations would need to maintain the robustness of ethics helpline and rigour on the PoSH agenda to ensure that the value system and execution of policies remain true to intent.

Next steps

Assuming that we may be in this nebulous situation for the long haul and the impacts may be enduring, organisations will require long-term adjustments to adapt working practices and culture.

Whilst there will undoubtedly be further regulatory guidance in many areas, firms will need to be proactive in assessing and addressing the new emerging risks and the changing priorities.